In 1872, innovator and photographer Simon Tissot Dupont founded S.T. Dupont, a Parisian maison dedicated to producing 'exceptional goods for exceptional people'. Initially offering leather briefcases to businessmen, he progressed to luxury travel trunks and cases coveted by the European elite, and he supplied no less than the likes of Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie. His sons Lucien and André took over in 1919, and continued the extraordinary success put in place by their father. The number of workers increased from 50 to 250, comprising craftsmen ranging from trunk- and casemakers, goldsmiths, locksmiths, engine-turners and enamellers. Simon Tissot Dupont died in 1922 and shortly afterwards his sons moved the atelier from Paris to the family's home town of Faverges at the foot of the Alps. This area, one of France's most beautiful natural environments, still influences the company's environmental and sustainability ethos today.
By the end of the 1920s, S.T. Dupont had gained a reputation as being the foremost manufacturer of the most luxurious of luxury travel goods. And then the Wall Street crash happened. Undaunted, Lucien Tissot's reaction was to cater only to the very wealthy, reasoning that they were the least likely to have been affected by the crash. ‘Make it more beautiful,' he said. 'Make it expensive. Make it innovative.’ His extraordinarily bold decision was justified, as over the next 20 years his clients came to include Coco Chanel, John D Rockefeller and Louis Renault.
The 1930s saw innovation in Lucien's invention of a tanning technique that used diamond powder. This lent the S.T. Dupont leather extraordinary durability whilst still remaining supple, and is still used today. With the advent of more widespread air travel luggage also had to be lighter, so the art of lacquerwork was introduced. This meant that the heavy cut-glass crystal flasks incorporated into certain travel cases could be replaced with lighter, lacquered containers which were - as a bonus - available in a multitude of colours.
In 1935 the Maharajah of Patiala ordered 100 Chinese lacquer clutch bags for the members of his harem, with each one containing a solid gold lighter. The order took S.T. Dupont three years to complete but inspired the introduction in 1941 of the world's first luxury petrol lighter. It was made of aluminium. Further research led to the creation of a gas lighter: the Ligne 1 became an instant success, coveted by the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. Solid brass replaced the aluminium, and the designs became increasingly sophisticated.
Along with lighters, S.T. Dupont continued their innovations with luxury bags. They created the Bogie, a travel bag for Humphrey Bogart, and in 1953 André Dupont created his first ladies' handbag - the Riviera, with Audrey Hepburn being perhaps his most famous client.
In 1971 Jackie Kennedy Onassis casually mentioned to S.T. Dupont that she'd rather like a ballpoint pen to match her personalised Ligne 1 'J' lighter, and so the team got to work. Their efforts saw the production of the company's first luxury pen, the Classique. It was made of brass, with its design influenced by the ignition roller of the Ligne 1 lighter. The Museum of Modern Art in New York even selected it for one of its exhibitions.
And so the S.T. Dupont maison added luxury writing instruments to its ever-expanding portfolio. The Classique was followed in the new century by the Défi line - its unique design combines a metal-injected frame with a palladium finish and carbon fibre composite body. Then came the Liberté collection with a choice of palladium or natural lacquer finishes, closely followed by the traditionally elegant Elysée. Karl Lagerfeld collaborated with S.T. Dupont in 2011 with the launch of the Mon Dupont line.
S.T. Dupont has spent over 150 years designing, innovating and recognising opportunities. They have catered to the famous, the wealthy, the influential and the controversial through speculation and without compromise. Clients have ranged from royalty - kings, maharajahs, queens and princesses, dukes and duchesses - through to entrepreneurs, designers and artists; icons, secret service agents and gangsters. In terms of luxury, they can provide it all, and will probably continue to do so well into the next century and beyond. They've weathered conflict, crashes, crises and changing fashions - in considerable style. Just like their products.