What is the definition of luxury? Designer pieces adorned with self-advertisement? Pricey materials leaving a mammoth carbon footprint? Not anymore. Déhanche is here to redefine the essence of luxury, without big logos and while upcycling the materials used for their limited edition collections of belts and corsets. The fabulous leatherware brand founded by Californian Erin Webb after moving to Paris combines modernism with a timeless sense of quality and luxury, focusing mainly on belts and corsets.
Commonly cited as “luxury craftsmanship without big logos,” I wanted to ask what Déhanche means to you, and what the ethos of this brand is.
My personal style tends to be a mix between two cultures – I grew up in California but have lived in Paris for the last 12 years. My love of belts definitely comes from my American side – but my Parisian side has evolved into an aesthetic that favours discrete luxury. I had the hardest time finding beautiful luxury belts that gave me that same sense of specialness that I felt when I bought a special handbag or splurged on an amazing shoe, so I decided that I’d design a focused collection of my favourite, and often, underappreciated accessory.
The name Déhanche itself is an intriguing insight into your brand’s focus on the human body and translating its flow into fashion. This French word references the anatomical position of asymmetrical hips in Ancient Greek statues and also is used to describe a model’s runway walk. Can you expand on the reasoning for this brand name?
The name is very sentimental to me – it encompasses so much of my into one small word. I grew up as a classical dancer, where there is a total focus on your hips, and your turnout, since it literally determines whether you can dance ballet. I wanted the word to give importance to the hips (hanches, in French) of a woman – of the female form, and of where obviously, a belt is worn.
For pleasure, I studied Art History in Florence and wrote a dissertation on Botticelli’s Primavera – with much of my focus being the contrapposto posture of the Three Graces. When I was on set directing a photo shoot, I heard a French photographer yell “Déhanche” to the model, and she took a pose that reminded me of this contrapposto silhouette. At that moment, I knew that was the name for my label.
I’d like to ask a little about the inspirations behind your fluid designs and statement pieces. I read that your belts have been inspired by vintage brooches collected in Paris over the last 10 years and that every buckle is custom cast. I also noticed the fascination with sculptor Jean Arp on the Déhanche Instagram page, and your focus on his flowing gold sculptures. I think these two aspects allow an insight into your design in that your work is both unique and not overwhelming. Are there any other inspirations that come into play when creating a belt?
Art is so important to my designs and my brand. Constantin Brancusi and Jean Arp are very big references throughout my designs – they both created these reductive gold sculptures – and I had this desire to turn that concept into one you could carry with you, to wear boldly. I wanted to create accents that were less of a buckle but more of a sculpture. Another very big inspiration when I was starting Déhanche was a photograph of Georgia O’Keeffe by Tony Vaccaro, where she is holding up a painting in New Mexico, her back to the camera. She wears her usual voluminous black dress, nipped at the waist by a massive black belt covered in big silver Xs. It was designed by Hector Aguilar, a silver artisan from Taxco (Mexico). It's iconic, and again mixes fashion, art and the female form.
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Why is it important for the brand to be understated or without a logo?
I personally don’t like to wear logos on my clothing, and the way women have reacted to the label since I launched a few months ago, I think many women share this sentiment too. They want the craftsmanship and feeling of owning a belt beautifully made in Italy, but they want to keep that knowledge to themselves.
Your belts have a harmony with the human body akin to the Jean Arp sculptures referenced on your Instagram. For example, your Frida Hipbone Belt is inspired by the shape of the hipbone and wraps the body in a style that is both exciting and recognisable. In the design process, how is the human body considered and played with when coming up with a new belt?
A belt hits at the most central part of the body, it also allows a woman to define the type of silhouette she wants. There is an intention for each belt in the collection, whether it’s to cinch in the waist, hang below a hipbone, or just peak out below a button-up shirt. And most importantly, I am very intentional with ensuring that women feel comfortable wearing the belts, I use smooth leathers and they are all lined with a nubuck suede and I try to offer several one-size-fits-most in each collection.
I am obsessed with the Modernist Brancusi Belt. I love how the curves of the leather hug the waist and the curved plain metal centrepiece. I read that this belt is inspired by “the body in motion.” Can you expand on this?
The Brancusi is my favourite piece – it’s the most artistic and nods to a time when a belt was the centrepiece of a women’s wardrobe. I designed this style to be adjustable and made of smooth supple leather, and because it is one size, you can loosen it or tighten it as you need throughout the day.
Why is the term ‘modernist’ reused in relation to both belts and corsets? What does this word mean to you?
Modernism is a break from the traditional way of doing something and boldly doing it differently. When I design my belts, I reflect on if they can be found elsewhere or in another collection. The entire concept of Déhanche is to create belts that are unlike what can be found on the market, with an edited point of view that focuses on art, intelligence, and the body, and made with the most beautiful materials.
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Moving on briefly to your corsets, I found myself drawn to the Wrap Corset Belt – a cinching corset that appears as an extremely oversized flat belt, which not only emphasises the waist and structures the body but divides an outfit by colour-blocking a giant zone in the centre of the body. An interesting way to view your items is as an invaluable and often finishing addition to an outfit, as belts and corsets are such an overlooked accessory. How would you recommend wearing corsets with current fashion?
My absolute favourite way to wear this style is over a voluminous dress. I love to wear it more as a bustier, wrapped around my chest and cinching the waist – but many of my clients love to wear it covering their stomachs.
It’s clear that you highly value the production of your pieces, as each piece is handcrafted in Italy with upcycled leathers using vegetable dyes and is only available in limited quantities to demote mass production. This opens a conversation about the effect of using leather instead of vegan leather or ‘pleather,’ as I’ve read you prefer to use leather that is already a byproduct of cow-farming so it won’t go to landfills since plastic is so corrosive for our environment. Can you talk to us about this choice?
Using leather by-products of the agriculture industry is an important part of producing responsibly with leathers. Leather is a noble material, and so must be the treatment of it. When I am sourcing leather, I only use upcycled leathers or when I have to produce my leathers, I work with vegetable dyes which are the healthiest to the environment and don’t use toxins that hurt workers or end up in water runoff.
You are also a completely carbon-neutral company, having a partnership with Doconomy and the 2030 Calculator to track your carbon footprint all the way from manufacturing to shipping your designs. Your carbon footprint is then converted into a monetary amount and invested into decarbonisation micro-projects with Milkywire. What benefits does this bring to our world, and do you believe other manufacturers should be doing the same?
The carbon footprint also takes into account the entire lifespan of the cow and its methane emissions, too. Milkywire allows me to invest in micro-projects that can range from restoring trees in forests, investing in solar power, protecting biodiversity and wildlife and cleaning the oceans. I think committing to this project allows me to take personal ownership of the fact that when I am designing something to be put into the world, no matter how responsibly I try to produce it, it will still impact the environment.
What does the future hold for Déhanche?
We are opening at a very prestigious United Kingdom retailer this November just in time for Christmas!
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