EXCLUSIVE: Serge Ruffieux’s Accessories Brand 13 09 SR Expands Into Handbags


MILAN — Serge Ruffieux is the best ambassador for his own brand.

Even when having a salty croissant and an iced tea at historic pastry shop Cucchi here and conversing for an hour with WWD about the evolution of his company but also of the fashion industry at large, he never removed the leather bag worn crossbody and sitting under his arm.

It was the “Cuddle,” the style that marks his and Emilie Faure’s accessories label 13 09 SR’s debut into the bag category.

Ruffieux’s choice of wearing the bag himself might appear dictated by vanity, but in truth it best expressed the design’s main feature, evoked by its name: the ergonomic, asymmetrically curved shape that is intended to comfortably stay close to the body.

In sync with the brand’s ethos, functionality was top of mind for Ruffieux when designing the style. It comes with multiple inserts, including a card-sized inside patch pocket and another secure one on the back finished off with a metal zip and leather pull tab. The bag closes with a magnetic flap punctuated by a metal ring and stud — which frequently appear on the brand’s shoes — and it’s embossed with the 13 09 SR logo.

The adjustable and removable shoulder strap also enables multiple ways to wear the design: crossbody, on the shoulder or as a clutch. 

The Cuddle bag by 13 09 SR.

The Cuddle bag by 13 09 SR.

Courtesy of 13 09 SR

“The idea was to translate the same comfort of our shoes into bags,” said Ruffieux about the shape, inspired by bronze vases. “I wanted something that could lean easily on the body,” he added, while caressing the inaugural style crafted from hand-brushed black and white leather.

Dubbed 13 09 SR after Ruffieux’s birthdate and initials, the brand was launched after the designer wrapped a three-season stint as creative director of Carven in 2018 and with the support of Faure, who was formerly a journalist at Le Figaro and oversees the business and communications of the label. This is only one of Ruffieux’s projects, as he also helms the shoe category at Emilio Pucci under the creative direction of Camille Miceli.

Launching in pre-order on the brand’s e-commerce on Friday, the bag also will be available in solid black, brown and white colors as well as in a shearling version, with prices ranging between 490 euros and 590 euros. 

Deliveries in stores will start toward the end of July, when 13 09 SR’s collaboration with Japanese shoe label Suicoke teased during Paris Fashion Week earlier this year is also expected to hit the shelves, in addition to both brands’ online stores.

In September, new materials and colors of Cuddle will be introduced, while a larger iteration will be added from January, teased Ruffieux. 

The shearling version of the Cuddle bag by 13 09 SR.

The shearling version of the Cuddle bag by 13 09 SR.

Courtesy of 13 09 SR

“Launching bags was in the plans since we started the brand in 2021,” said the Swiss designer, recalling how even before graduating from Geneva’s Haute École d’Art et de Design he was making small collections of handbags.

“Yet I felt it wasn’t right for 13 09 SR to start from there but rather with more difficult products like shoes. Once we were able to set up a small business with those, introducing bags would have come easier,” said Ruffieux. As for the timing, he acknowledged the current challenging market conditions but said not to believe “in waiting for the perfect ones. For us this was the right moment: if you wait too long, it’s too late.”

The 13 09 SR spring 2024 campaign.

The 13 09 SR spring 2024 campaign.

Annemarie Kuus/Courtesy of 13 09 SR

Debuted with the spring 2022 offering, 13 09 SR initially hinged on eccentric flat shoes combining sporty references and sparkly embellishments, as well as bejeweled eyewear. 

Infused with a crafty, DYI feel and a playful attitude, the eye-catching garnered attention thanks to its deadstock materials, twisted cords, ribbons, rhinestones, hologram and croco effects. These were matched with padded shoe beds and pebbled rubber soles ensuring the comfort of fringed moccasins and mules, pointy ballerinas and puffy sandals.

While keeping the same approach aimed at offering “happy purchases” — as Ruffieux said at the time of the brand’s launch — the collections have gradually expanded to new shapes and codes. Most recently hard-to-miss boots were introduced, like the Bootsy style in crackled leather cinched with straps and buckles, covered in studs and featuring the brand’s signature Egg heel.

The 13 09 SR spring 2024 campaign.

The 13 09 SR spring 2024 campaign.

Annemarie Kuus/Courtesy of 13 09 SR

“At the beginning there was a more artisanal vibe. I poured everything into the first collection, like it was homemade. Then we kept the concept but built credibility with a wider offering,” said Ruffieux.

The designer underscored how Italian retailers were among the first to believe in the project, led by the likes of Modes and 10 Corso Como, and the market is still key for the brand. Yet China and Japan are the best-performing ones, also thanks to retailers such as I.T. and United Arrows. These add to a niche distribution that includes the likes of Galeries Lafayette, Shyness in the U.K., Camargue in Australia and Piaff in Lebanon, among others. 

The 13 09 SR spring 2024 campaign.

The 13 09 SR spring 2024 campaign.

Annemarie Kuus/Courtesy of 13 09 SR

As for the brand’s audience, Ruffieux underscored the wide demographic reach — with customers aged 30 to 60 — which mirrors the shoes’ price range, spanning from 390 euros for slides to 1,170 for high boots. 

“What customers have in common is the attitude: free and eccentric. They don’t seek others’ approval, they don’t think about being liked by men. Their [fashion] choices are dictated by the idea of liking themselves first,” said Ruffieux. “This is an overall shift [in fashion] that I’m really loving. We moved from a dynamic of seduction to one of self-acceptance and freedom.”

The 13 09 SR spring 2024 campaign.

The 13 09 SR spring 2024 campaign.

Annemarie Kuus/Courtesy of 13 09 SR

Asked about the ultimate mission he has for 13 09 SR, Ruffieux revealed ambitions going beyond the accessories arena, as he aims to turn it in a full-fledged company that includes ready-to-wear, where his fashion roots are.

To be sure, Ruffieux has known he wanted to be a designer since he was eight, growing up near the Lac de Joux in the Joux Valley in northwest Switzerland, the cradle of high-end watchmaking. He first came to the industry’s attention following the 2015 exit of Raf Simons from Dior, when he became co-artistic director with Lucie Meier for a few seasons. He had worked for Dior for eight years, rising to head designer of the brand’s women’s ready-to-wear and haute couture studios, and before that spent five years at Sonia Rykiel. He took the creative helm at Carven in 2017 and exited it the following year.

Serge Ruffieux

Serge Ruffieux

Fiona Torre/Courtesy of 13 09 SR

“I’ve never liked to be stuck in just a field. Emilie and I work on many other things but this is our baby, we believe in it and we want to keep doing this and build the brand for many years,” said Ruffieux, who didn’t exclude the idea of teaming with financial partners to scale up the business.



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