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‘There's a creative buzz around Marseille, and it just feels like a new frontier.’

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Photo>>>Giuseppe Santamaria

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Feature by Exceptional ALIEN

It was during regular trips through Italy, Portugal, and France that designer Jeremy Hershan hatched an idea for a new business. With the region’s laissez-faire attitude and traditional craftsmanship as his muse, Jeremy launched his luxury label Haulier International.

Following years cutting his teeth in the storied workrooms of Antwerp, Paris, and London, Jeremy returned home to head up design for iconic Australian label RM Williams. While in this role he helped steer the heritage brand into a contemporary orbit, with sales skyrocketing among the younger demographic. Yet, his idea for quality, environmentally conscious, high-end travel accessories mushroomed. Leaving RM Williams to branch out on his own, Jeremy launched Haulier International, selling utilitarian tote bags and ready-to-wear collections. We spoke with Jeremy about the endless inspiration from his travels around the Mediterranean, his internationally influenced design aesthetic, and unwinding in Marseille with his Travel Playbook.

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On where you’re from

I'm Melbourne born and raised. I grew up and studied fashion in the inner city. I knew I always had a passion for clothing, textiles and design from a young age. I did a few things non-fashion-related along the way. I studied art and literature, cinema and eventually found my way to studying fashion at RMIT [Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology] in Melbourne, which is probably the country’s best-known fashion college. It was a great foundational course, very technical, and with great creative mentors. As soon as I'd commenced, I knew that I wanted to go overseas and cut my teeth in the industry internationally.

On your early travels

Upon graduating in 2006 or 2007, I headed straight to Antwerp, where I was offered an internship with a designer who was part of the Antwerp Academy [Royal Academy of Fine Arts] — her name was Veronique Branquinho. She was contemporary to Raf Simons and that ilk of designers, so I was thankfully accepted to undertake an internship, which led me on the path overseas. I spent six months studying under the team of Veronique, which was a great starting point and set me on the path to two more experiences. From there, I was offered a role in Paris as an apprentice for a designer called Kris Van Assche, the artistic director for Dior Homme at the time. I spent a year as an apprentice for him in his studio — living in Paris, not being able to speak the language, and working in a French team was a challenging but formative experience. From there, I spent two years working on Savile Row in London, learning about tailoring and craftsmanship and a really high level of attention to detail.

On learning heritage design in the UK

Being based in London at that time, I really wanted to learn more about these incredible historic brands with hundreds of years of history to draw on. I was working for Gieves & Hawkes — they're one of the oldest naval tailors in the world. They had an archive dating back to the late 1700s and it was an incredible learning experience. Then I worked for another great British heritage brand called Aquascutum — a famous rainwear brand at the turn of the century, alongside Burberry. They were also famous for outfitting military personnel with hard-wearing outerwear for the battlefield. I had a wealth of experience in the UK, followed by a four-year stint at Alfred Dunhill, another incredible legacy house that started at the turn of the 1900s, creating outerwear and accessories for early motor enthusiasts. I was in charge of the tailoring there and worked under an incredible mentor called John Ray, creative director at the time. He was Tom Ford's right hand in the famous era of Gucci in the 1990s — a wealth of knowledge, like an encyclopedia of menswear.

After leaving Melbourne and moving to Europe to learn from some of the finest minds in fashion, Jeremy Hershan returned to Australia for a stint at iconic brand RM Williams. It was when he returned to the Mediterranean coast of Côte d'Azur to consult for French brands that he traveled to every corner of lush Marseille, working his way through the most scenic landscapes for campaign shoots. First image of Marseille sign by Eber Figueira, stone wall images by Yann Faucher, portrait of Jeremy by Giuseppe Santamaria, final image by Jeremy Hershan.

On drawing inspiration from your travels

Working internationally, I had the opportunity to really travel. I worked extensively in Italy, Portugal and France with different manufacturers. I was always on a plane and spending time in factories, absorbing traditional manufacturing and craftsmanship techniques, working with the best mills to produce incredible textiles. It was really the extension of my education and a period that I still draw on for inspiration.

On working for RM Williams

I'd spent almost nine years working in Europe and the UK, and I was considering whether it was time to come back to Australia. I was approached with the opportunity to lead design at RM Williams — probably Australia's most iconic heritage brand, making luxury handmade products with traditional techniques. That resonated with me. So I packed up and headed for Sydney. For three years I was in charge of the creative direction, refreshing the brand identity and the product offering and making it feel more international. We had a great injection of investment from the LVMH group. I was given the keys to the brand and was able to put my imprint on the look, as well as update it for a new generation of customers. I really cherish that experience — it was fantastic to see such a beautiful handcrafted product made in Australia.

‘I was always on a plane and spending time in factories, absorbing traditional manufacturing and craftsmanship techniques. It was really the extension of my education and a period that I still draw on for inspiration.’

On starting your brand Haulier

Moving back to Australia, I always felt like there was a great opportunity to create an iconic lifestyle brand with very premium positioning. Initially, I felt there was a gap around a beautiful tote bag crafted through an elevated luxury lens that anyone could use — very utilitarian and pure in its inspiration. Through my experience working internationally and my network of factories and suppliers, I visited half a dozen of them and began developing this range of tote bags made by hand in Europe. It probably took me two years to be happy with the product. I  spent a lot of time developing the textile from scratch. I sourced very particular looms from Portugal — the last looms of their kind in Europe — to weave the fabric because I wanted to create a hard-wearing fabric. I wanted that final product to get better the more you used it. It was timeless in its inspiration but also really enduring in its quality. Around late 2020, we were ready to launch Haulier with this range of utility tote bags.

On sustainable fashion

I was quite particular in wanting to create a sustainable product where there wasn't a lot of excess, so there was no fabric waste in the cutting process. I'm proud that we've been able to achieve this. When we launched the bags, we picked up some great partnerships with some of the world's top luxury retailers, including MATCHESFASHION in the UK, Mytheresa in Germany, Merci in Paris, and a host of other stores in Japan, Korea and Australia.

Jeremy Hershan drew inspiration from his travels through Italy, Portugal, and France to create his own label Haulier International in Sydney in 2020. Developing the textile from scratch and sourcing particular looms from Portugal (pictured bottom), he started with a range of enduring handmade utility tote bags inspired by the glory days of travel back in the 1960s and 1970s. Jeremy has now launched his debut ready-to-wear collection (pictured top and middle). All photos courtesy of Jeremy Hershan. First three images shot for Haulier by James Tolich, Portugal manufacturing shots by Joel Bessa.

On the golden era of travel

I was consulting for a brand in the south of France, spending a lot of time traveling, and the tote bags were the perfect accessory. I was also inspired by this period of time that, for me, are the glory days of travel, around the 1960s and 1970s. You had all these celebrities and people traveling a lot with style and grace. It was before the age of celebrity stylists, and people were wearing their own clothes they lived in. I wanted to capture that spirit in our clothing collection — that golden era of travel.

On how travel inspires you creatively

I'm a keen observer. When I'm traveling, I always observe what people are wearing, what they're carrying, how they're interacting with their environment and whether they're dressed for purpose. I love seeing tourists in cities and how they're interacting with the climate. I've always keenly documented this by taking photos and observing, so travel is a really important point of inspiration. I've got years of research and references that I've collected over time, and it does continue to inspire how I design and create.

‘I was also inspired by this period of time that, for me, are the glory days of travel, around the 1960s and 1970s. I wanted to capture that spirit in our clothing collection — that golden era of travel.’

On the pull of Marseille

When I was working in the background as a creative consultant, one of the brands I was working for was based in Marseille. I was very fortunate to go to Marseille in the south of France every second month for about two years. We were doing our photoshoots and campaigns in those regions, so I was fortunate to travel for work and see different areas and aspects. I've always loved the films set in those locations, like Bonjour Tristesse, Pierrot le Fou, and La Piscine, and I have a fascination with the Cannes Film Festival, which is located on the Cote d'Azur and has been running since the 1940s. I love looking at photos from the festivals and absorbing those inspirations. A lot of musicians traveled through that area in the 1960s and 1970s, like The Rolling Stones when they were fleeing the UK because they had tax issues. They based themselves not far from Marseille, in a famous villa called Villa Nellcôte — that's where they recorded [the album] Exile on Main St. I've always been drawn to the mystique and romance of the area through music, films, and travel.

On your relationship with the city

I find it an incredibly vibrant, inspiring city. I love Marseille because it doesn't have any of the pretensions. I've lived in Paris and have a great affection for Paris, but it's a much freer way of life in Marseille. In Marseille, you have this melting pot of communities and influences — the French, the North Africans, the Sicilians, the Armenians, the Corsicans, all these different nationalities living in one place. You have this incredibly vibrant, rich city because of it.

The designer and founder has always been drawn to the mystique and romance of the Côte d'Azur through music, film and travel. The region has long played host to the Festival de Cannes, Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity and was even home to the members of the Rolling Stones in the 1970s. Jeremy favors exploring the vibrant port city of Marseille on foot, with a stroll through the colorful narrow streets of the ancient district of Le Panier, or wandering around from the beach to the historical fishing village of Vallon des Auffes. Top two images by Yann Faucher, middle two images by Eber Figueira, final image by Yann Faucher.

On navigating Marseille by foot

Marseille is a wandering city of walkways, and it's best to navigate and explore on foot. It's a port town — Marseille has been a trading hub since antiquity and is still functional today — so you'd start at the port, where you can see incredible boats and a vibrant trading hub. Then there are a lot of cool areas. There's an area called Le Panier, a network of really colorful little narrow streets lined with small shops and saturated with street art. Marseille must have more graffiti than anywhere else — it's everywhere you look. There's another little historical port which is gorgeous, called Vallon des Auffes, and it's a tiny fishing village, a stone's throw away from the beach. You can wander from the beach to this fishing village that overlooks the sea. It's lined with little restaurants and cafés, so that's an incredible place to sit, relax and observe. Marseille has this deep connection with North Africa, so there's a whole district called Noailles, which is basically like a very chaotic daily marketplace, packed with North African fabrics, ceramics, teas, spices and couscous stalls.

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On the natural beauty

There's an area called Les Calanques, which is a dramatic series of inlets and rugged cliffs along the coastline as you're heading towards Provence. It looks like the Wild West to me — it reminds me of the Spaghetti Westerns. It's an incredible drive, and it's a really unique backdrop with a mixture of sandy beaches and rugged coast and mountains, and as you're driving down this way, you can see these incredible fields of lavender and wild rosemary. So that's another part that I’d encourage people to explore.

‘Marseille is a really exciting place to eat, this melting pot of Italian, North African, French influences.’

On taking a day trip to Marseille’s unique architecture

If you're a fan of architecture, it's a great day trip to visit Le Corbusier's ‘Cité Radieuse,’ built in the late 40s — a UNESCO World Heritage Site and architectural masterpiece. It was intended as this utopian housing system, Le Corbusier's proof of concept for this new way of living. It's a huge, stunning, colorful vertical city, and it looks like it's on stilts. You can wander around inside, and some of the inhabitants will let you have a look at the apartment, so it's worth a visit. Inside this idyllic city, there's a little shopping arcade, a community bookshop, and a tea room. You can access the rooftop, which was an old school that's now converted into a museum, and it has the most incredible 360-degree views — that's a must and extremely photogenic.

On where to eat and drink in Marseille

Marseille is a really exciting place to eat, this melting pot of Italian, North African, French influences. It's so close to Sicily, so you have this strong southern Italian influence and a lot of the North African cuisine. There's an incredible old pizzeria that I'd take anyone to. It's called Chez Etienne, a Sicilian pizza restaurant. It's like a time warp. It looks like it’s still in the 1940s with wood paneling, and there are basically only two types of pizzas to order there — one is with cheese and one with anchovies. It's a pizza purist heaven, and it's a lot of fun. You'd also have to explore all the Moroccan, Tunisian, and Algerian options and stop to perch and sip a pastis [anise-flavored spirit]. There are little pastis bars on every corner.

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France's oldest family-run hardware store, Maison Empereur (pictured top and middle), is one of Jeremy's insider tips to shop locally made products in Marseille. The melting pot of different ethnicities also provides an enticing milieu of food and excellent array of architecture. From the purist Sicilian pizzerias to the Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian restaurants, stopping by the pastis bars, and taking a day trip to Le Corbusier's masterpiece Cité Radieuse, Jeremy has it all covered in his Marseille Travel Playbook. All photos by Jeremy Hershan.

On the best place to shop

There's one place in particular that I always go to called Maison Empereur — [France's] oldest family-run hardware store, a treasure trove of cookware, DIY hardware, and utilitarian products, all made in France. It’s totally unique. You can buy a doorknob or a pair of workwear trousers there or a champagne saber — incredible French products. It's this sprawling, multi-level old hardware store where locals and tourists are shopping. You have to go to Maison Empereur even if it's just to wander around. They hold the Marseille soap and all those iconic local products, espadrilles, and all the typical South of France things that you can take home.

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On creative talent you’re inspired by

When you look back to Cézanne and the great Impressionists, painters from past periods, there's always been a community of artists. Today, there's a definite interest in Marseille, and you have people like [Simon Porte] Jacquemus, who is from Marseille, coming back and hosting some of his runways shows there. So there's a creative buzz around that area, and it just feels like a new frontier — that's what's exciting about it.

‘There's one place in particular that I always go to called Maison Empereur — [France's] oldest family-run hardware store, a treasure trove of cookware, DIY hardware, and utilitarian products, all made in France.’

On a window or an aisle seat

I prefer a window seat. I like to look out the window and wonder and dream.

On a song that best represents Marseille to you

I have to pick a song from The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St. Probably ‘Torn And Frayed’, which for me, captures that moment of the early 70s perfectly in this sort of romance of the artistic and bohemian communities that were living, traveling, working and creating there.

On Marseille in one word

Vibrant.


It's incredibly vibrant. It's a mixing pot of culture, architecture, and geography. It's just a very rich, vibrant place.

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HERSHAN

‘There's a creative buzz around Marseille, and it just feels like a new frontier.’