Ramesh Nair is a creative director on a mission. Since 2011 when he was hand-picked by Bernard Arnault to run Moynat, the venerable but innovative French luggage maker, the world of luxury goods and fashion has experienced a seismic transformation. With the ascendancy of celebrity culture and social media, creativity and innovation have become less important than engineered moments of shock and awe for frenzied Instagrammers. And yet, Nair has remained unimpressed – and immovable – in his approach to building one of the world’s most beautiful leather accessories brands.
“Nowadays, if someone does an overdone bag, everyone has to do the same thing. Everything in design has come to a standstill, especially clothing. It’s not about the product anymore. It’s about the noise. We’re undergoing a “sportswearisation” of luxury. There will be a few companies which have a certain way of communicating, a certain silence about them, and these will stay on top. And then you have the rest of the world. Guccis and Pradas are going to be the Nikes and Adidas of when we were young.”
With distribution limited to its own boutiques in Paris, Hong Kong and New York and a product development schedule based on painstaking research rather than trendy seasonal animation, Moynat, which has experienced solid year-on-year growth since Nair took the reins, is on track to take its place alongside the quiet brands like Hermes.
Nair is brutally dismissive of collaborations which superficially mine the tropes of exotic subcultures. “I hate collaborations. It’s what you do when you have no ideas left. It’s a pathetic way of working. Can you just imagine Picasso calling up Miro and saying, hey, let’s collaborate on a painting together?”
Instead, he exhaustively researches leather and seeks innovation at a deeper level of form or technique. “We are the only company which has so many different leathers. I don’t hesitate to dive deep to find ‘old new stuff.’ And although customisation is an important part of the Moynat business, it’s crucial to distinguish between form and mere surface treatment: “It’s like wearing clothes and adding a few pins to it. The foundation is your bag and your simplicity. People think it’s simple but it’s extremely complicated. It’s exactly like the automobile industry. You buy a Porsche and then you take it to someone and say, pimp my car.”
Most important, Nair repudiates the culture of chasing numbers and followers. “If you’re following someone, the road in front is not clear because there’s this person in front of you, blocking your vision. You can carve your own path if there’s no one in front of you. Be a leader. That’s how you break new ground,” he exhorts. “My daily life is not ruled by numbers, not at all. But it’s a fight. It’s very difficult to stay on the path. It takes concentration. You’re on a motorbike. You have to concentrate on this straight line. Going sideways, you could end up in a crash.”
About the writer:
Joanne Ooi is a former creative director and luxury industry expert with deep experience in fine jewelry, fashion, ecommerce and art. In addition, she vlogs about consumerism, creativity, and culture at www.culturevlog.com.