Dominique Dufait is an architect and designer-maker of custom made leather goods. She creates her stunning bags by folding and forming one piece of leather, fully stitched by hand. All of her pieces are made with passion in her studio in Bruges, Belgium.
Dominique spent some time with us at House of Coco to tell us more…
When did you launch the brand and what was the reason behind it?
I launched the brand in 1995, after I graduated as an architect. I’ve been an independent designer since then. My first bag and accessories collection was made of felt and/or rubber and was launched in 1995/1996. I made my first leather bag in 1999.
Ever since college I knew architecture wasn’t enough for me. For me architecture is so much more than just buildings alone. It’s always been a dream to start a brand of myself. I’m a designer in heart and soul. I just want to create beautiful things that people can use.
What’s your background?
I’m an architect and a fashion designer. My husband and I have our own architectural firm, Archimago in our hometown of Bruges. I’m an independent architect and designer of furniture, fashion and accessories.
Being an architect is still my main job. I’m the head of design, so I get to design everything from houses and schools to interiors, a piece of furniture or leather goods. I simply love designing! Being an architect and a designer-maker of leather goods for me is inseparable. I see it as a part of our work. Whether it’s a house or a bag, I don’t see a difference, it’s still designing. Designing a bag is actually architecture to me.
My background as an architect has an influence on my style. People who know my architectural work, recognise my style in my leather goods. I want to design a simple and timeless collection. Some people save up for a bag, so I want them to enjoy it for many many years.
How many people are involved in the company and what are their roles?
I’m the only one behind the leather collection. My husband gives me advice when I need it, but I’m the designer and the maker of the complete collection.
If you could start over with the business, would you do anything differently?
I promised myself many years ago never to say to myself ‘what if’. Every choice you make has it’s reason and it’s consequences. It makes me the person I am today. I’m happy with my choice of being an architect it gives me an open view and mind about certain things.
For the moment I’m happy the way things are, however that doesn’t mean that certain things can’t improve!
What is the hardest challenge you have faced since you started the company?
It is hard to say NO. I’ve learned it along the way. Once in a while you have to say no to certain events or projects. My collection is completely stitched by hand, I don’t use a sewing machine. I see it as ‘slow fashion’. I pass for mass production, I want to keep my business small and personal. I don’t have large stock, everything is tailor-made so people have to wait a few weeks before they have their bag. At the beginning it was a bit difficult because they wanted to buy something and take it home immediately. However if I explain the way I work people appreciate that it’s made especially for him or her. Now it’s an advantage, customers can choose the colour of the leather, the stitching, the size, the inside pocket etc. It makes it even more personal.
Tell us one fact about you that people wouldn’t know?
People often ask me how I manage everything; I’m a mum of 2 boys, I have a husband, 2 jobs and I have some spare time left. My secret is passion. I simply love designing and I adore my craft. It’s a challenge to make contemporary leather goods in a very traditional way. I want to feel and smell the leather. Everything is made with great passion! It is hard to persist if you don’t love the things you do and off course good planning helps too.
2015 is here, where do you plan on taking the brand?
There is some room for expansion. I want to create some new ideas and I will keep on improving the existing collection. I want to expand the personalisation of the brand, more awareness that everything can be custom made. People can ‘compose’ their own bag, by choosing the colour of the leather, the colour of the stitches etc.
Last year I participated in Made London for the first time, it was a success. I got a lot of positive reaction of the visitors, so in the future I want to participate in more fairs abroad, widen my network and build a clientele there.
To date, what has been the highlight since launching?
Being selected for Made London was definitely last year’s highlight, it was a great experience. But being voted by the people ‘Favourite Maker’ of 2015 is definitely the highlight since I launched my collection. I received the label of ‘handmade in Brugge’ last year. It’s a label for groundbreaking craftsmanship in Bruges. The people could vote for their favourite maker. I won the competition. It is probably the most beautiful and rewarding price you can win as a designer/maker. I’m very grateful for that!
What makes your collection different?
All designs stand out by their simplicity, their design language. It’s simple, sleek and pure design. I Cross out the unnecessary and keep the essential.
It’s a 100% Belgian product, made in Belgium and made from Belgian vegetable tanned leather.
Where can people find out more?
My website: www.dominiquedufait.com