I work entirely by hand. No imposing machine is present in the workshop. For the cutting of the poplar, it is made in a carpentry then assembled by me in the workshop. When I need to split skins or trim them, I call on one of the few trimming workshops left in Paris.
What type of product do you manufacture the most? Your favorite materials?
Each product is made to measure after having validated a drawing/sketch with the customer. So there is not really a product that I make the most. The only exception is the "Grand Cru" box which has been made several times in different leathers but without any other modification. All other products are unique.My two favorite leathers are lambskin for the exterior sheathing of boxes/cases and suede goatskin for the interior. However, for trunks, these two leathers are too fragile and the skins too small to be used. I then use cowhide leather for the exterior and suede calfskin for the interiors. The interior can also be made of suede or velvet. Regarding the carpentry part, it is necessarily poplar. It is the wood of choice for trunks because it is very light. The jewelry is solid brass, nickel or palladium. I have a slight preference for brass. The edges (also called lozine) are systematically made of leather and fixed with lozine nails. Sometimes I sew them, but they are most often made without, just with a folded edge.
How did you become known to current customers and how do you keep the constant influx of new potential customers? What is your sales network?
I made myself known via the Internet, my website www.mallesjm.com
and Instagram @jmtrunks
. The word of mouth is also the main "vector". My clients are my best representatives and bring me other clients. I don't have a store or a showroom at the moment. However, some of my trunks are somehow on display. This is the case, for example, of the Malle-dégustation (wine tasting trunk), produced for Château Meyre in the Médoc (near Bordeaux). It thrones in the entrance of the château which is a hotel and a place of tasting.
What is the most ambitious project you have worked on? What were the particular difficulties and possibly the solutions that made it possible?
There are three completely different projects that have so far been ambitious or “challenging”. The first is the creation of the wine tasting trunk for Château du Médoc Meyre (mentioned above). The main difficulty was the size of the trunk (74x108x74 cm) and therefore its weight (about 50kg). When you work alone, it becomes a real challenge to manipulate such large pieces.
The second project is the "Malle-Lumière".
The difficulty was to get the electric cables to pass and to mount them, knowing that they had to be mounted once the structure was completed. The chosen solution was to laser cut grooves for the passage of the cables in the thickness of the barrel. The third project is the One-dollar case. The client's goal was to showcase two collectible $1 coins
I wanted to bring something other than a traditional tray or a plexiglass support in which the piece “snaps”. So I imagined a support in the form of an arc that would support the piece without hiding the slightest part of it and without going all the way around it, so that it would be placed delicately and almost in suspension.
The drawing was easy to achieve, on the other hand, the sheathing and the maintenance of the support on the case, much less.
What are your upcoming projects in the near future? (Opening of a new place of sale or workshop, machine purchase, development of a range of products, etc.)
Pursue the development of my three product lines:
- Trunks and boxes for fine wines and spirits
- Trunk objects for felids
- Miscellaneous and decorative trunks and cases.
To that, I would like quite quickly to acquire a skiving machine and open a showroom.
What type of product or manufacturing step do you particularly like?
The different stages of designing a trunk are fun. It is difficult to “extract” one in particular. However, the installation of the hardware is "nice" because it is the final step of the exterior. You know that your trunk will “finally” see the light of day. In addition, it immediately takes on another aesthetic aspect, since it is adorned with its ornaments. Sheathing is surely what gives me the most pleasure. You have a real relationship with the material, the leather, and this is the stage that gives you the most opportunity to caress and feel the material. Even if it has a repetitive and sometimes long side, the lozinage is pleasant by the "music" and the "rhythm" provided by the hammer to drive the nails every 15mm. On some trunks, there can be up to more than 1000.
What type of product that you have never had the opportunity to make (due to lack of time, for example) and that you would like to design?
An innovative watch trunk that comes out of the classic existing boxes/trunks with rotation systems and trays.
Do you have a favorite tool? Why this one? Does it have a particular history and/or is it simply essential and/or very practical?
My favorite tool is the bone folder. It is essential for sheathing the leather and for a particular feel because it is systematically associated with the feel of the leather. I have several, but I always use the same one out of superstition: My first slightly curved white bone slicker.
Which leather goods technique/production step is the most complex for you to master? Why?
This is a step specific to the trunk maker and rigid leather goods: cold riveting and stapling of jewelry nails. The operation is sometimes difficult to perform, especially on small objects because handling is less easy and this can damage the object by scratching the leather or the hardware itself. In addition, if the riveting or stapling is not well done, this may have an impact on the interior sheathing of the trunk, case or box.
What is the advice you could give to new generations who would like to embark on the adventure as you did?
Dare and stay humble. It sounds a bit “basic” and obvious, but it's sincere. Learn by listening, watching others and performing your own experiences. Feel free to ask for advice, but always follow your instincts. This is what will create your style and your uniqueness. You will make mistakes, some achievements will not live up to your expectations, but that's okay. Be humble. The "bigger" ones are always learning and also making mistakes.