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ST Dupont combines timelessness and modern design

As it releases the world’s most complicated lighter, ST Dupont CEO Alain Crevet tells Debonair how the luxury accessories brand’s fortunes have shifted

As lifestyles change, contemporary men want less formal accessories that can transition from their formal roles into their personal, casual lives. ~Alain Crevet

In the luxury accessories segment, ST Dupont has been a force to reckon with for nearly 150 years. The brand’s focus on preserving the expertise of its master craftsmen, and passing those on from generation to generation, has seen it maintain exalted status through the years. 

Fans include everyone from Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe to the Queen of England, drawn by the quality of precious and exclusive materials handcrafted in France. 

Today its Art of Fire, Art of Writing and Art of Travel collections keep it in the black, but this wasn’t always the case, says CEO Alain Crevet.

How has ST Dupont responded to the evolution of men’s accessories? As lifestyles change, contemporary men want less formal accessories that can transition from their formal roles into their personal, casual lives. We’ve combined our technical know-how with contemporary sentiments, for instance the ST Dupont expertise in precious metalwork and natural lacquer is put to use in transforming metal in to unique cufflinks that isn’t limited to the boardroom. 

The combine timelessness and modern design. Great heritage doesn’t mean dusty or old-fashioned; these limited editions are meant to attract new and younger customers.

As lifestyles change, contemporary men want less formal accessories that can transition from their formal roles into their personal, casual lives. ~Alain Crevet

How have you seen the company change over the past 11 years? When I joined the company in 2006, ST Dupont was in a bad shape, with significant financial losses for almost six years running. I decided to focus on the DNA of the brand as the malletier of the emperors and return its roots — writing instruments, lighters and leather goods, with a high standard for quality. We invested in the factory based in Faverges, where more than 80 per cent of all pens, lighters, cufflinks and accessories are hand-produced. 

These changes paid off handsomely and allowed the company to grow and develop again. Today, we offer a perfect mix of innovation and tradition. Some of our revolutionary collections of new products include Slim 7 lighter, the slimmest luxury lighter in the world, the beautiful, vintage Atelier lacquer and leather line, a unique partnership with the film Murder on the Orient Express, based on the Agatha Christie bestseller, and the New Line D pen collection, which is the perfect writing instrument for a generation gaining the confidence of maturity. Easy in the hand and effortless across the page, it’s a pen that knows what it is — and who it’s for.

We hope to continue producing exceptional products for exceptional customers, with the same passion and pride the company has since its inception.

What would you say has been your biggest achievement at ST Dupont? To promote exceptional know-how trough exceptional collections, and to spread the brand around the world! 

I am fully invested with the factory in the process of creating and manufacturing high-quality products. We want to continue to come up with new shapes, materials and techniques to develop inspiring new items. 

What key strengths from your experience in the beauty sector have assisted you in your current role? I started my career with the industry giant Procter & Gamble, where I really learned how to build a brand, and the importance of a brand DNA and its history and values. I honed these skills working on the Givenchy perfume brand at LVMH. 

At Dupont, I like to visit our people and stores around the world. While I enjoy being on the ground in the factory close to the development, I spend about one-third of my time outside France. I also spend time meeting customers and visiting our competitors’ stores. I find that most interesting. 

Such relentless curiosity is one of the core attributes of a successful executive, along with setting a vision, a clear direction, and having personal leadership qualities to build a team. 

“This is the most complicated lighter ST Dupont has ever produced. It’s an ode to the maison’s 75 years of lighter-making craftsmanship, and highlights the expertise of our master goldsmith.”

Alain Crevet

Amidst changing attitudes to smoking, do you find a challenge producing your luxury accoutrement, especially cigar cases and your signature lighters? Yes, smoking is becoming more and more controversial. But what is a lighter? It’s an object to tame fire. Fire has been essential for life since the very beginning of humanity, while being dangerous at the same time. Now, a lighter offers the possibility to carry fire with you in a civilised way. Despite all our technology, we still need fire at least in enjoyable moments like lighting a candle at a romantic dinner… 

Then, from my personal point of view, I’m quite sure that a good cigar will always remain a true pleasure to some people! 

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What is the inspiration for the Arabian collection? Does this region hold any special significance for the brand? We strive to touch the hearts of our clients around the world, also by creating unique pieces significant to their cultures. 

Although stemming from Islamic origins, the prayer beads, or misbaha, is commonly used to relieve stress and provide calming energy. Most owners will tell you theirs has sentimental value, and they don’t leave home without it. Most owners of ST Dupont items feel the exact same way, so it was a natural fit. We studied the heritage, symbolism and usage of the misbaha and merged it with the
ST Dupont savoir-faire to create something beautiful, in keeping with the tradition. 

We love to bring together different artistic universes, so we once again partnered with the engineer and master gemstone artist Luis Alberto Quispe Aparicio for this collection. His knowledge on precious stones was organically acquired during constant visits to mines around the world. His quest for rarity and quality is an exquisite lifetime pursuit, which can be found in our prayer breads collection.

The date 1872, referencing the atelier’s creation, is also inscribed on the products. The handcrafted production process also gives the leather goods depth.

What drew you to Pablo Picasso for the collection named after him, and which artists or icons are you looking to include in the future? Talented and well-known artists inspire us. Continuing the line that Picasso himself hand-sculpted in 1962, maison ST Dupont has manufactured a unique limited edition that pays homage to one of his favourite line drawings — Profil de Femme from 1965. The delicate lines expressing the duality of a feminine character is placed gently on the natural lacquer and diamond-polished leather. 

For the next year, we aim on enriching the art icon collection with a beautiful line dedicated to Impressionism. 

The lighter-safe combo Le Complication is a gorgeous piece! What was the idea behind it? This is the most complicated lighter ST Dupont has ever produced. It’s an ode to the maison’s 75 years of lighter-making craftsmanship, and highlights the expertise of our master goldsmith.

The brand is really flexing its muscles here to show off our capabilities and know-how in more traditional segments of haute creation. The result is a symphony of 200 parts that took four years to develop and required 21 weeks to complete.

It draws on watchmaking’s openworked techniques, with the heavily skeletonised body basically leaving most of the functions and micro-mechanics visible. It is also a vault, so you need a secret code to open the lighter. Truly unusual! 

“We studied the heritage, symbolism and usage of the misbaha and merged it with the ST Dupont savoir-faire to create something beautiful, in keeping with the tradition.”

~Alain Crevet

How do you see the future of the luxury accessories segment? We’ve entered a new, digital era, and with this in mind we’ve adapted our collection and marketing to this new challenge and last year launched our e-commerce platform for the first time. ST Dupont has also started to widen its target to include a younger generation with the launch of a very compact, flashy and competitive new offering. 

On the writing instrument side, the Initial Pen will appeal to modern customers with a passion for the art of handwriting. More recently, we’ve entered the world of ultra-thin products with the launch of the Slim 7 lighters, aimed at consumers interested in minimalist design. This new contemporary model, practical for everyday use and suitable for both men and women, is considered to be the world’s slimmest luxury lighter.

We also need to be more inventive and create new content to tell our story via social media channels, including lifestyle visuals, how-to clips and storytelling on our ambassadors, innovations, and partnerships. 

Our aim is to transport our heritage into the present and the future by creating trendy collections, such as connected items. That strategy lies behind our connected leather goods collection and lighters. As more of our life and work depends on the devices we carry, the chance of losing those devices is an ever-greater risk. ST Dupont has entered the digital universe to assuage that risk. 

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