Charles de La Portbarré has some story to tell.
He comes from a family of privateer shipowners who have been living in Saint Malo, France, since 1490.
He is a direct descendant of Saint Louis through his grandmother.
He is also the direct descendant of Thomas Herbert de La Portbarré, who was an officer of the Indies Company and commander of the naval fleet that took Madras (now Chennai) in 1746 for King Louis XV.
As for himself?
Well, he’s worked in retail real estate, built an experimental vineyard in France, dabbled in luxury goods, moved to Hong Kong, and now, along with his friend, Augustin, has ethically created beautiful bowties and brooches out of butterflies.
As his bio states: “[Charles] now lives across Hong Kong and Paris and just can’t stop running to develop this company that merges everything he loves: friendship, nature, fashion, craftmanship, and opera!”
Our Seven Creative Questions for Charles de La Portbarré:
NAME: Charles de La Portbarré (above)
AGE (if you want to give it up): 33
COMPANY: Monsieur Butterfly
HOMETOWN: Saint Malo, France
CURRENT TOWN: Hong Kong
OCCUPATION: Founder of Monsieur Butterfly
1. How long have you been a designer? And what is your earliest design memory?
Being a designer is fairly new to me! My background is scientific, and I worked in business analytics within corporate companies for my whole career. However, I always had deep inside the will to create products of my own: maybe sending PowerPoints and PDFs all day long just wasn’t enough… As far as I remember, handcrafting gifts for my mother is my earliest design memory, and seeing these still exhibited on my mother’s desk in Brittany is my proudest accomplishment!
2. Other than naming yourself, who is the best new designer to emerge in the last five to ten years? Why?
I just started discovering the current stage of design thus would not consider myself an expert, but I can say I absolutely love @mademoiselle_woody’s work: the way she plays with old furniture to give them a second chance has this unique touch – despite this process being well known now.
“The Rigoletto is a bow tie handmade in Paris (France), showcasing the Urania Ripheus butterfly mounted on an Egyptian cotton necklace.” — From MonsieurButterfly.com
3. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard (business, cooking, designing, writing, dating, or otherwise)? And do you follow it?
Gabrielle Chanel said “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” I try to live by this motto and work hard to show everyone the best I can do. To me, this quote belongs to the impressive list of things that make you think, “oh, well, actually yes” in the sense it is extremely simple and logical, yet I had to hear it to realise it!
4. Where is your favorite (or the best) piece of jewelry, anywhere in the world, and why?
I recently came across a medallion offered by Louis XIV to a privateer from Saint-Malo (my hometown in France).
The medallion had been preserved for three hundred years by the descendants of the privateer Alain Porée (1665-1730), who captured 27 enemy ships and participated in the defense of Saint-Malo against the English in 1695. To thank him, the Sun King had sent him in November 1696 his portrait adorned with 20 rose-cut diamonds.
I was lucky enough to see it with my own eyes a few days before it was auctioned this summer, and was amazed by its pure and symbolic beauty.
“The Tosca is a bow tie handmade in Paris (France), showcasing the Cethosia Biblis butterfly mounted on an Egyptian cotton necklace.” — From MonsieurButterfly.com
5. What music, movie, book, or magazine gets you ready to design and/or dazzle? Kindly explain why.
I do not come from a family with a strong passion for arts, but I came across someone who changed my life from this perspective. When I was 20, I worked in a consulting company and met Frederic who was 50 and extremely cultivated. Yet, he had no children to transfer his knowledge to. From my side, I was craving to learn and was looking for someone to teach me: the perfect scenario! We used to go to museums, concerts and above all operas, at least twice a month. Being a perfect teacher, at first he would tell me what to notice in the opera we were about to hear, then a few months later he stopped and asked me at the end what I understood, and that was the beginning of my deep love for opera! I took it as a mission to transfer it to my girlfriend and my friends, but have to admit I am less of a perfect teacher than Frederic was.
There is not one day in my current life I don’t listen to opera – in between electro, rap and Italian variety – and can’t work without it: I am currently listening to Carmen while writing these lines!
My passion for opera also led to me to choose “Monsieur Butterfly” as a name for my company, paying homage to Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Each of our products is named after a masterpiece I feel resonates with the butterfly showcased. For example, the mesmerizing blue morpho with his electric hints draws the whole attention: we named it Don Giovanni!
“The Don Giovanni is a bow tie handmade in Paris (France), showcasing the Morpho Aega butterfly mounted on an Egyptian cotton necklace.” — From MonsieurButterfly.com
6. What is the question a person should ask you, and how would you answer?
“What kind of grapes did you plant in your experimental vineyard?” This can take me on for an hour to explain the whole project and is actually a question you shouldn’t ask if you expect a quick answer! After being told my soil was absolutely the worst for grapes, I decided to take the challenge together with 18 friends (looks like my thing is to prove the impossible is possible with friends!) and we created a variant of Pinot Noir, Burgundy’s king grape. In short, we planted the vines six years ago and it still takes a lot of my holiday time!
A question you shouldn’t ask would be “so, when can we taste your wine?” because first, every year I optimistically say “next year,” and second I am unsure if it will taste like in my dreams! But anyway, as Goodman said, “Remember that happiness is a way of travel, not a destination.”
7. What is the most inspiring/memorable moment you’ve ever had (so far), and what made it so inspiring/memorable? Please elaborate.
When we created Monsieur Butterfly with my best friend Augustin, we thought “who would be crazy enough to buy our creations?” and decided we would be happy if we ever sold one single piece to someone we didn’t know. This actually happened very fast at a prestigious retailer Rue du Bac in Paris, Deyrolle. They called us to share the good news and we couldn’t believe it happened only a few days after we started displaying our products there!
We opened a very good bottle of wine (and a few others) and cheered; that evening we decided to launch the brand for good!
Lead-In Image Courtesy of Monsieur Butterfly