Tuesday, July 3, 2012


I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the growing artisanal movement here in the US. There seems to be a heightened appreciation for the work of the artisan in so many areas—from small purveyors of artisanal bread, cheese and beverages to the creation of luxury items like furniture, clothing and jewelry.

Perhaps it’s a backlash against mass production or our desire for a simple, thoughtful existence. Whatever it is, we want more than cheap junk. We want to connect to an experience, to be a part of a story.

For Jacques Flynn, it was born out of pure necessity. He left disappointed after searching every department store and boutique for the perfect wallet. So he made one himself. Impressed with his craftsmanship, friends and family encouraged Jacques to sell them. So he founded JAQET, an online boutique offering his signature, one-of-a-kind leather wallets.  
Jacques’ 100% handmade products are the antithesis to the disposable. It’s anti-Walmart, if you will. No planned obsolescence here, but elegance and intentionality. I first found out about JAQET when my husband, who worked alongside Jacques at Mazda, brought home a JAQET wallet. I was struck by how simple yet beautiful it was.

Jacques makes all of his wallets out of his home in Southern California. He’s turned a corner of his living room into a makeshift atelier. He picks only domestically sourced leather, dyes them by hand, individually cuts each piece of leather, hand punches, stitches and burnishes them, and finally brands each wallet with the JAQET logo. Because he makes each one by hand, no two JAQET wallets are alike.   

I had the privilege of talking to the 32-year-old designer about his new venture and what inspires him to create:

Jennifer Cho Salaff: Where did you get the idea for JAQET?
Jacques Flynn: It started maybe two years ago. I had a wallet and it just fell apart. So I went out to find a new one. I didn’t want a zipper on it; I didn’t want crummy leather. I wasn’t looking for a logo on it and I didn’t want it made in China. I just wanted a simple, handmade wallet. But I looked everywhere and I couldn’t find it. I thought, “Man this sucks, this should be the easiest thing to find!” So I decided I was going to make it myself.

JCS: Did you know anything about making wallets before you started this venture?
JF: Ha, no! In the beginning it was just trial and error. I went through a lot of prototypes. The best thing is that I have this skill now, which I didn’t have six months ago.   

JCS: Tell me about the JAQET brand. What makes your product unique?
JF: When I think about the brand, I think it reflects me. I was born in Europe and raised in America, so even from a young age I had a strong cultural pride about where I was from. It’s super cool to have both of these cultures. I’ve always loved the American cowboy aesthetic and European tailored looks. To me, JAQET embodies both of these. That European elegance rooted in cowboy ruggedness.    

JCS: There seems to be a backlash against things that are cheap, poorly-made and mass-produced. As a designer, do you see that, too?
JF: There’s definitely a place for mass produced products. Like if you need to go to Target to buy a mop or something. But there’s a huge opportunity for products where it’s more than just something you chuck in the closet. People want to learn where (the product) came from. There’s so much of a story in that item you’re holding in your hand.  

JCS: What’s the best part about working with your hands?
JF: I love working with leather. I love the way it looks, the smell, the texture. I love the way leather breaks in, the way it comes to life. And that it will look so different 10 years from now.

JCS: You launched JAQET just a few weeks ago and you’re already getting amazing feedback. Where do you want to take this? Right now it’s wallets. But do you see branching out into different products?
JF: In the beginning, it was about a product that I thought should exist. It just grew organically. But my brain doesn’t stop and I definitely think about possibilities and what I would do. Maybe men’s clothing. I’ve always been into fashion. I remember telling my high school teacher that I wanted to be a fashion designer, even before I found out about car design. But right now, JAQET is something that I enjoy. I don’t have dollar signs in front of my eyes. It’s not about becoming a millionaire.

JCS: What’s the dream?
JF: The dream is to have a small team of people working with me. We would work on one brand. We know every aspect of the brand and have everything under one roof. It would be awesome to have it all in-house. It would be a different model—a sustainable model—of how things are done. Nothing would be outsourced. It’s definitely a little fantasy of mine.

 To find out more about JAQET, visit jaqet.com.