The Story of Palmex Continues in India
Palm leaves don’t grow in Canada and, for everyone, the Canadian landscape inspires images of cold mountains and ice sheets, but never palmy beaches with rustic huts. So, when Richard Maillé, explains that his company located in the mountains in the North of Montréal, Palmex, is among the world’s top manufacturers of artificial palm leaves used to build synthetic thatch roofs, the overwhelming response he receives to what he does is surprise. “Everyone is surprised,” he says confidently. In a region receiving 400cms of snow each year, ice hockey and other winter games are more popular than beach volley, and Richard Maillé himself is a number one fan of the “Canadiens of Montréal” – the famous professional ice hockey team that he always watched from the best spot in the stadium. So, it’s little wonder that his line of work catches others off guard.
Turning over a new leaf- The partnership
But the story of Palmex was inspired by a tropical paradise, says Mallié. It was years ago that he was introduced to a gentleman called David Reveret who had moved to Canada from Tahiti in French Polynesia. Reveret was smitten by the beautiful palm roofs on the island, but had noticed the inconveniences that accompany them. The roofs didn’t hold up well in the rains and were prone to damage by insects and other animals. This meant they had to be replaced every few years. Back in Canada, Reveret was looking to team up and produce plastic palm leaves that would retain thatch architecture yet provide a high quality option resilient to nature’s moodiness.
Reveret met Mallié at an exhibition in Montreal and the rest as they say is history. The duo formed a partnership that was to last over a decade until 2014 when Reveret moved on. Mallié a ‘plastic genius’, as he is referred to by many, had just taken a break from his business ‘Plastival’ that specialised in fencing and railings. He immediately saw the potential in Reveret’s idea; “I believed in it, I knew it would work,” he says.
Recreating roofs – The making of synthetic palm thatch
They began their efforts to create the perfect synthetic palm leaf prototypes in 2001. Reveret’s experience in French Polynesia meant he was already aware of the look and colour of the product. But getting the right colour that looked 100% natural was a challenge. “It had to look realistic, but it also had to be of very high quality,” explains Mallié. The process of producing the first Palmex leaves took two years. In 2003, after several trials they were ready with their imitation thatch and had rented a small office in Saint-Sauveur, 75km north of Montréal in the French speaking province of Québec. Their first order came in. “It was the Le Meridien in Tahiti,” recalls Eve Chartrand-Dandurand, Key account Manager at Palmex International.
Soon, Palmex moved out of their rented office and bought their own workspace. By 2007, they had their first Palmex production machine. Since their first project, the company has been associated with several hotel projects. These include Club Med in the Maldives and Mauritius; Westin in Panama; Pacific Resort in the Cook Islands; Sofitel in Fiji and Cirque du Soleil in Mexico – a 2014 project that became one of Maille’s favourite projects.
From Canada to the world – How Palmex is used
As cloning of ideas and identical reproduction of products is a bitter truth in today’s market, innovation and quality set is what sets Palmex apart, explains Eve. Though a product from a ‘non-tropical’ country, Canada’s consistent reputation as one of the top 5 country brands in the world, gives Palmex an added credibility. The company is well versed in Polynesian thatch and has diversified its product. These include Bora Bora & Aloha thatches that are to be laid on a roof frame directly and Domingo and Rio leaves which can be added decoratively on existing roof structures. The variety of thatch designs across the globe offer endless opportunities to create true-to-nature thatches. Keeping the quality of the leaves consistent and waterproof is extremely important for the brand. Quality tests are stringent and extreme. The leaves have a certified wind-resistance of up to 260 km/h! Unlike natural thatches that need to be replaced in a few years, Palmex synthetic thatch roofs last for at least 20 years. They also require minimal maintenance through this period. When it is time to replace them they are 100% recyclable. These environmentally friendly features of the product have given it green building ratings including a LEED certification.
Shipping from Canada to across the world is a challenge as well. Depending on the size of the order, 20ft or 40ft containers are filled with Palmex. This takes at least a day before the containers are directed usually to the port of Montreal for orders from Europe and Asia. For orders within North America the product travels by road and if it’s a small order it is sent through airfreight. Today, a global leader in synthetic thatch roof, Palmex roofs span across five continents and can be found in 52 countries across the globe. Efforts to break new ground in its reach continues.
Now, in India
This year, the company that already has a presence in Asia has finally made its way into India as Palmex India, distributed by Arsha Consulting. Mallié believes that India is too irresistible a market to not be part of. “The hospitality industry in India is booming. It’s such a popular tourist destination,” he says.
In a country where thatch roofs have formed a part of vernacular architecture in many parts, it will be interesting to see how Palmex is received. Will a modern adaptation of traditional leaves revive interest in tradition again? Mallié is waiting and watching.
Elizabeth Raj | Blogger– Arsha Consulting