The five-year brand seems like a classic cornerstone when it comes to business.
Not only do the RSVP founders Thomas, Jonathan & Cleo have “past life” relationships with their tanneries of choice — getting involved in every step of the leather production process and making sure everything achieves their high sustainability/quality standards — but, together, the three of them also perfected the “we prototype, you choose, we manufacture” process, acquiring a legion of loyal clients.
It all started out in a Répondez S’il Vous Plait way: first, the brand launched a new design on social media, then, as the followers reacted to it, they kicked off production, one order at a time. With this approach they avoided any unnecessary waste of inventory & material. We know it. It’s visionary + sustainable + digital-oriented, all at once. As they grew bigger, the orders started to pile up, so they came up with limited edition designs: 500 units max. available for purchase. After the goods are all gone, they start the refinement processes, taking consumer insights & making user-experience improvements, to finally create killer upgraded versions of their best-sellers.
It doesn’t get any better than that, does it? Think again.
The leather-centered brand has been committed to optimizing sustainability since the beginning. Now — besides organizing sample sales, preventing material waste & working with leftovers leather patterns — they’re taking the first steps towards upcycling. We can’t wait.
Scroll down to check out our exclusive interview with Thomas, co-founder & designer of RSVP Paris.
How did u come up with the name RSVP? Can u tell us a little bit about how the brand started?
RSVP stands for Répondez S’il Vous Plait (Please Answer Back). It’s a French acronym used around the world for invitations and events, and originated from epistolary conversations. In the digital age, it was important for us to start a meaningful conversation with our audience.
So pre-order was more than a service, it was a way of doing business. What did u learn from that format?
We felt that traditional top-down models were outdated as they resulted in unnecessary amounts of inventory. We wanted to try a different approach, driven by the community, in order to build a tailored experience that meets our customers’ needs & our design DNA. Up to this day, we still try to listen more than speak.
The brand has a large range of products. Did the pre-order business also inspire your designs? U know, based on ur clients wish lists…
We always start with a mood board at the studio, but we incorporate as many customer insights as we can into it. We constantly gather feedback from our customers, both at the shop and online. We also always try to improve our line of products, even after they’ve been released. For example, we use the limited editions (each style/color is made in 500 units maximum) as an opportunity. We discontinue it for a while, work on a better version, then test it for 6–9 months before we re-launch it. We like to think of the design process as a cycle, not as a one-shot epiphany.
What are the top 5 designs that define ur brand’s character the most?
The clutch is definitely our best-selling item, particularly in the Cognac color. We like to think of RSVP as a combination of three elements: #1 a recognizable signature style (the golden eyes on the clutch); #2 leather as the main component (through texture and color); and #3 the use of typography, either as a logo or as a way to convey our tone of voice.
Let’s talk about leather. Why did you choose to work with it as your main material?
From our previous backgrounds, we had been lucky enough to gain extensive knowledge of the leather industry. We knew the tanneries, had a strong understanding of the manufacturing techniques, and felt it was the best compromise between durability, sustainability and aesthetics. It was a no-brainer.
U only work with French leather, right? Tell us about the process and the ideology behind ur tanneries of choice.
We’ve known most of our suppliers for years. We have a long-lasting trust-based relationship with our tanneries, which is very important to us. It’s a small and confidential world and we have the privilege of working with some of the best tanneries in the world. More than ideology, it has been a question of relationship: know who you’re working with and how they work. These tanneries are state-of-the-art in terms of eco-responsibility and sourcing. They operate under the highest standards of quality; for example, the water used in the tanning process goes through a fully closed circle to internally treat it. We control 100% of the hides at the tannery when we receive them, this is the only way for us to guarantee the highest standards of quality.
Besides quality, sustainability is a big factor in ur production process. What does it mean for u to work with leather when most people don’t see it as a sustainable material?
We are currently exploring animal-free alternatives. However, to this day, almost all alternatives to leather are derivatives of polyurethane, which is basically plastic. We believe that this is not a fully satisfactory option and that the label vegan-leather can be misleading for the customer. We will keep looking until we find a satisfactory alternative in terms of both quality and durability. In the meantime, leather is still our best option.
In which other steps of ur production process can we see ur brand’s commitment to sustainability?
We do not use any plastic or plastic derivatives, such as PU, and we do produce everything locally from leather to packaging, organize sample sales to prevent waste, and re-use leftovers leather patterns for special projects. We also offer free repairs to guarantee maximum durability, and we’re currently working on a large scale second-hand/upcycling project to make sure every product we make lives the longest possible life cycle.
What do you think a leather piece does for your outfit?
It elevates a silhouette, adds functionality, boosts confidence (and it’s the easiest way to add a twist to an outfit).
Which is your favorite season to wear leather? And, of course, why?
Mid-season, such as Autumn and Spring: not too hot so you still feel like holding a bag / not too cold so you don’t need that many layers.
From your latest collection, do you have a favorite item?
We have a few new designs coming up which we really love, so we hope you will too. Stay tuned.