You Are Reading
Renaud Pellegrino Is Celebrating 35 Years as “a Sculptor of the Bag”

Renaud Pellegrino Is Celebrating 35 Years as “a Sculptor of the Bag”

In 1969, while hippies revelled in the mud at Woodstock, Renaud Pellegrino, having trained as a cobbler, arrived in Paris from the South of France with big city dreams but no set agenda. An encounter with Rosie and Maria Carita, doyennes of the town’s chicest and toniest salon, set Pellegrino’s path. He was hired to run the Carita boutique as well as design products for it⁠—despite having no experience doing so. He was undaunted: “It had always been in me somewhere,” Pellegrino told Vogue in a 1992 interview. “I’ve always been a dreamer. I spend my time creating ambiences. And what I don’t actually experience, I invent! When you have a lot of imagination, all that remains is to guide the spirit; you just have to get the machine working.”

Pellegrino established his own atelier in 1976. Ensuring that he was kept busy was Hélène Rochas, who knew the designer from Carita and encouraged him to work with Yves Saint Laurent, which Pellegrino then went on to do. “I had admired the work of Monsieur Saint Laurent since my teenage years,” Pellegrino tells Vogue. “He was the master. He brought rightness in his choices and was someone with phenomenal taste.” By 1983 Pellegrino was ready to go it alone and soon became known for his color sense and preference for structured bags with unusual shapes, like a model named the Cardinal, which borrowed from the bishop’s mitre.

How has your work evolved with time?
I do not know if it really has. I continue to create by keeping in mind the same desires and the same goals. The technique has evolved; that is true. My focus is really on how a woman carries her bag, so my work [is focused] on making sure she can wear a bag is as graciously as possible. I create my bags thinking about new and different ways to wear them, bearing in mind an eternal elegance.Most Popular

  • Fashion The Fall Sweater Trend You Will See Everywhere This SeasonBy Madeline Fass
  • Living The Bride Wore Alexander McQueen to Her Wedding in the English WildernessBy Alexandra Macon
  • Fashion The Best Basics for Fall Are Timeless and AffordableBy Anny Choi

How have women’s relationships to bags changed?
I started at a time when there were only utility bags. The horizon was clear for small bags. The market has become more crowded in this sector; there have never been as many brands as there are now. The offerings today are certainly much richer, but we have managed to keep our place. It seems as though we are returning to a more sophisticated way of dressing. There are more and more evening dresses on the catwalks which results in the bags.

How would you describe your aesthetic?
What has really been my motto is working with the proportions and the silhouette. [To me,] the gesture is even more important than the bag itself. True elegance resides not in what a woman carries but how she carries it. It is an attitude.

When did you first design the Julia matchbox bag that you’ve revisited this year?
At the end of the ’90s, a time we asked ourselves a lot of questions. There was a change of millennium leading to a total reflection on the world and the future of our industry. Something very important to know about me is that I’m passionate about objects in general, whether they are pieces of art, furniture, decorations, or appliances. However, I have always loved diverting objects from their usual function. When I thought about the Julia, I wanted a usual evening bag with an unusual opening. The idea was an entirely closed bag [that becomes] totally open. The bag as a book that can be closed or opened to exhibit all your secrets. Without having to search, you have instantly a full vision of what is in your bag. This creates a gesture, a way of holding and wearing the bag in a totally different way from what was previously done.

What do you imagine being carried in the bag?
All the essentials of a modern woman: A compact, a lipstick, a credit card, keys, and a phone, The size has been adapted nowadays for this [all-important digital device] .

Why did you choose the Julia as the shape to use for your 35th anniversary collection?
It is a box with secrets. It is a form that lends itself to being illustrated by multiple interpretations. There are several angles, hidden or not, which allows expression.

What’s the role of structure in your work?
It is by the structure that we imagine the volume. The proportion and the visual balance are fundamental. The eye of the sculptor. It has been said about me that I am a sculptor of the bag. Having the opportunity to create an imaginary sculpture is a dream.

You once said “life without color doesn’t exist.” How do you live with color?
Excessively. I like the word excessive. Painting has always inspired my life. Painters like Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Fernand Léger, and Sonia Delaunay have influenced me throughout my career. Color has been and will always be a part of me. Life should be a “feu d’artifices” (fireworks). When I use color in my work, I have no limits.

You’ve commissioned fashion illustrator-artists to create unique work on your Julia bags. How did you go about this?
We approached several artists whose aesthetics we love and we gave them carte blanche, in the proper sense, for them to revisit the Julia matchbox. No creative direction was imposed so the artists could let their imaginations, pencils, and paintbrushes freely express and immerse each of them in a different universe. The idea was to be cosmopolitan, crossing different talents and artists. But overall, the criteria was making sure they were expressing themselves with no boundaries.

What role does fashion illustration have in fashion?
It’s a role that I think is very important. At the same time, it idealizes the fashion trait, and it can also be the caricature. With a line we do where we undo. A line is like a word.