Combining history and technology in ecommerce: Au Départ with atoms studio

A work desk with an Au Depart card being exchanged between two hands
May 22, 2020


Au Départ Paris is one of France’s premier luxury trunk makers. Founded in Paris in 1834, Au Départ created steamer trunks in the golden age of travel when rail transport opened up new destinations. It closed its doors in 1976, and after a long sabbatical, Au Départ celebrated a new beginning at the Salone del Mobile in Milan in 2019. The new concept aimed to combine history and technology flawlessly –– a perfect mix of the old and the new.

Accompanying Au Départ in this new endeavor is design studio atoms. One of atoms’s main goals was to provide a content model that didn’t restrict growth. Au Départ needed a tech solution that could grow with them; scalability was one of the most important considerations. Au Départ needed the freedom and support to grow into any market or digital platform.

The goal was to create an ecommerce website using the modular and scalable JAMstack with Contentful and Commerce Layer. Apart from scalability, some of the other main considerations were flexibility, a simple user interface for creators, and consistent performance.

An Au Depart case located in a luxuriously decorate

Luxury doesn’t stop with the in-person store and the product. Every element of the online experience needs to feel elegant and thoughtful, too. For atoms, this meant creating an experience that always performed. There was no room for sluggish load times, clunky UX or downtime. Contentful guarantees high performance, even if the website experiences load peaks or unexpected surges. Whatever way it needs to scale, its tech stack won’t ever be a limiting factor.   

The technology stack 

Right from the start, atoms chose Contentful as the go-to content platform. With Contentful, atoms was able to release the Au Départ store within months, not years. For a new launch, this was critical. It was important to capitalize on the initial momentum of the rebirth. In the weeks leading up to the launch, Contentful made it easier for the creators to make quick changes and updates. They were empowered to make the changes themselves without needing help from a developer.  

Atoms chose Commerce Layer for the shop functionality. The combination of Contentful and Commerce Layer made sure there wouldn’t be any restrictions down the road. Au Départ could expand into new markets and add new digital products. Furthermore, thanks to the Commerce Layer app available in the Contentful marketplace, the integration between the content platform and ecommerce platform was fast and effective. 

The combination of Contentful and Commerce Layer was a choice to address localization limits. The first release of the Au Départ ecommerce site was set up exclusively for sales in Europe. It was only available in English, despite Au Départ having a long legacy in France. During the re-platforming with atoms, the priority was to expand the market. Within a few months, atoms expanded the reach of Au Départ to 22 new markets and added two more languages (French and Italian). With France and Italy being two significant buyers of luxury goods, this change alone would be instrumental in increasing sales.  

In addition to the new markets, the new website also introduced a chance for guests to register. Instead of purchasing as a guest, customers could register and have an account page. 

Working with no limits  

Atoms chose to work with a tech stack that included Commerce Layer and Contentful because of flexibility. A modern tech stack works like building blocks –– you can use the same components to create endless possibilities. As it grows, Au Départ has the flexibility to expand into new markets and new digital channels. 

For Au Départ, flexibility also means being empowered to make constant iterations, improvements, and updates. Contentful empowers non-technical people to make these changes, saving on precious developer time. 

What are the possible future scenarios for Au Départ and atoms? 

Optimizing the user experience 

A launch is just the first step. Often the most important work is done in the early months and years. With a traditional CMS, this can be a major headache. Even the smallest tweaks and changes required development time, and optimization was hardly feasible. Optimization isn't only feasible, but expected and encouraged with a technology stack like the JAMstack.  

Like all new launches, Au Départ will go through several iterative cycles. The entire website will go through a comprehensive UX review, and there will be improvements. Content presentation needs to be tweaked to be even more appealing and effective. The sales funnel needs to be optimized to minimize drop-outs. There will be a lot of updates as the brand grows and expands. Contentful and Commerce Layer empowers creators and editors to do this work themselves. A lot of content iterations and updates can be completed without needing help from developers or technical users. Teams can integrate with analytics, optimization (like Optimizely), and translation tools.  

Expanding to more digital channels 

Au Départ plans to expand to new interfaces and digital platforms such as native apps and in-store digital experiences. With a traditional CMS, this would mean procuring, implementing, and customizing tools for each channel. 

With Contentful, there’s none of that. Contentful can become a hub to manage translation, localization, ecommerce, and sophisticated digital products and experiences — everything from lookbooks and in-store touch screens to IoT integrations. 

With content at the heart, atoms and Au Départ can confidently expand their digital portfolio while keeping all the backend components connected.  

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