PINEL & PINEL
PARIS, ILE DE FRANCE, FRANCE
We discover the locals of the Pinel&Pinel House in a courtyard of the 20th arrondissement. A building with the appearance of an old factory, with its shed roof, a place steeped with history. Formerly a rib & underwiring manufacture for umbrellas and corsets, then a candy factory, and later John Galliano’s HQ, the Factory of the Pinel&Pinel House is established here since 2015. The site is impressive, vast and luminous, 1400m² divided into 3 levels organised around a patio. Behind the glass walls, we can already see the different realms buzzing.
The man behind this adventure is Fred Pinel, a cheerful and colourful fellow, just like the products he creates. Although he has always been attracted by leather, its smell and textures, he begins his career by creating a small advertising agency. Inspired by Pop Art, in a brightly-coloured universe, he then starts designing accessories for smokers, such as cigar cases in crocodile skin, available in many colours, cigar cellars, lighter holders … He goes on with the tailoring of suitcases and trunks, by receiving training from one of the “Meilleurs Ouvriers de France” (craftsmen competition). In 1998, the Pinel&Pinel House is born: a perfect blend of luxury craft skills and overflowing imagination. The desire to reinvent the codes, by giving new functions to trunks.
Thanks to this place, everything is now performed on site, from the carpentry to the last finishes, to save time and increase responsiveness, thus ensuring utmost quality for the clients.
During our visit, we were able to follow the cigar trunk’s manufacture. This model has been developed in 2015, and is a real reference to the House’s beginnings.
– CARPENTRY –
We begin the tour by the carpentry workshop, where we meet Alain. Alone in this wide, bright and tidy space, he’s surrounded by many machines. He cuts, assembles, sands, and installs the seals on the different elements. He exclusively uses cedarwood, renowned for its woody and exceptional fragrance, but more importantly for its rot-proof and moisture-absorbing properties.
The structure of this trunk designed for cigar lovers looks like a Russian doll. In the outer shell is dovetailed an internal block, which itself is composed of cupboards, trays and drawers. Between 60 and 70 hours of work are necessary for the carpentry alone.
– CUT –
It’s Anthony who’s in charge of the cut. After several years of experience within luxury houses, we can feel his sharp eye and gesture. He cuts all the elements by hand, standing in front of his large table. Hung up behind him, a multitude of gauges, developed by the design office. He must manage to place them all in the skin, from the largest for the trunk’s external surfaces, to the smallest for the interior of the compartments. Each face of each cell represents a gauge.
The skins used are mainly full-grain bovine or bullock leathers, coming from French and Italian tanneries. But, in the shelves, we also discover a beautiful collection of exotic skins with vibrant and surprising colours. In fact, the House uses crocodile, snake and even shagreen skins for their leather and small leather goods. We then see rolls of printed canvas, developed exclusively for the brand.
– CLADDING –
When the wooden structure leaves the carpentry workshop, and that the different leather components have been cut, we arrive to the cladding step, orchestrated by Christophe.
For the interior elements, the craftsmen perform a long and thorough work. They stick and press the leather onto the wood. They place the “grooves”. These are parts cut out to the dimensions of each frontage, then covered in leather, before being placed inside each compartment. This provides thickness, as well as clean and even edges.
The exterior of the trunk is first glued, then covered in leather. The laying process is delicate, each element has to find its own place, with no fold, nor distortion. To highlight and protect the edges, the craftsmen prepare large rods, called angle mounts. On a texon base – a plate of natural fibres – the leather is glued and stitched. They are then pasted along each edge, and finally nailed by hand.
It’s also here that the handles and metal elements are fixed: plates, clasps, corners… Nickel, palladium, yellow or rose gold, the finishes are chosen based on the leather colour and desires.
– ELECTRONICS –
“Being beautiful and useful is even better.”
The trunks Pinel&Pinel have a very specific functionality, combining aesthetics with technology. All the products imagined by the designers are thought to integrate the electronic elements as discreetly as possible. The whole system is hidden, but must maintain access, so interventions can be made if necessary.
Inside the cigar trunk, you’ll find LED lighting, which enhances the products, as well as an efficient humidification system, to ensure a steady humidity level, and thus a proper preservation of tobacco.
In parallel with the cigar trunk manufacture, we could attend the making of vanities in green, blue, brown or pink printed canvas, of mini-trunks, as well as boxes for the watches of the Piaget House, and even of a case for a liquor bottle.
– THE LEATHER GOODS –
The leather goods have been reintroduced to the House’s collections for 5 years. The material is the core element of this range. Whether it’s printed canvas, quilted leather or turned-over crocodile, the style is very distinct. Rock details, including huge metal zips, hallmark the products.
Our attention is drawn to the finishes, and more specifically on the edge tints, made on important leather layers. We meet Moustapha, who reveals his secret to us. Initially, he sands the leather edge to remove as much asperity as possible. Then he applies a first dyeing layer along the entire length. He repeats this process several times, until the different layers of leather can no longer be distinguished. Between each layer, the craftsman runs a hot iron along the edge, to make it perfectly smooth and shiny.
– TODAY & TOMORROW –
The manufacture of a trunk, from the carpentry to the finishes, can take up to 1,300 working hours.
60% of the House’s production is exported, while 40% stay in France.
The Pinel&Pinel clientele is very heterogeneous, but most orders come from luxury goods companies.
Many collaborations have already emerged since the House’s creation: Piaget, Park Hyatt, Krug, Chopard…
At the beginning of 2017, a pop-up store will open in the Printemps Haussmann. We even had the chance to see the displays construction during our tour.
In June 2015, Fred Pinel introduced the fruit of his collaboration with the artist Hom Nguyen. This project grew out of mutual admiration and a common desire to create unconventional works. The result: disproportionate trunks, like the pictures signed by the painter.
A new experience which should be extended with other artists.