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The BELMAL label-house, founded by Jean-Pierre Bal, is known for its conservation and restoration workshop, and an atelier for the design and manufacture of brand-new trunks, as well as a private museum collection of antique and ancient travel equipment. The house is also the founder of the Ecole des Malletiers Nicolas Gilbert of Belgium, and Jean PARÉ school of France, and a malletier fashion library. The BELMAL name stems from Belles Malles (French for beautiful travel trunks), Belges et Malles, and Belgen en Malen (Belgians and travel trunks, in French and Dutch languages).

 

Originally established in Brussels the House of Belmal is based since 2009 in a picturesque village of the Belgian Ardennes. There is also the on-campus "Malles de Voyage" expo. The collection features a number of luggage items that have a remarkable or unique history. The heritage section includes objects and tools from trunk-makers of Europe and worldwide. Other sets of items consisting of, for instance, chests, bags, packing cases, and certain fine leather goods that are part of the Archive, are hosted at the campus of the Belgian Ecole des Malletiers.

 

The manufacture of new trunks, unique ones, takes place in Belgium and France. Those malles d'exception reflect an unequaled touch, being the fruit of a vision-fusion in which craftsmanship, esthetics, arts, heritage of the fashion world, and the creative genius, all merge into one.  

 

Featured above: the "Winners Trunk", a high luxury prestige case for a jeroboam champagne bottle and six glasses, made at Ecole des Malletiers. Trunk design by Jean-Pierre Bal for PARÉ, his malletier brand of Paris. The prototype case premiered at Lake Como, Italy, days before the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este, and is currently on display at the "Malles de Voyage" expo on the Ecole des Malletiers campus.

 

The idea of creating a historical museum-collection sparked when Jean-Pierre Bal, the founder of Belmal, discovered a 19th century trunk that belonged to George Lansing Raymond, a renowned professor of aesthetics at Princeton University. He toured Europe in 1890-1891. The 'Raymond' trunk was found more than a century later, in 2007, in Belgium. While the museum-project unveiled, the entire activity became a first in Europe, by integrating special institute courses in the history of travel equipment and manufacturing; the restoration activity and practice workshops; the registry of Belgian trunk-makers and brands; the research activity, and the manufacture of new trunks. In 2017 Monsieur Bal undertook another major voyage by launching the Ecole des Malletiers Nicolas Gilbert and Jean Paré trunk-makers' schools. He teaches and guides new malletiers, for instance in the off-campus extension courses: the ITINERA proper to the French PARÉ school (clip).  

 

The founder's passion for beautiful travel luggage is fuelled by the presence of a Louis Vuitton trunk of the 1880s. Since 1967 it occupied its very own space in the house where Mr. Bal spent the first twenty years of his life. Nowadays the lovely brown leather 'LV' trunk mixes in with the other great travel trunks of the museum collection.

 

Belmal & Ecole des Malletiers offer conservation and restoring services that range from minor repairs to major preservation jobs on antique trunks and vintage luggage. In general the trunks date from the 18th to 20th century (approx. 1750 to 1950), including wardrobe and cabin trunks used for travel by steamship or train. Other types of luggage, such as hat trunks or boxes, portmanteaus, large bags, plate packing cases, car trunks, and early-type suitcases or valises  are also restored for the Collection, and for third parties. Thanks to his client references, research, and accomplishments, J-P Bal became an international expert and first-class educator in the preservation of trunks; the design and manufacture of new ones, as well as the history of certain malletier brands, in Europe and worldwide.

 

In the BelMal Collection there is a specialist focus on Belgian trunk makers of the past centuries. The Belgium Section features antique trunks manufactured at companies such as Carlier, Coessens, Delsart, Delvaux, Denonne, Janssens Vanderkelen, Jockin, Laust, Michel, Olyslager, Piret, Stockman, Taymans, Truyen-Bertou, and Ange Faucq malletier brands. There is also an extensive and ongoing research about, on the one hand, the chest-makers (coffretiers) which in the 15th century formed the Brussels' guild and also of other Belgian cities (Brughes and Antwerp mainly), and, on the other hand, about technical areas in the malletier artisan profession past and present.

 

The brands or malletier-names of the 19th and 20th century in the International Section of the Belmal Collection include for example Oshkosh, Friedrich, Delhopital, Griffith, Rascher, Aux Etats Unis, Duval, Barnum, Vuiton, Gulliver, Folding Trunk Company, Grands Magasins du Louvre, Hamilton's, William Bal, Goyard, Old England, Au Printemps, Hartmann, Moritz Maedler, Belber, Hammel, Moynat, Victor, Palica, Hawley's, Grand Bazar de Paris, Shwayder, and many other brands.

 

 

> References, TV show, bibliography,... : profile of the master craftsman.

 

 

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© Copyright 2022, OGISPES o.b.o. BELMAL Museum and Trunks Restoration, Ecole des Malletiers - ITES Institute for Travel  Equipment and Luggage History Studies (Belmal Conservatory), and Jean-Pierre Bal, malletier. All rights reserved. Update: 2022-07-18