The small atelier deep in the west of Berlin looks very unremarkable from the outside: a cream-coloured building with two glazed doors. But as soon as you enter the premises of leather goods maker mabba, the relaxed family atmosphere is instantly obvious. The label has been growing slowly but surely ever since it was established in 2008. Matthias Balle, whose mother and future sister-in-law both work at the atelier, is here to meet me, along with his pug Bobby who plods his way across the wooden floorboards before taking a nap in between the scraps of leather.
In his atelier, which he describes as being quite messy, but in my opinion actually has a charming, creative feel to it, Matthias Balle tells me how he came up with the idea for his label: when he couldn’t find a decent case for his first Macbook in 2008, he promptly decided to make his own. “Back then you could only get those neoprene cases but I thought my expensive laptop deserved something of a higher quality.” So he headed to his local leather dealer and bought himself a grained specimen in black, from which he made the very first mabba laptop case with the help of his mother. “But of course the motor of our household sewing machine immediately packed up because the leather was too thick. I had to turn the wheel by hand while my mother sewed, stitch by stitch,” he tells me.
But the hard efforts paid off: Matthias Balle’s friends were so impressed by the first prototype that they began placing their own orders with him. After investing in their first professional Singer/Pfaff sewing machine, the Balle family continued producing from home.
Mobile phone cases and covers are wonderfully displayed inside the store, and in the window the perfectly crafted and well-designed leather handbags, which mabba have meanwhile added to their assortment. Despite the high quality of the products, which are all made by hand in Berlin, mabba’s prices are surprisingly reasonable: you can buy a shopper from 199 euros, Macbook cases start at 70 euros and iPhone covers from 30 euros.
The cute key rings by mabba also make the perfect gift: in the shape of cats, hearts or teddy bears, they are cut out of the leather sheets using metal forms that are reminiscent of cookie cutters.