The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan


February 2014

Master of its Arts
Iconic brand keeps with the times through innovation and unique collaborations

By Custom Media

S.T. Dupont, creators of quality handmade lighters, pens, and leather travel goods, is this year celebrating its 142nd anniversary.

Founded in 1872 in France by Simon Tissot Dupont, the company started out making luggage and leather goods for the wealthy. Since its first client, Napoleon III, the luxury manufacturer has gone on to create custom-made products for an array of famous individuals, including Queen Elizabeth II, Prince William and Kate Middleton, as well as Audrey Hepburn, and Humphrey Bogart.

Today the company concentrates on four arts: writing (pens), fire (lighters), travel (leather), and seduction (accessories).

According to Yoshikazu Yann Gahier, president and representative director of S.T. Dupont Japon K.K., before World War II, the brand was recognized for its travel cases and creativity, and was expanding all over the world.

However, during the war, there was a lack of raw materials and people stopped traveling.

“Thus, the company decided to make lighters. At that time, these could be included in travel cases at the customer’s request, so the company already had the knowledge to make them,” said Gahier.

S.T. Dupont’s gas lighter—one of the first to be made—helped increase the success of the brand around the world.

Another Dupont icon was born in 1973, when Jackie Kennedy Onassis ordered a pen to match her beloved Dupont lighter, engraved with her initial “J.”

“The pen was made by extending the roller part of the lighter as the body of the pen. This is how the first S.T. Dupont pen appeared,” he explained.

The New Classique Pen Collection 2014 will be launched later this year, and is based on the design of Kennedy’s pen.

According to Gahier, it takes about 60 hours and involves more than 150 processes to make a world-renowned S.T. Dupont pen or lighter.

“All products are handcrafted in France using precious materials, so the user can feel the weight and quality of the products,” he explained.

“Last year we received the prestigious Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant (Living Heritage Company) award from the French government that recognizes excellence in French craftsmanship and industry.”

The company expanded to Japan’s shores in 1976 and has one shop in Tokyo’s Ginza district, as well as a presence in major department stores in Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka. Further, the company spread to Fukuoka late last year and plans to open an online store later this year.

To enlarge the scope of its target audience, the company has created some more affordable products.

“Before, we had a lot of products that were quite highly priced (around ¥100,000), but we have rejuvenated the brand by launching many new lines, such as Defi, Liberté, Jet 8, and Minijet.

“These lines still match our high-quality standard, but are more funky, modern, colorful, and have made the brand more appealing to both men and women.”

Further, the company has launched collections with well-known designers and artists, including Karl Lagerfeld and Eiichiro Oda, creator of the manga series One Piece.

“We try to collaborate with those who are already fans of the brand. Oda’s Sleeping Mermaid collection is unconventional, as it is uncommon for a luxury brand to tie up with a manga artist.

“We like to break with custom and keep this originality,” said Gahier.

The Jet 8 line of eight brightly colored pens retails for only ¥10,000 each and, although it is the brand’s cheapest collection, its design and quality are retained.

“We now have a wide variety of products so you can find a pen or lighter costing from ¥10,000 to over ¥1 million,” he said.

“We have a choice for every taste; classic, modern, or colorful, while always being very elegant. That is what the brand is about.”