Philippe Vergez is co-founder of Philippe V, a Hong Kong-based jewellery, eyewear and accessories brand.
With its edgy style and rebellious motifs, the brand embraces ‘anarchist values.’
Items are available for both men and women, and the collection includes skull-shaped rings, rebellious t-shirts and studded sunglasses, to name but a few.
Vergez, originally from France, teamed up with long-time friend Thierry Halbroth to create the brand in Hong Kong.
In their own words: “Philippe V values individuality and encourages it through stylish rock’n’roll and rebellious icons, designed for the 21st century. Similar to a members-only club, the brand aims to unite like-minded individuals by giving them a sense of belonging and letting them express their nonconforming entity through historical iconography – like the skull or the fleur de lys.”
Gafencu met with Vergez at his Hung Hom studio to discuss his work and latest eyewear collection.
The brand you previously designed for, Jee Vice, was quite popular among celebrities. Is Philippe V experiencing similar success among A-listers?
This brand is pretty new so we are working on product placement in movies, and some celebrities like Amber Heard are already wearing our products. Brad Pitt has just received his order.
In the past, the brand I was designing for, Jee Vice, was very popular in Hollywood. It was the most popular brand at that time so we were featured in a lot of movies, and a lot of stars were wearing our glasses, like Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, Anne Hathaway, Katherine Heigl, Amber Heard and many more.
We were the only brand of sunglasses that Anna Wintour wore, apart from Chanel. But that was another life, another brand. I’m starting a new story, but we are looking to do something similar to what we did in the past.
Your jewellery and eyewear designs often feature two symbols – the fleur de lys and skulls. What’s the significance of these symbols?
Our logo is the fleur de lys (lily flower), which has been in my family since the 13th century – not because of nobility or royalty or whatever. The story is even nicer than that.
My family came from a small village in the Pyrenees, the mountains between France and Spain, called Aspin en Lavedan. From that plateau you could see if someone was coming, maybe three hours before they physically arrived. So they warned the next valley, and from valley to valley everybody knew that someone was coming.
My last name is Vergez, and there were about 53 families named Vergez in that area, so to differentiate them they attached the name of the closest mountain, valley or river. Since my family was looking towards France, we were called Vergez-France, and since we were surveying the Kingdom of France and the lily was the kingdom’s symbol, that’s why I chose it as the company’s logo.
It’s also an important symbol worldwide because it’s the symbol of the holy trinity. The lily flower is to the Occident what the lotus is to the Orient.
As for the skull, I’ve always liked skulls but I wanted to make it different. The lily is a little different from a normal lis because the three petals are free; normally there’s a ring holding the three petals, but I wanted it to symbolise freedom. With the skull, I wanted it to have a modern twist, so the skull is multi-faceted. Skulls remind us of the past and the people who have left us and the lessons we learnt from them.
What type of client do you market your products towards?
We don’t market based on demographics. It’s more about a sense of belonging – people who like what we do and the values that we promote. We don’t really sell the product. We sell those values. I like to make a design that has a story behind it. I don’t make things just for people to buy. I design to touch people’s hearts.
Where are you from, and what brought you to Hong Kong?
I’m from a small city in the Basque country called Biarritz on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean and at the foot of the Pyrenees mountains. Nowadays, we’re not Spanish, we’re not French – we are Basque. That’s very much a strong identity for us, and it’s part of my heritage. It’s a very nice city with beautiful waves. It’s like a European California, and it’s a surf city.
After the Jee Vice adventure, I lived in the US for some time, then came back to France before moving to Hong Kong to develop the design centre of a French company. I worked shortly after that for a Danish fashion brand and soon decided to launch my own venture together with long-time friend Thierry Halbroth. I worked three years on the development and design, and Thierry supported the efforts and wrote the story and marketing strategy.
We could have based the brand in France but the economy there is pretty dramatic at the moment. The French tax and social system makes it difficult to run a business and launch a brand, It is easier to make things happen in Hong Kong. And the second reason is that I like it here – except in the summer! Too hot and humid.
What are some of the highlights of your newest collection of eyewear and sunglasses?
Apart from the design, the highlights would be the fit and the quality – both the quality of the manufacturing and the quality of the lenses that are developed together with Essilor, which is the number one company in the world in terms of optical quality.
And once again, I don’t design to make a product. I design for people. I want people to feel good, look good and take pride in wearing the product. When they try these sunglasses, they say, ‘Wow, it fits well. It’s light and it’s comfortable.’ That really makes a difference.
For more information on Philippe V, visit www.philippev.com
Text Emily Petsko