From the houses of Martin and Morel to the house of Goyard: a legacy of excellence
Pierre-François Martin founded the House of Martin in 1792. It specialized in box-making, trunk-making and packing, at a time when the golden age of the great trunk-makers of the late XIXth century was yet to come. Martin’s trade had more to do with the delicate art of garment folding and packing than with that of container making, as evidenced by his ad campaign, which stressed that "Maison Martin sells an assortment of boxes and cases; it provides quality packing services for fragile furniture and objects, as well as hats, gowns and flowers; it uses oiled canvas, plain canvas and straw for packing; manufacturer of horse carriage trunks and coat racks, it also supplies oilcloth and waterproof canvas, all at a fair price."
The house of Martin quickly became a favourite with the French aristocracy, and was eventually granted the prestigious tittle of official purveyor of HRH Marie-Caroline de Bourbon-Siciles, Duchess of Berry. In 1834, the House of Martin moved its store from 4, rue Neuve des Capucines to 347, rue Saint-Honoré. Even though the postal address changed to 233, rue Saint-Honoré in 1856 on account of a new street numbering system, its location has remained the same ever since.
Pierre François Martin was the guardian of a young female ward, Pauline. He arranged her marriage to one of his employees, Louis-Henri Morel, and gave his business as her dowry. Morel followed in Martin’s footsteps, and introduced himself as the « Successor to former Maison Morel, located on rue Neuve-des-Capucines, near Place Vendôme ».
In 1845, Morel hired François Goyard as an apprentice. The 17-year old boy received training under the guidance of both Martin and Morel. When Morel died suddenly in 1852, François took over, and remained for 32 years at the helm of a house he took to a whole new level. He finally handed over the reins to his son Edmond in 1885.
A Family Business
Drawing on his father François’ work, Edmond Goyard turned the store on rue Saint-Honoré into an increasingly elitist institution with an international clientele. He created the first Goyard advertisements, participated in various World Expositions and opened three branch stores in Monte-Carlo, Biarritz, Bordeaux, as well as trade offices in New York and London, the latter located on Mount Street, like today’s Goyard Mayfair boutique. He also laid the foundations for the brand as we know it today, as he came up with the emblematic Goyardine canvas, launched a pet accessories range and developed products for automobiles.
One of the first things François Goyard did when he took over from Morel was to open state-of-the-art workshops, as he believed having complete control over manufacturing processes was key to achieve excellence. An opinion shared by Jean-Michel Signoles when he bought Goyard in 1998. A keen collector and connoisseur of all things Goyard, he also opened new workshops with the help of his sons: Alex is in charge of special orders, trunk-making and soft-bag manufacturing; Rémi deals with personalization and Pierre takes care of canvas printing. Of course, the contemporary Goyard workshops are more spacious, functional and altogether a lot different from those of yesterday, but the know-how and passion of the artisans remain the same.
Without the backing of a leading group, and with complete disregard for marketing or mass-production, the Signoles family revived Goyard’s heritage and skills and opened new boutiques across Europe, the Americas and Asia. Within a decade, they restored Goyard to its original glory, and firmly re-established it as a beacon of timeless elegance, craftsmanship and exclusivity.
Goyard, the preferred choice of connoisseurs
Since its doors first opened in 1853, Goyard has been a favourite with celebrities, and many illustrious artists, captains of industry, heads of state or royals have sported its creations. The names of the leading personalities of the 19th and 20th century are to be found in Goyard’s filing cabinet, which keeps track of each and every order placed by customers through a system of nominal index cards.
Upon reading the files, one may daydream easily about the extraordinary and not so unlikely encounters that could have taken place at 233, rue Saint-Honoré: Pablo Picasso and Sacha Guitry, the Maharadjah of Kapurthala and Jacques Cartier, the Agnellis and the Rockefellers, the Romanovs and the Grimaldis, Estée Lauder and Barbara Hutton, Mrs Pompidou and the Princess Aga Khan, Coco Chanel and Jeanne Lanvin, Romy Schneider and Sarah Bernhardt, Edith Piaf and Arthur Rubinstein, Cristobal Balenciaga and Karl Lagerfeld…
The latter, whose account was open in 1972, is highly emblematic of Goyard’s unique ability to build long-term relationships with its clientele, whether they are famous or anonymous. It is not uncommon for Goyard customers to have accounts that remain active for decades: the Duke and Duchess of Windsor opened theirs in 1939, and it was closed only after the demise of the Duchess in 1986.
A highly creative and audacious brand
Throughout its history, Goyard has been committed to meeting the highest standards in terms of skills and style.
A desire to excel through innovation and a sense of tradition that garnered many awards, especially under the leadership of Edmond Goyard, a visionary who dared to participate in the World Exposition of Paris in 1900, at a time when it was a very bold, if not to say shocking, move for a reputable house.
Goyard won a bronze medal, the first of a series of prestigious accolades: gold medal at the World Exposition of Milan (1906), gold medal at the Franco-British Exposition of London (1908), honorary degree at the World Exposition of Brussels (1910), grand-prix at the Anglo-Latin Exposition of London (1912), triple grand-prix at the Exposition of Ghent (1913). Goyard also participated on a non-competitive basis in the Panama Pacific International Exposition of San Francisco (1915), the Exposition of Strasbourg (1919), and the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts of Paris (1925, honorary degree).
Thanks to its creativity and know-how, Goyard had the privilege of being the official purveyor to various kings and presidents, as evidenced by a document on Goyard letterhead dated 24 June 1891 featuring the coats of arms of the British Royal Family and the Russian Imperial family, as well as the Great Sceal of the United States of America.
Goyard also proved instrumental in the shaping of a structured Luxury sector in France: in 1936, Robert Goyard, along with hotel mogul Charles Ritz and fine-jeweller Louis Boucheron, set up the Comité Vendôme. He personally took care of the legal formalities for its constitution, and even located its offices in Goyard’s headquarters at 233, rue Saint-Honoré.
A timeless and perennial range
Distancing itself from fleeting trends, Goyard draws its inspiration from its exceptional heritage. Its timeless designs will appeal to discerning customers looking for uncompromising exclusivity, unparalleled craftsmanship and aesthetic refinement.
Goyard products do not change every season: in a disposable society, they are meant to last.
Goyard offers four distinct product lines:
- Travel goods: whether trunks, hard-sided luggage, trolley cases, vanity cases, hat cases or weekender bags, Goyard provides stylish travellers with all the accessories needed for a perfect getaway.
- A large choice of handbags, tote bags, pouches, briefcases and clutches for men and women, together with an equally large range of matching accessories: wallets, change purses, diary and check-book covers, business-card holders…
- Special orders: Goyard makes the wildest dreams come true with custom-made trunks and luggage. Each piece is unique and entirely hand-made, just like in the 19th century.
- Pet accessories. The « Chic du Chien » (« Canine Chic ») line was launched in the late 19th century by Edmond Goyard. It features collars, leashes, bowls and dishes for pets, and is sold exclusively at the Chic du Chien boutique, 352, rue Saint-Honoré in Paris. The Chic du Chien boutique also showcases a selection of curios and rare pieces.
Unique creations testifying to a unique know-how
Each special order by Goyard is born out of the meeting of our artisans’ skills and the wishes of a customer. By continuing a long-standing tradition of bespoke trunks and luggage that has earned its reputation, the House of Goyard ensures the continuation of exceptional craftsmanship in all its excellence and refinement.
These unique pieces are the ultimate in exclusivity, as they are especially designed to meet the requirements of one person, and one person only. Each of them is entirely hand made by a same trunk maker, according to the highest, strictest standards. When the crafting process is over, the trunk maker writes down the serial number of the piece they made on its identification tag, along with their initials. They also write down that same serial number in the manufacturing register that keeps track of all items made in the Goyard workshops. The manufacturing register is used as a reference in the event an item needs to be repaired.
Champagne trunk, tea trunk, polo trunk, caviar trunk, bicycle trunk, gardening trunk, fishing trunk, picnic trunk, everything is possible, from the classical to the extravagant, and each customer’s imagination is the only limit, as exemplified by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary trunk, which included a fully-equipped office, or Alain Ducasse’s state-of-the-art culinary trunk.
The Goyard collection
Jean-Michel Signoles came across a vintage Goyard trunk for the very first time in 1974 in an Antique shop in Paris, and immediately bought it. His initial curiosity soon turned into a passion for a brand whose history and identity he gradually got to know very well.
Through auctions and chance encounters with other Goyard lovers, he steadily purchased more vintage trunks, and the collection now features over 700 pieces encompassing every chapter of the history of Goyard. Beyond its heritage interest, such a collection is first and foremost a vibrant tribute paid to a unique wealth of renewed creativity and skills passed on from generation to generation, and a never-ending source of inspiration for Goyard’s new creations.
The constantly expanding collection includes exceptional trunks custom-made by Goyard for the likes of Coco Chanel or HRH the Duke of Windsor, as well as many other pieces that are aesthetically and technically equally remarkable, even though they used to belong to less famous customers.
Although the collection is not visible to the general public, some of its pieces are regularly used to create window displays, or to decorate the reception rooms of the Goyard headquarters on Place Vendôme.