FASHION - INTERVIEW
Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Mendel Valensi, Co-Founder and COO of Valenz Handmade
FASHION - INTERVIEW
by Beren Dere
Valenz Handmade was founded in Los Angeles. Mendel Valensi designed a collection of handmade, luxurious and affordable leather products. The first product he decided to make was a Crocodile iPhone Case. This was the first step of the long journey. Valenz Handmade designed handbags and iPhone Cases and produced them with the finest exotic leathers such as crocodile and python. Since 2012, they are offering different design leather products to their customers. To learn more about his brand I talked to Mendel Valensi, Co-Founder and COO of Valenz Handmade.
Mendel, could you tell us about your background and fashion industry experience? Who is Mendel Valensi?
I am a 23-year-old young adult who was born and raised in Los Angeles, one of the trendiest cities in the world. Both of my parents grew up in Paris, which gave me an even stronger taste of fashion. Growing up in a family that has always done fashion, I had always envisioned myself immersed in fashion when I was going to be an adult. I was always trying to get my hands on the hottest items, and what I thought was cool, not others.
How did you decide to create Valenz Handmade brand? What inspired you?
When I was in my first year of college, my father was making handbags for Joes Jeans. When I would come back to LA to visit, I would often go to the warehouse and start playing with Leather and saw this opportunity to create an exotic accessory line. The first product I decided I wanted to make was a Crocodile iPhone Case. Given that the entire world has become so addicted to their phones, I felt as if a really nice iPhone case would be something everyone would want and use. I wanted it to be Handmade in Los Angeles because I felt it gave it more prestige and authenticity, as opposed to having it made overseas. I then started making Leather Jeans that I would just make for myself, and when I started wearing them out so many people were coming to me and asking me about them. I ended up making a few pairs and selling them, but I knew I wanted to sell accessories that were more affordable to the general public.
Could you tell us about Valenz Handmade?
Valenz Handmade was born into existence on the foundation of one simple goal, to create a product that represented luxury in its purest form. The brand came alive by way of fusing quality craftsmanship and remarkable design. Designed with the preservation of the designer's European roots in mind, using the finest exotic leathers from all over the world, developed right here in Los Angeles, California, Valenz Handmade breathes cultural diversity from every stitch. Each design was inspired by the distinct vision to blend opulence and style, and transform traditional leather goods into sophisticated works of art. We wanted to make a product that is luxurious, yet somewhat affordable. Handmaking a product in Los Angeles costs a lot of money, yet we have made our margins much lower because we feel there is a need in the market for that.
How would you describe Valenz Handmade design and manufacturing philosophy?
We have an inspiration wall that we are constantly adding and removing images, leathers, and all different types of inspiration. Once we put down all of our thoughts, that is when we begin our process of coming up with new designs for men and women. We manufacture all of our products in Los Angeles, with every piece being handmade using only the highest qualities of leathers.
What type of leathers do you use in your products? Do your preferred leather types has varied according to product types?
We use all kinds of different leathers. We use exotic skins such as Crocodile, Python, and Stingray for all of our men and women's products. Of course, we do not use every type of leather for every product we make, because some skins match for some products, and some do not. The same goes for colors.
How often do you change up your collections?
We like to always add new products about once a month. We try to find new skins and always apply the newest skins to our best selling items, as well as to a new wallet, handbag, backpack, whatever it may be.
What type of bags do you offer to your customers? Could you briefly tell us about your products and their features?
We offer a lot of women's handbags right now. Clutches, Pouches, Crossbody Bags, Bucket Bags. We are currently growing our Mens Bags line as we feel more and more men are starting to use little pouches to carry all their belongings instead of stuffing it in their pockets. We make Backpacks and Duffel Bags for men right now, and those have really received great feedback from our customers, family, and friends.
Are Wallets and iPhone cases complementary accessories for your bags, or they have their own style?
The Wallets and iPhone cases definitely have their own style. Of course, any wallet can compliment a bag, if they use the same skin or the same color. We try to make as many colors and options as possible, but depending on the season and time of the year we are in, it will often vary.
Your products are handmade and it is always too hard to find talented artisans. How do you ensure the sustainability of your craftmanship quality?
Of course, it is difficult to find talented artisans, but luckily we have found 1 artisan who is in charge of the entire facility and he has a dedicated team working for him. Before anyone can begin making products for our customers, they go through a training process and then a week-long test of creating our hardest products, to make sure they are up to par in how we want our products to come out. Our number 1 priority is that our products come out flawless, and any little flaw we find with the product we will not ship to the customer, simply start over.
How do you decide to design a new bag? Do you have a plan on the desk or only expect inspiration?
We usually work off inspiration. However, we tend to create new bags based on what our customers want. So if somebody tells us, "hey you guys should add a zipper here, or add a pocket in the back of the bag", that is something we take into consideration. And of course, we are all into fashion and trends, so we all have our own taste of style and what we want to add. Sometimes, I tell myself, hey I really want a new backpack. Then I will go in, create a sketch by hand, and jot down ideas and play with it until I put together something I love.
Could you tell us about your atelier and your team?
Our Atelier is located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. I am in charge of the entire website, branding, coming up with ideas for new male products, and I work closely with my Mother who overseas what goes in the warehouse and is our head designer.
Do you still use paper and pen for your sketches, or is everything digital now?
I always start with paper and pen. I feel it is the most original and you can really create things exactly how you want. Once a concept is fully sketched out on paper with all the notes, that is when we go digital and put together the final mockup.
Social media platform are new catwalk podiums for fashion brands. What is the importance of social media for you? How can our readers follow Valenz Handmade?
We can be found on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. We try to keep up with all of them and be constantly postings. Of course, social media has become so important in today's day of age to show off your new products, your new photoshoots, and so much more.
Where can our readers buy Valenz Handmade designs?
Our products can be found on our website, which is www.valenzhandmade.com
We also have almost all of our products listed on shopspring.com
We run occasional promotions with TouchofModern.com, which we have found to be an exceptional site for finding the latest hottest items across all categories.
What is next for you?
I have aspirations to keep growing this brand and become one of the household names in the accessories industry. I do have another brand that is lower end and cheaper that is called Access Denied. We want to be able to offer products to all types of people. We currently sell on our website which is www.accessdeniedwallets.com. We also sell on Amazon and Walmart.
Anything you would like to add that I haven’t asked?
All of our products come in a gift box or bag, so our items have truly become the perfect gift for your loved ones. We make our products with love and care, with our end goal being those that purchase our products will have a unique item that will last them a long time.
Thank you Mendel.