is a French trunk and leather goods maker. Established in 1853 in Paris, and previously doing business as Martin (Pierre-François Martin founded the House of Martin in 1792) and then Morel, it is older than Louis Vuitton by one year, although Bally was founded even earlier in 1851. François Goyard (1828–1890) made box making, packing and trunk making the family’s trade when he purchased Maison Morel, successor to Maison Martin. Edmond Goyard (1860–1937) expanded his business from 1885 to 1937. Robert Goyard (1893–1979) was the face of the brand during the booming post-war years. François Goyard played a significant role in further increasing the firm’s growth with his daughter Isabelle Goyard (1959-). Jean-Michel Signoles bought Goyard in 1998, and turned the privately owned company into an internationally renowned brand.
The brand is known for a certain amount of secrecy, eschewing self-promotion, advertising, or e-commerce, and refusing to grant interviews.
Maison Morel was the official purveyor of Marie-Caroline de Bourbon-Sicile, duchess de Berry, an honour that granted it the title of “box maker, trunk maker and packer of Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Berry”. Maison Martin’s store sign featured references to the three traditional crafts of “box making, trunk making and packing” that were at the core of its business, which was advertised as follows: ” “Maison Martin sells an assortment of boxes and cases; it provides quality packing services for fragile furniture and objects, as well as hats, gowns and flowers; it uses oiled canvas, plain canvas and straw for packing; manufacturer of horse carriage trunks and coat racks, it also supplies oilcloth and waterproof canvas, all at a fair price.”
Pierre François Martin was the guardian of a young female ward, Pauline Moutat, and gave his business as her dowry. He was also instrumental in arranging her marriage to one of his employees, Louis-Henri Morel (1817–1852), who was twenty-three at the time. Morel followed on Martin’s footsteps, and introduced himself as the “Successor to former Maison Morel, located on rue Neuve-des-Capucines, near Place Vendôme.” In turn, Louis-Henri Morel, passed on his skills and knowledge to a seventeen-year-old apprentice by the name of François Goyard, whom he hired in 1845. The apprentice received a state-of-the-art training under the dual guidance of Pierre François Martin and Louis-Henri Morel. Monsieur Morel died suddenly on 24 August 1852. In a short time, the house’s corporate name changed from Morel to Goyard, and from Goyard to Goyard Ainé (French for “elder”, François being the firstborn among Goyard brothers), as to differentiate himself from his siblings. When he died, François Goyard left his son Edmond with a very reputable business with workshops in Bezons, a city in the northwestern suburbs of Paris.
In 1834, Pierre François Martin moved his store from 4, Rue Neuve des Capucines, where Louis Vuitton opened in 1854, to 347, rue Saint-Honoré. On account of the new street numbering policy implemented in Paris in 1856, the address changed to 233, rue Saint-Honoré. His successors remain stuck in this spot at the corner of rue Saint-Honoré and rue de Castiglione, near Place Vendôme.
Edmond Goyard, drawing on his father François Goyard’s work, turned the store on rue Saint-Honoré into an increasingly elitist luxury brand with an international clientele. He created the first Goyard advertisements, participated in various World Expositions and opened four branch stores. He also laid the foundations for the brand as we know it today, as he came up with the emblematic Goyardine canvas, launched a pet accessories range and developed products for automobiles. He partnered with his eldest son Robert, and together they ran E. Goyard Aîné et Fils (E.Goyard Elder and Son). Robert followed his father’s footsteps and ran the business from 1937 to 1979.
This coated cloth was already around for the World Exposition in 1900, and was used in the inter-war years. It remains unchanged up to the present time, in its chevron pattern. In 2002, exactly 110 years after its creation, the Signoles family inaugurated their tenure at the helm of Goyard with the introduction of twelve new colours on top of the historic black canvas. The Goyardine canvas is now available in red, green, sky-blue, navy-blue, yellow, white…
Right from the start, Goyardine was made with cloth, although its appearance is very similar to leather. Goyard uses three plant fibres: hemp, linen and cotton. Hemp is particularly sought after for its hydrophobic qualities, linen is a fine thermal regulator, and the softness of linen probably caught the attention of the trunk maker.
The initial meters of Goyardine were most likely hand-painted. When the Goyardine was launched, the workshops moved to Bezons, and the manufacturing of the canvas required a ground-colour application followed by three successive layers of etching colours. The trademark slightly raised pattern of the Goyardine results from both the cloth and the printing technique used during the manufacturing process: the plain weave shows through the Chevron pattern, and superimposes on top of the raised pattern produced by the paint dots. The overall effect is absolutely unique, and near impossible to counterfeit.
The dots on the fabric supposedly represent three chevrons juxtaposed to form a Y, the central letter in the Goyard family name. Edmond Goyard used the three chevrons of the letter Y to sign his canvas just like a painter would sign his painting: his name written in white is the only element that truly stands out, whilst the address of the Paris store is spelled in two different shades of brown, and “Paris” is repeated twice, and arranged in a centrally symmetrical stack. Edmond Goyard was the very first trunk maker to build his name into his canvas, and did so even before the year 1900. The piled up dot pattern was clearly inspired by the Goyard family history, and evokes their “Compagnon de rivière”(log drivers) ancestors.
If Edmond Goyard left his mark on the history of the brand by creating the Goyardine, his son Robert also created a new fabric: a four-shade-woven canvas. This canvas is used in bags designed for frequent air travel. Robert Goyard patented his new canvas on 24 November 1965, and described its design as “Chevrons intertwined with linear stripes.” This new canvas not only allows for a more modern look: for it is a woven canvas, it is also much softer than the historic Goyard canvas, thus making it possible to manufacture new products. In order to improve the solidity of the weaving, Robert Goyard altered the pattern in 1968, and came up with a totally updated version that is easily recognizable from the previous one, as it is much more even.
In 2010, Goyard marketed for the very first time a canvas woven on a jacquard loom. This jacquard canvas constitutes a major technical feat, as it builds “E.Goyard” into the lighter-shaded thread of the canvas, a previously unheard-of achievement in the textile industry. The new canvas is currently available in a black-charcoal grey-dove grey-white colour palette, and will shortly be available in other shades.
This extremely rare canvas was developed in collaboration with Suzanne Lenglen in the 1930s; its production stopped when the tennis player died in 1938. Goyard reprinted this canvas, which is now available again for special orders only, as quantities produced are limited.
Nowadays, special orders are to be placed at the store at 233, rue Saint-Honoré, as it was the case when the factory was located in Bezons. Special orders are entirely hand-made in the Goyard workshops in southern France, in the Aude department. The workshops are installed in converted wine warehouses. Whilst some trunk makers specialize in standardized goods, Goyard is equally at ease with both special orders and ready-made items. Among the many extravagant special orders that Goyard was able to deliver over the course of its history, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Writer’s trunk” certainly stands out. In the report he wrote for the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts in 1925, Paul Léon lists its main characteristics: “The trunk is equipped with a filing cabinet, a bookcase, a typewriter and a foldable desk.” The descriptive text that goes with its patent spares no detail either: “All kinds of kits and sets can be placed in the pigeonhole located in the trunk lid, along with photograph frames, a watch, a thermometer and a barometer”. After the death of the creator of Sherlock Holmes on 7 July 1930, Edmond Goyard registered a patent for the trunk on 20 July 1931, and seldom remanufactured this exceptional piece.
Each order is the result of a special encounter: that taking place between the trunk maker and the customer. When it comes to special orders, everything is possible: a trunk especially designed to carry and store caviar, or to meet the needs of a sportsperson, a fabulous picnic trunk.
Each piece of hard-sided luggage by Goyard is entirely hand made by a specific trunk maker, according to the highest, strictest standards. When the crafting process is over, the trunk maker writes down the serial number of the piece they made on its identification tag, along with their initials. They also write down that same serial number in the manufacturing register that has been keeping track of all items made by the Goyard workshops ever since Jean-Michel Signoles took over. The manufacturing register is used as a reference in the event an item needs to be repaired. About twenty trunk makers work in the Goyard workshops and specialize in made-to-order trunks and hard-sided luggage.