BUSINESS CREATION AND THE ECONOMIC RECOVERY OFFER LEATHER A BRIGHT FUTURE
The Conseil National du Cuir held the fourth “Rencontres du Cuir” (Leather Encounters) in the workshops of Maltier le Malletier in Poitiers, France. The host firm was one of many entrepreneurs who talked about the needs of French businesses during a round table discussion.
Luggage making, that blend of artisanal excellence and refined nomadism, is one of the areas where the French leather sector particularly stands out. Created in 2014, the Maltier le Malletier label has successfully rebooted the tradition into an innovative luxury concept, the brainchild of two childhood friends and cofounders of this French label. Benoît Maltier, who has trunk making in his genes, trained in furniture making and design (Boulle, Institut du Design de Saint-Luc), whilst Guillaume Désert studied law and political sciences. The duo have made their headquarters in the former police station at Neuville-de-Poitou, where Jean-Louis, a master craftsman from the luxury sector, produces bags and especially trunks to order. These are unique items with stylish and technical lines that can be transformed into desks, bookcases or cradles. Some items incorporate technological features, such as the trunk ordered by Taittinger that has an unfolding wall of led lights, incorporated into a metallic structure with leather straps. The company, which enjoys a growing international reputation, is supported by the ‘ADC au-delà du cuir’ initiative.
What are the keys to taking over or creating a business?
Guillaume Désert, CEO of Maltier le Malletier
"Three years ago, I wanted to revitalise the profession of “waxer”. I have known Benoît since we were 14 and he is a qualified cabinet maker. I asked him to design a chair that included a storage unit. He designed a trunk – and from there the label was born."
Rafik Mahiout, cofounder of Dognin
"I see many similarities between our career paths. With Luc Dognin, we took a transversal approach to leather. Luc comes from the Lyon silk-making sector. He studied finance and musicology. After working for Céline, he launched his own leather goods label. I am an engineer with a master’s degree in management. While I was thinking about the business, he was imagining the product. The “made in France” aspect is an integral part of our brand. We don’t see savoir-faire as something static, but something in movement. To refine our ways of working with leather, we joined forces with engineering schools. We have registered an international patent, developed an eco-friendly glue – innovation is an integral part of our production process. "
What assistance can be provided to support entrepreneurs?
Benoît Malletier, Chairman of Maltier le Malletier
"The international CréaVienne prize was the first “official" recognition of our project. But all assistance is useful. In addition to our financial partnership with Michelin, the ‘ADC au-delà du cuir’ programme has helped us to accelerate our development thanks to the coaching it offered. I received training from CTC in Lyon to perfect my knowledge of leather. We also promoted our efforts by exhibiting in the Parisian showroom of ADC and at a show in Dubai."
Rafik Mahiout, cofounder of Dognin
"The Dognin label started out 10 years ago exhibiting at shows focused on the international market. Assistance for small business helped us to structure ourselves. Taking part in competitions encouraged us to target the international market. As a result, we are now selling in Japan, our first market, and have taken part in two presidential visits to Russia. You have to have a fair and profitable product. The aim is not to work hard but lose money...There are plenty of opportunities available for creative “made in France” labels, providing they are well structured and think collectively."
Françoise Vincent, Director of ADC au-delà du cuir
"We have already selected 34 entrepreneurs since 2012 and we interview around 50 new candidates each year. The decision is made by a professional jury. ADC offers three types of assistance: coaching in entrepreneurship and with experts from the various sectors; support for communication and promotion in trade shows and in the ADC showroom; and direct financial assistance, capped at €9,000 euros per year per company. We have also identified around 20 footwear workshops and 25 leather goods workshops across France that are able to make prototypes or very limited editions. It is very encouraging."
What are the future perspectives for French entrepreneurs in the leather sectors?
Frédéric Rondinaud, CEO of Rondinaud
"Our company has specialised in Charentaise slippers since 1907. This is an ancient product that has known periods of glory. The company’s expertise can be traced to the 18th century, with soles made from felt that was a by-product of the paper industry. Today Rondinaud – labelled a Living Heritage Company – is undergoing a complete overhaul. We have integrated a style bureau, invested in communication, organised a catwalk show in Paris and won the first prize at Montbron by relooking a Charentaise that we will be selling through our network. But it is easy to copy our models. So to resist the competition with a product that is as traditional as ours, it is useful to protect our expertise with an IGP or “Protected Geographical Indication” label."
Jean-François Robinet, Director of Direccte Poitou-Charentes
"The Poitou-Charentes region is an emblematic area for leather with around 100 companies working in the sector and some 6,000 in the larger region that is soon to be created. There is great export potential. The government is providing significant support and the apprenticeship situation has been clarified. The future of those taking over or leaving existing companies is at the heart of our efforts."
Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, MEP
"Creation comes from the imagination, at great personal risk. Courage cannot be taught. Within the business creation process, the SME is the strongest structure. At the European level there are 23 million SMEs. France needs to take a new approach to manual professions and training. There cannot be business creation without a vision of the global market. The single European patent, which is valid throughout the 28 member states, is a precious tool for entrepreneurs. Europe must align itself with the United States. A trade treaty is currently being negotiated. It will help us to fight more efficiently against counterfeiting, particularly in the high end sector that is that most affected. "
Frank Boehly, President of the Conseil National du Cuir
"SMEs are the corner stone of the economy of our country. They are a decisive creative vector for the leather sector. Dynamic entrepreneurs who form companies like Maltier le Malletier represent a strength for our industry, a real bonus. This company’s founders have successfully positioned themselves at the top end of the market by offering a range of products adapted to it. Our duty is to provide them with active support. "