A model walks the runway at the Longchamp Spring/Summer 2019 runway show at Four World Trade Center on September 8, 2018 in New York City. (AFP/Angela Weiss)
Longchamp decamped across the Atlantic on Saturday to make their New York Fashion Week debut and celebrate their 70th anniversary by looking to the future, fronted by new brand ambassador Kendall Jenner.
Guests were invited to the World Trade Center, where a dazzling view of the Manhattan skyline provided the backdrop to a collection summed up as 1970s glamor, California spirit and Parisian elegance.
The French staple, best known by millions around the world for the iconic Pliage bag, is building on its leather goods heritage by highlighting its ready-to-wear, sunglasses and footwear lines.
Their first fashion-week runway show comes hot on the heels of opening a new boutique on New York's legendary Fifth Avenue in May, and the selection of supermodel Jenner as their new ambassador.
In two weeks' time, they are opening a new boutique in Beverly Hills -- hence the California spirit, which Jenner herself evokes, as does model-of-the-moment Kaia Gerber, 17, who walked the runway.
Jenner's dazzling looks and fame as one fifth of the Kardashian-Jenner sisters, is likely to raise Longchamp's profile among the new Instagram generation.
She sat front row, sporting the Longchamp Gladiators on her slender pins, next to Kate Moss, who was the face of Longchamp for eight years and in turn sat next to Priyanka Chopra.
"It's a way of expressing the international development of the brand," Longchamp CEO Jean Cassegrain, 53, told AFP by telephone of the decision to come to New York, showing on the third day of fashion week.
"A way of showing the cosmopolitan side of the brand," he added.
Longchamp at heart is still a private, family firm.
Cassegrain is the grandson of the founder. Sister Sophie Delafontaine is creative director, brother Olivier heads up operations in America and their 81-year-old father is still company president.
Delafontaine sought to evoke "dreamy desert drives" and late nights in Los Angeles with animal print dresses, leather bikinis and lots of fringed tops, shorts and mini-skirts in suede.
There were gladiator sandals in black, beige, orange, red and green, as well as the new Amazone bag. Ikat-style prints adorned blouses, long skirts and dresses.
The 40 looks emphasized Longchamp's leather roots while looking to the future, reflecting the wider industry trends of clothing empires moving to accessories and leather goods embracing fashion.
"Twenty-five years ago, fashion and leather goods were separate sectors," Cassegrain said. "The bag is now a fashion items, and labels also have to be fashion labels."
Longchamp has around 1,500 stockists around the world, mostly in Europe, which makes up 60 percent of sales. Only 300 of them are operated directly by the brand.
While the non-leather goods side of the business is growing, ready to wear, shoes and glasses still only make up 10 percent of business and only 50 of the stockists sell clothes or footwear.
Overt politics have taken something of a backseat at New York Fashion Week since the early days of the Donald Trump presidency, with the fashion industry doing everything in their power to signal unhappiness.
But Saturday, Christian Siriano brought it back to the fore by using his runway show to endorse Cynthia Nixon, the former "Sex and the City" actress campaigning to become New York's first woman governor.
Nixon, whose effort to oust two-term incumbent Andrew Cuomo will do or die in Thursday's Democratic primary, sat in the front row.
Each guest was given a Vote for Cynthia leaflet, there were special thanks to her in the notes for "all you are doing for New York" and Siriano came out for a bow at the end in a Nixon T-shirt.