I had not heard of the stylishly attired Monsieur Hulot until I delved a bit more into the inspiration behind M Hulot, the British accessories label making leather bags in honour of the fictional Frenchman.
It turns out the character invented and played by comedian Jacques Tati is a bit of a cult phenomena. With a persona that harks back to a traditional, slower world, his struggles with the modern era were turned into a series of filmic adventures in the 60s and 70s.
M.Hulot the label takes on this persona and mixes it was a dose of fun and femininity. Producing leather bags that have heritage, craftsmanship, and a sensitivity to materials and finish combined with a contemporary design aesthetic, the label is a very welcome anitdote to heavily branded, heavy handed designer goods.
With all their designs made to last – the brand also eschews disposable culture – M. Hulot has depended on UK craftsmanship working with factories in Northamptonshire, Manchester and Somerset whilst turning Italy and Turkey to source the finest leathers. The range highlights include the Cona – a perfectly formed bowling bag, the Nova Flap Shopper with its quirky bucket shape, and the Bru with a salute to the traditional satchel but with a single overlaid strap.
We spoke to the founder and designer behind M.Hulot – a shadowy character, living up to the artisanal image of the label.
FLUX: I had not come across Monsieur Hulot before – the fictional Frenchman that is. Can you tell us a little about him?
M.HULOT: Monsieur Hulot is a character created by Jacques Tati, and featured in a series of films during the 60s and 70s. In contrast to most people of the time Monsieur Hulot delights in simplicity! Shunning the fast and challenging pace of modern life and rejecting the half baked technology of the era, he ultimately comes up trumps and has now become a bit of a cult figure.
FLUX: How would you describe his style?
M.HULOT: His style is classic with a hint of fun. He wears a great swing coat, with slightly too short trousers and some striped socks. Perfection!
FLUX: There is an anonymity about the actual people/personalities behind M. Hulot. Is that conscious?
M HULOT: Yes, it was conscious, because initially we wanted people to focus on the product and the brand. The designs should speak for themselves! However, we have discovered that people do love to hear about the designer/founder and to look behind the label.
FLUX: How do you source the leather for your range?
M HULOT: We will meet with a number of different leather merchants over here in the UK, and am also lucky enough to work with a factory that have a great selection of leathers in house as well as great connections with Italian Tanneries. I have an Istanbul visit lined up at the end of May, where I will be visiting a tannery to look at leathers for my Turkish made part of the M.Hulot range. Selecting the leather is one of the most enjoyable parts of the design process.
FLUX: Is the collection all made in the UK, and is it easy to find craftspeople able to work to the standards you require?
M HULOT: The collection is largely made in the UK, although we have recently branched out to Turkey as well. The UK made designs have a more artisan feel. The pieces are stitched on machine by skilled seamstresses, and then go through a number of hand techniques and finishing processes before they are complete. It can be difficult finding skilled leather workers in the UK and can take time to understand requirements and capabilities. We have been working with the same small unit for four seasons now, making beautiful pieces that improve each season.
FLUX: Every leather bag in the range has a very classic but modern feel. Do you have a favourite piece?
M HULOT: Yes – the Cona bowling bag from SS13 in green/natural. I am totally in love with it! The green just lifts your mood, and it’s such a classic shape, it really finishes an outfit.
FLUX: What does M Hulot carry in his M Hulot bag?
M HULOT: Monsieur Hulot carries three varieties of pipe tobacco, the M.Hulot Burr wallet, National Geographic Magazine, a compass, and when he remembers – his keys.
M. Hulot is available from www.mhulot.co.uk and design-led retailers such as The Darkroom Bloomsbury.