François-Joseph Graf’s Exquisite Handbags
“I draw everything,” said François-Joseph Graf, the Paris-based interior decorator who, three years ago, embarked on a new adventure: creating an ambitious range of beautifully crafted handbags and clutches that are made in an old Paris workshop of specially woven fabrics, to which sometimes are added exquisite embroideries from Madras, India.
Traveling to India nearly every month, Graf stays to carefully place the sequins, pearls, and small jewels, all of which are then made to his exact designs. “What amuses me is the creative act,” he said, giving visitors a tour of the atmospheric, jewel box of a store on Paris’ “oh-so-elegant” Avenue Montaigne that he designed with back-lit fabric-covered shelves. The ladylike bags—simple clutches and totes—that come in different sizes, each have their own personalities yet share a distinctive family resemblance.
“A bag is the most beautiful piece of jewelry a woman can wear,” added Graf, who prides himself on making handbags of the highest quality at what he calls “intelligent prices.” That might explain the Graf customers who are serious serial buyers, dropping into the store and leaving with ten or more of the absolutely must-have-right-now little beauties, some of which are Japanese-influenced, while others are imaginative interpretations of different exotic skins. One recalls an iridescent painting by the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, while another is a jazzy collage of bright contrasting leathers in perfectly stitched geometric patterns. “But no ducks, no flowers,” he insisted. “We are in the 21st century. My idea is to always be more simple and more contemporary.”