April in Paris is truly a unique bag boutique in San Francisco. The owner Bea Amblard has spent years crafting some of the finest bags for Hermés. She opened her own store in the City – you should definitely stop by to take a peek at these masterpieces.
Why did you pick this part of town to set up shop?
I chose the Richmond district, because when I started my business, this street was promising and up-and-coming. Since I opened in 2000 here, the area has blossomed with fellow designers and small local shops. It really feels like a community of small business owners, working together to make the neighborhood strive.
When did you start your shop? (or bag making?)
I started making bags back in the early 80s for Hermés, after having studied at a leather trade school in Paris. In 1998, I left Hermés to start my own business, making custom leather accessories. Here I am hundreds, say thousands, of bags later still designing and loving it.
Tell us all about your classes!
A little over 6 years ago, I started my second business: Amblard Leather Atelier. With a high demand of clients, and friends asking me to teach them leatherwork, I caved and started teaching a few people in the evenings. Evenings became overflowed, and I created a full time program during the week. We currently have around 40 students a week, learning traditional leatherworking skills. Our students start with a simple card case and then progressively learn to work on larger items such as clutches and handbags.
Are all your bags made on site?
We make every item in house! We have an open layout so our store is located in the front of the studio and we teach our classes and make all of our accessories in the back of the studio.
Can someone watch their custom bag being made?
We specialize in custom orders. Each item you can see in the store can be customized to the clients needs, such as color, size and features (pockets, zippers, snaps…). But if the client has a particular vision in mind, we work with them to create a one of a kind piece. Since our studio has an open layout our clients are welcome to watch the design and manufacturing process their accessory and also, watch our students learn the craft.
Can you name some of the classic heritage pieces that given you some of your best inspiration and why?
I’ve always found so much inspiration in bags from the 40s and 50s. The structure and simplicity from that era has been what I’ve tried to model my designs after.
These days, I try to have a little bit more of a contemporary style, all while incorporating the classic looks I’ve admired throughout the years.
What’s your top seller?
It’s hard to answer that question. Our business model is very custom oriented, so we’ve done many different styles over the years. Each client has different needs, and we try to meet all of those needs in order to create their perfect bag. If I had to choose a few as the most popular though, it would be the “Lucy”, the “Scarlet”, and of course the “Bea” Bag.
We see you work exclusively with French tanneries. Why? What makes them so great?
I might be a little biased, as a French woman that French tanneries produce the best leather, but the reason behind it is that I’ve worked with the same tanneries for years, and their product is so high end and luxurious, that I stick with what I know and love. But, this also only applies to the calf leather I use. All exotic leathers such as alligator, ostrich, and lizard are from various countries.
What’s a product that you think more people should know about that you manufacture?
I believe we are viewed as strictly an accessory shop, but in fact we’ve been approached with items that even we didn’t know there was a need for. I’ve made everything from a custom backgammon box set entirely made of leather, to covering 1,500sq/ft rooms with leather panels, as well as wine carriers and pet accessories. The world is our oyster, and we’re ready to cover it in leather.
What do you do with leftover materials?
We try to use as much of the hides as possible. We have bins of scraps that we use for smaller items, or we sell them to students to practice with. There is very minimal waste.