Things We Like: The D’Alembert Diderot

Spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch.

Borne within the parlance of the classic “Priest and a Rabbi” joke, these four items are nevertheless the essential items for every man. Not jewelry, nor decoration. These are simply the things we carry.

At the height of the French Enlightenment, two such gentlemen would carry the task of compiling the world’s first Encyclopedia. Between their expertise in sciences, philosophy, and history, Jean le Rond D’Alembert and Denis Diderot finished their Encyclopédie in 1951, distributing summative knowledge to salons far and wide. Many years later, Diderot would sit and lament over his decision to replace his well-worn dressing gown:

Cursed be the precious garment that I revere. Where is my old, my humble, my comfortable rag of common cloth? My friends, keep your old friends. My friends, fear the touch of wealth. Let my example teach you a lesson. Poverty has its freedoms; opulence has its obstacles.

And thus, with a man’s published confession on the pitfalls of luxury, the “Diderot effect” became a new entry in the Encyclopedia.

Now, what does all this have to do with a leather wallet? Ambitiously, everything.

“Our approach to luxury is this: everyone wants to surround themselves with nice things, but there is a certain type of person who wants the best without being ostentatious. We stand firmly in this category. Showiness is the antithesis of true luxury – an elevating experience – and its companion, wisdom.”

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Through their leather crafts, the team behind D’Alembert is in the pursuit of delivering true luxury to its owner with its inaugural item, the Diderot.

In terms of luxury at face value, the Diderot is the culmination of art, craftsmanship, and all-out passion. Procured from French calfskin reserved for bespoke shoes, the leather begins as a natural tan, unfinished canvas – this in the literal sense. After the leather is cut and stitched by the hands of a Spanish maestro, the art of craft yields to the art of color. Using a combination of creams, dyes, and waxes, each wallet is given a six-layer patina unique to the piece of leather at hand. The finished piece glows in light and dark hues of a single color, which the D’Alembert team calls its movement.

“Movement brings a visual texture to the patina and it is this motion that makes the patina captivating and interesting to look at. Each D’Alembert patina is totally unique and the creation of a compelling and beautiful movement is the sign of a true patina artist.”

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The Diderot begins wrapped in tissue paper, beneath a personally addressed note to the owner. Over time, the supple, shining leather agrees with its contents. Through six months of wear, this wallet fit – in practice and taste – with pockets of all types, from wool breast to indigo back. The gloss fades, to be renewed by its wearer if he so chooses.

With such an attractive design, why would D’Alembert dedicate so much time and energy to an item that is almost always concealed?

“A wallet is a private item. It is not on display, but lives in one’s pocket, so its presence is mainly experienced by its owner. It is therefore the perfect opportunity for someone with nothing to prove to express a side of himself that might otherwise go unsaid.”

For the team, luxury on display is no luxury at all. Instead, their philosophy is of luxury that serves rather than inhibits; a personal item that they hope will incorporate a little artistic genius into everyday life.

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Christopher Tuazon

Hong Kong Correspondent

Teacher, student, and believer in the lifelong learner. Also trying to find my place on the other side of the world I grew up in. I write to share stories and the lessons within them.