Simon Tissot-Dupont, the dynasty’s founder, was just 25. He was born in Savoy to a family of millers. He was an enterprising and passionate young man who was determined to succeed in Paris. He recruited several talented craftsmen and established a prestigious leather goods workshop. In particular, he manufactured wallets and “maroquins”, the attaché-cases of the time, bearing the initials of senior civil servants. He was rapidly successful among Parisian high society. Soon, he became the official supplier to the Magasins du Louvre, which was a reference in the world for luxury accessories at the time.
By the end of the 19th century, royalty, nobility and celebrities were the most frequent travelers, embarking on journeys that would take several weeks or months. This required an array of different trunks and travel cases.
The S.T. Dupont travel cases, made individually to suit the different needs of clients, became the travel essentials for any person of quality, who would never travel without one! These unique masterpieces were made with the rarest materials and fabrics, and each one was meticulously designed. These travel cases became a luxury part of each traveler’s home, and a priceless talisman to take on their journeys.
In the beginning of the roaring ’20s, André and Lucien Dupont, Simon’s sons, started to innovate: they created sumptuous travel cases, produced as one-of-a-kind pieces. In their salons on Rue Dieu in Paris, the Dupont brothers received the cream of international society. Their loyal customers included: the Maharajah of Patiala, who used to make sumptuous gifts to his one hundred or so favorites, Baron Maurice de Rothschild, the Duke of Kent, to name a few. The Duke of Windsor used to advise Lucien Dupont, and Al Capone discreetly dispatched his second-in-command to place an order.
Cartier was also a client, for Paris and New York, as was Aspreys in London, since the Dupont travel cases were truly unique. “Strive for more beauty, for greater luxury”, said Lucien Dupont. It was the era of euphoria of the years between the two wars, and the intensely creative Arts Deco period.
The last travel case, in lavender blue leather, was made in 1947, as a wedding gift for Princess Elisabeth of England, the future Queen. How much did an S.T.Dupont travel case cost? The employees at the time replied: the price of a house.
In 1921, The two Tissot Dupont brothers, André and Lucien, bought their own Hôtel Particulier located at 8 bis, rue Dieu in Paris and catered to an ever-growing demand for S.T. Dupont luxury trunks and travel cases.
Orders began to sky-rocket and in 1923 they opened a second workshop in Faverges, France, the family’s home town, located in the picturesque Haute Savoie Region, at the foot of the Mont Blanc Mountain in the French Alps, recruiting only the best and the brightest craftsmen from 17 different trades.
S.T. Dupont products continue to be hand-crafted in this very same place today.
In 1929, they joined Louis Cartier in New York to introduce their specially designed trunks and luxury travel cases at the Cartier Boutique on Fifth Avenue (on the first floor). Their products were met with instant success.
Over the years, the name Dupont became a worldwide Reference as a Malletier in luxury travel cases. After the 1929 stock market crash, the brothers continued their rise to success by offering products that were so luxurious that only those who were spared the crisis could afford to buy.
Lucien Dupont’s motto was:
Make it more beautiful. Make it expensive. Make it innovative.
The Tissot Dupont brothers were looking for a “master plater” (“plaqueur” in French) expert in pure gold plating but a misprint changed the advertisement to “master lacquerer” (“laqueur”). As it turned out, this proved to be a stroke of good fortune, and S.T.Dupont became the owner of secret that is well kept to this day: Chinese lacquer on metal.
The first master lacquerer was an extraordinary character of Russian origin, Novossiltzeff, who had trained in the workshop of Jean Dunand, where the lacquer screens for the transatlantic liner, the Normandie, were made.
He brazed the lacquer for five days straight and worked at night protecting himself from the dust in a tent of damp rags.
Fortunately, his successors managed to transform these empirical methods into authentic and totally unique expertise.
Given the scarcity of raw materials and customers at the beginning of World War II, André Dupont had the idea of using the lighter that was in the travel case of the Maharajah of Patiala. The leather-goods maker applied his gold-smith expertise and in 1941 invented the first pocket petrol lighter. In 1952 the patented, adjustable, gas lighter was a spectacular success.
The Ligne 1 model, with a thousand and one variations since its creation is still a best seller.
In the 1960’s the lighter is a symbol of status and good taste, originating in a seductive gesture, a gift marking the entry into adulthood .owning a “Dupont” was no innocent affair.
In the semi-darkness of the discotheques, it was recognizable from the noise it made, the famous metallic “cling”, a unique sound, a sign of recognition among the elite and the initiated.
The Brand took its place among the great names of the French luxury market and the lighter become its icon.
In 1947, French President Vincent Auriol offered Princess Elisabeth a luxury travel case with a blue leather exterior, a champagne leather interior, and blue Chinese lacquer accessories as a wedding gift for her marriage with Prince Philip.
All of the lacquer accessories were treated three times to find the perfect color. The elder André Tissot Dupont would spend months overseeing the work that went into crafting this sublime masterpiece.
On the very evening when he finally approved the color and returned home, once he was seated in his armchair, he took his newspaper and turned to his wife.
“We’ve finally finished the Princess’s travel case”, he said, and then remained silent. A few moments later, she discovered that he had passed away.
In 1953, André Dupont created his first ladies’ handbag, the “Riviera” as a limited edition, using, amongst others, exotic leathers to complete his range of special orders. Audrey Hepburn became one of his first clients.
The inside was made of the softest cotton adorned with the famous Double D, symbolizing Lucien and André Tissot Dupont.
The brand innovated by creating the first luxury jewelry pen. A ballpoint pen in solid silver, with a very refined line, the Classique. It was a ballpoint, because it was new, and they were the “in thing”. The launch at Maxim’s was a truly Parisian event.
Next came watches, a return to fine leather goods and men’s accessories: cufflinks, belts, tie bars, etc.
In 1996 the writing instrument family was expanded with the « Olympio » range which today is available in four sizes spanning from mini to XL.
The style is more asserted, and the brand is innovating while remaining faithful to its vocation as a brand of luxury and exceptional items. S.T.Dupont revisits its values and its graphic language and acquired its true dimension as a global luxury brand for men. It is capitalizing on its origins to innovate and offer emblematic creations of the same caliber of those of its past.
Drawing inspiration from the exclusive crossed grain leather created in the 1930’s for its sumptuous travel cases, the Brand launched a line of timeless leather goods : Contraste.
The following year S.T.Dupont reinterprets the ancient travel cases in a contemporary way with the DJ Case and later on the Vice Case, ultimate symbol of refinement and expertise .
In the same spirit of heritage revisited, the Windsor lighter, created especially for the Duke of Windsr back in 1952, was reedited in 2006.
S.T. Dupont continues in its stride and capitalizes on its emblematic pattern, the Diamond Head. Truly iconic of the Brand, S.T. Dupont makes this decor the theme of 2005 and applies it to the very first luxury USB key, an innovative marriage between technology and glamour.
2012: A proud anniversary
This year, S.T.Dupont is celebrating 140 exceptional years spent serving the great and the grand, an event which will combine the present with the best of the past.
Two famous customers, Audrey Hepburn™ and Humphrey Bogart™, have become its special ambassadors. Two collections that were specially designed for them have been either identically reproduced or given a modern makeover to take us on a delicious journey to the unsurpassable glamour of the post-war period. Line D Elysée, a new leather goods line, also displays this return to the brand’s origins, proudly proclaiming its long years of service: Malletier depuis 1872.
For 140 years, S.T.Dupont has expressed its passion for outstanding craftsmanship, passed down from generation to generation. In the 21st century, the legend lives on, in perfect harmony with its roots and a future of promise.