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Morgan Diguerher : Passion Cuir

Updated: Jul 5, 2022

Some of the finest fashion brands that exist often build their success on leather accessories - the bags, shoes and leather goods that form the basis of the brand’s fashion designs. Few passionate creative talents have the ability to produce such incredibly successful pieces in the shadows of such expectations, but Morgan Diguerher is one of them. We went to meet Le Tanneur’s new Creative Director.

Morgan Diguerher. Photo Volker Conradus.

Lancel, See by Chloé, Vanessa Bruno, Paco Rabanne, Zadig & Voltaire, Repetto, Diane von Furstenberg,... He may have been the creative talent behind some of the much sought-after leather bags and accessories that these great brands have brought to the market over the past 20 years, but Morgan Diguerher is no fashion star. That’s not to say that the passionate freelance designer hasn’t made a name for himself in the leather goods departments of the leading brands, however, as demonstrated by the extensive list of experiences that adorns his CV. From Zilli in Lyon to Tanneries Haas in Alsace and Liebeskind in Berlin, some of Europe’s leading leather specialists have given his talents their seal of approval.

While there are plenty of people these days who dream of being famous, the reality is that fame can be pretty punishing! The “fifteen minutes of fame” of which Andy Warhol famously spoke have become the media purgatory of ordinary reality TV ‘stars’ and armies of influencers and hucksters of varying degrees of grotesqueness.

The majority of fashion professionals prefer to hide behind the labels they work for, choosing the sort of protective shadow that Morgan Diguerher, for one, is happy to have: “I’ve always worked in the shadows and that’s the way I like it; otherwise I would have created my own brand. I also like to be of service to others”, he says.

He studied at Esmod from 1998 to 2001, first in Lyon and later in Paris, in his final year, training as a designer and specialising in marketing. Morgan’s success is built on the skills he has developed in two fields, namely design and business.

Morgan during a workshop at Libeskind.

Planet Esmod: Where does your passion for accessories and leather stem from?

Morgan Diguerher: It came about by chance, actually - I did my first internship after leaving Esmod in the accessories department of Paco Rabanne, where Rosemarie Rodriguez was Artistic Director at the time. During my time there I met Jacqueline Germé, who was running this office and overseeing the brand’s licenses. She had been one of Paco Rabanne’s closest collaborators for about thirty years, and it was she who gave me my taste for accessories. She was my first mentor and a key witness to the happy and care-free period that was the 80s and the fashions that went with them.

Again by chance, my first real job was with leather manufacturer Zilli, in Lyon, where I was tasked with creating a leather goods department, so I started working with French manufacturers who were using mostly exotic materials, and I learned this traditional craft working in their workshops.

P. E.: Was even your graduation collection leather-related?

M. D.: Yes and no. My two specialisms were people and marketing, but last year, my men's off-the-peg collection was all about leather.

P. E.: So you didn't do any pattern making training. Doesn’t that give you quite a handicap when it comes to developing prototypes?

M. D.: No, because I learned these techniques in the leather goods workshops when I worked with craftspeople. I immediately felt more comfortable with the design element than with the production. The two do go hand-in-hand, but everyone has their specialism.

P. E.: What makes a good accessory designer today?

M. D.: It has to be someone who knows how to draw on influences. I, for example, want to see everything - art, architecture, interior design, even new technologies, anything can be a source of influence. Of course, you then have to understand and change what no longer works or what doesn’t work so well. It's a relationship of intelligence with different departments, a triangle made up of marketing, design and communication. Being a good designer today means knowing how to work in symbiosis with these three points of the triangle.

P. E.: How does your Esmod training still serve you today?

M. D.: What’s served me the most has undoubtedly been my last year of marketing. I’ve always fluctuated between logical direction and a ‘magical’ approach. The magic part forms the basis for any project; it’s intuition, it’s inspiration, it’s also observation, too, even in day-to-day life, out on the street. Then, of course, you have to rationalise it all, find a sense of coherence, substantiate the idea within the history of fashion and define a good product, and it was my Esmod training that instilled in me this two-pronged approach.

These are also the keys to running a fashion company. When it comes to designing new products, it’s important to understand that the bait has to appeal to the fish, not the fisherman! You do need to bring a certain creativity to the table, of course, but ideas that are not understood are useless. Just like in a conversation, you have to take into account the people you are talking to, and likewise, you must first have a perfect understanding of today’s consumer and the potential buyer. The creative direction we have at Le Tanneur is a result of striking the perfect balance between marketing and design. Leather goods, along with fragrance, are the sectors that drive the fashion economy, and creativity must be carefully considered and well thought-out.

Moodboard. “The only constant in fashion is that everything changes all the time!” - Morgan Diguerher.

P. E.: What would be the ideal bag?

M. D.: A perfect bag is one that lasts a long time. In fact, the Holy Grail would be to create the most timeless bag possible. A bag that is both modern and just right, the ideal size and made of the ideal material. It would also have to strike just the right balance between all of these things. In terms of the literature, I don't think there is enough sociological emphasis on the bag, even though the bag is an extension of ourselves; it represents us socially and emotionally. The inside of a bag is an extremely intimate place, and we all have a sensual relationship with leather. You can paint a psychological picture of someone just by opening their bag, and the same goes for the wallet - whether it’s organised or not, whether it’s bursting at the seams or in perfect shape etc. tells us so much about ourselves.

“The leather industry is now being ‘greenbashed’, but it’s actually the world's leading recycling industry”. Morgan Diguerher.

P. E.: You’re a freelance designer now, but weren’t you ever tempted to work entirely in-house for a brand?

M. D.: No, I like to remain independent, keeping that external perspective and sharing it with the brands I work with. I also have other passions such as naturopathy and interior design, so I’ve created a small interior design studio. ‘Ensemblier’ is an old name for an interior designer, and my site, Ensemble-Lié, offers an object, antique and artefact curation service.

Naturopathy is something different again; it’s a healthy way of life, a passion I’ve had for over 25 years. Generally speaking, I feel much more creative with a clear head, rather than through the use of drugs that often lead to self-destruction.

P. E.: How would you defend leather in light of the ‘eco-friendly’ attacks it faces today?

M. D.: First of all, it's a noble, raw, essential material, and there aren’t many of those. Secondly, there’s a grave misunderstanding here, because tanning was in fact the first recycling industry, in that we don’t kill animals for their skin, we recover existing skins from the food-processing industry. So-called ‘vegan’ materials are supposed to be more eco-friendly when in fact they are absolutely not. The solvents used to stabilise even natural materials cause much more polluting than those used in professional tanning. Then when you think of the PU (polyurethane) or PVC (polyvinyl chloride) they use, and that goes for all coated fabrics, they’re using petroleum derivatives, “The leather industry is now being ‘greenbashed’, but it’s actually the world's leading recycling industry”.

P. E.: How do you explain your passion for leather today?

M. D.: I recently learned something that makes me happy. My family owned a guimpe-making business that produced braids and trimmings for the haute couture sector. This was my great-grandparents’ business and my grandparents worked for them, but my grandfather dreamed of working with leather, and began his career at a tannery, but his own father forced him to return to the family business, so I kind of feel as though I’m now achieving my grandfather’s dream.

A brand’s artistic direction can range from creating products and collections to outlining advertising campaigns. Photo: Nacho Alegre.

P. E.: How would you describe the ideal qualities of a good designer?

M. D.: You have to be humble, recognise the things that aren't necessarily your strengths and delegate them or let them go, and pick your battles. If you really have every faith, then you have to follow it through. This is what Claire Waight Keller taught me when I worked with her on the See By Chloé collection. If you’ve any doubt whatsoever, you have to be able to let go, but equally you have to throw yourself into it when there is a consensus. On a day-to-day basis, it’s important to know how to bring people together and not to take things personally when anyone questions you. Sometimes brands need time to accept certain ideas, with many brands preferring evolution to revolution!

P. E.: What advice would you give to new designers graduating from Esmod today?

M. D.: Be inquisitive! Curiosity is vital and is what you need to keep going every day. The knowledge you have when you graduate is never enough, and that’s to be expected, so thinking about constantly broadening your knowledge and learning how to reinvent yourself with each collection are essential qualities. Don't take anything for granted. The only constant in fashion is that everything changes all the time! Getting too wrapped up in something is no good for anyone; it just reduces your awareness too much, whereas what you actually need to do is broaden your outlook. Even social networks fail to cut the mustard when it comes to real life. Art, just like the streets, is a great source of learning and inspiration.

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