The Cutting department The cutting by hand for a billfold in crocodile from the middle part of the skin
The logo The logo is stamped with a film (here in silver) or hot embossing
Handbags workshop Once the pieces are cut, they are ready to go to the assembly department
Small leather goods workshop Assembly of clasps wallet
The finishing The pieces are dyed and waxed
The branding Testtesttest
Quality Control All our products are quality controlled before being shipped to the customer
Stock of finished goods
Once your shiny alligator skin chosen, you as a customer can simply sit back and rejoice in witnessing its transformation from Nature-made wonder to noble craft made to fit your needs and fulfill your desires.
The making of a piece of leatherwork is not unlike the playing of a piece of music. First, you need to study the music sheet, you need to become one with it/make it a part of you. Often, I stop to watch our “conductors” at work - by conductors, understand Albert, Dolorès and Florence, the heads of our workshop. I marvel at the complexity of their gestures, at their heartfelt reactions. They are truly passionate about their work. The music lives within them.
Occasionally, I will try to catch their attention as they flutter around their benches, like a violinist’s bow hovering above the four strings, occasionally entering in contact with them with just the right energy, at just the right moment to make the part come to life. I present them with a drawing or a sketch made by a client. For long minutes, even hours sometimes, they look at it, trying to wrap their heads around the essence of it. They eventually become so familiar with it that the sketch or drawing feels as though it were the product of their own imagination in the first place, perfectly encompassing what the client wants, and what he needs. At times it is quick and easy. At others I will make their imagination ache by throwing fantasy ideas at them. At last, the magic happens and knowing exactly where they are headed, they will unleash the mathematician in them, effortlessly calculating all the measurements necessary to create the patterns.
All those calculations, as arduous as they may be, are made to look so simple when they explain how each step depends on the other; how the choice of material, the desired type of finish and the expected feel of the final product all interact with one another. Theirs is a mission of great importance: it is to seize the client’s desires and turn them into workable plans in the most limited amount of time, before the freshness of the original idea fades; time is precious in matters of creativity. Once the patterns finalized, the tropical winds rise anew as the skins, the Nature-made materials, come into play again.
Welcome to the setout room, where one can hear the incessant thumping of hammers on the skins, flattening them by stretching them to their limits. An unbearable environment to anyone who cannot stand tropical heat. Indeed, there the temperature nears 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). It takes nothing less to tame wild alligator.
15 years a member of our family, Va-Sing handles the selected skin as though it were his last job. He does not utter a sound and works in a silence foreign to our modern way of life, as though listening for the whispers of the matter. First, he cuts off the head and the tail, then cuts the skin in three before submerging it in water.
The skins are then stretched and nailed to 60-year-old pine planks. The nails we use today are the same that have marked the wood in a hundred different places throughout the years. These dignified scars are a testimony to the many skins that were beautified in our workshop. They lay on the planks until the next day at sunrise, when they are felt by delicate hands for residual humidity. Only when most of the water is gone are the skins taken down, split and placed in a drying booth to remove more humidity.
The leathers are then stroked delicately with an agate block which reveals and enhances the sheen of the scales. Finally, comes the embossing. The leathers are set on a high-temperature plaque where they shrivel, letting out the very last remaining humidity still present, and swelling the scales.
With the skins smoothed at last, the cutters get their punches ready, or their cutting bits, depending on whether the work will be done by hand or with the help of the machine.
Who knows, perhaps someday you will have the honor of witnessing Va-sing busy with cutting out your piece. A lovely sight indeed, with her nimble fingers fluttering about the patterns. Her hands are agile like an acrobat, supple like a gymnast and not any less delicate than a dancer. This step is my personal favorite, for it sets and seals the beauty, the homogeneity and the aura of the finished piece.
The cutters must picture the piece clearly in their minds. Thanks to this gift the cutters have, everything is possible, almost like magic. Their job does not merely consist in cutting the skins as though he were dealing with just any piece of fabric. Rather, his mission is to bring the leather to life, to cut it to perfection so that it all comes together like a puzzle, with minimal waste in the process.
And that is when the artisan finds out exactly how good the final product will be
Once the skin cut out following the patterns, it is split again, then skived and the top and lining glued together before being handed over to the assembly team.
During the assembly phase, each craftsman works alone from beginning to end. The pieces are branded, creased and dyed before being sown by hand or using a sewing-machine. Each piece is unique. In fact, even if we tried, with the same skins, handled by the same artisans, it would be impossible to replicate one piece exactly.
Before leaving our workshop, each and every piece goes through one final step, during which our artisans make sure that the piece was crafted in accordance with our house’s highest standards. More importantly, it is in these very last moments shared between the creator and his creation that the craftsman breathes life into his work.
You might be wondering what my job is, I whose silent voice guided you through the labyrinth of our workshop... Well, my job consists in selling dreams. Not the kind of dream that is an illusion; but a dream that is very real and brings delight and wonder to your life. Not so much a job as it is a privilege!