As a keen motorcyclist, Malle London first appeared on my radar a few years ago. As a British-born motorcycle luggage and accessories brand, it didn’t take long for the name to do the necessary rounds within the motorcycle-scene.
So when I met Malle London’s founders, Robert Nightingale and Jonathan Cazzola, I had a feeling their story was going to be special.
So how did Malle come about?
“Jonny and I were sitting in a bar in the Lower East side of New York about 6 years ago, and the topic of conversation turned to risk, or rather people avoiding risk and playing safe.
We were both running design studios in London and New York at the time, and we were both a little bored that the studio clients were often afraid of risk and doing the really ‘out-there’ creative ideas.
So we decided to do the most risky thing you could do and start a business, run by designers.
We were both riding old British motorcycles at the time – no one was making tough, well designed luggage for motorcycles – we saw a need and started creating.”
As London experiences a year-on-year boom in the custom motorcycle scene, with an ever-increasing number of individuals buying and restoring vintage machines, it’s only natural that a brand appears to cater for those heritage-inclined men and women.
For people who adore the manufacturing process, who enjoy fixing and creating with their own hands, a brand like Malle has rocketed to the precipice of the scene, and that’s saying something for a luggage manufacturer.
But they’re not just luggage manufacturers, they’re lifestyle propagators.
And why motorcycles?
“Motorcycles weren’t really my fault, I definitely blame my Father. He kept his old Francis Barnet and Dot Scrambler from when he was very young and they were always just about working.
Every summer we (or rather he with me watching and interfering) would bring them out, sort the points, tinker around and fire them up, perfect for tearing around the farm.
Then late one night this beautiful ’57 Triumph Thunderbird in Baby Blue turned up at the gate – the rider took off the black full face helmet and it was Dad with a sly grin… ‘Don’t tell your Mum.’
So motorcycles have always been interwoven into my childhood. I got my first motorcycle at 11 (couldn’t even touch the ground), broke my nose at least once on that.”
What does Motorcycling mean to you?
“Since as far back as I can remember motorcycles have always represented freedom, hard-work, exploration and I guess a little bit of rebellion.
At the age of 19 I bought an old Enfield with a friend in India and we road around Nepal and India for 6 months (I’ve never almost died so many times on one trip).
Each year we ask ourselves what’s the most exciting/risky idea that Malle can create, and that’s how The Mile and The Great Mile came about.
Hosting inappropriate motorcycle races and the longest motorcycle rally ever attempted in the UK – it doesn’t get much riskier than that.”
The Malle Mile event at Kefington Hall in Orpington first started 2015, and it rocketed to immediate success.
As the first gentleman’s motorcycle race in London (Orpington is zone 6 so ‘technically’ counts), it was met by a whole host of London’s intrepid bikers.
A 3-day event that celebrates custom and vintage bikes through casual races, fine food and a lot of laughs, Malle London has achieved what few brands have; to make their brand loveable, approachable and fun.
In this ilk, they are furthering the synergy between brand and customer by launching a second event, The Great Mile, a 1,000 mile motorcycle road trip from the northern tip of Scotland, to the southern tip of Cornwall.
What the Great Mile represents is what every motorcyclist wants; a unabated sense of freedom on the open road, with nothing in mind but having fun and riding hard.
How Are the Malle London pieces Created?
“We create with a very user-centered design approach; always sketching new ideas that solve problems, then as soon as possible we bring out leathers, waxed canvas and our old Malle sewing machines and start prototyping.
Then after rounds of prototyping with an evermore refined design we give the prototypes to others to test and get honest feedback.
Lastly we always take the final collection out on one last expedition/road trip to truly understand how each piece performs over an extended period of time.
In 2016 Jonny and I rode 10,000 miles across North America testing out our ’Expedition Collection.’
This year for the ‘Adventure Collection’ we road the 1000 mile test route for The Great Mile rally, from the Northern tip of Scotland to the Southern tip of Scotland – mostly in the rain – perfect testing conditions.”
Let’s hope that in the years to come, Malle London continue to expand, keeping that very customer-focussed, raw motorcycling passion at the fore of their business plan. In a world inundated by the unoriginal, it is small brands like Malle that keep the passion of design alive. ML