Where modern meets traditional
Marina Raphael combines contemporary yet timelessly wearable designs with traditional craftsmanship in her handbags since every bag is handmade in Florence, Italy. Due to her belief in creating high-quality goods instead of fast fashion, she follows a near-zero waste policy with her label, aiming to find even more sustainable manufacturing methods and materials to become one hundred percent climate neutral in the near future. Since creating her brand in 2018, she has placed great emphasis on upcycling: many of the textiles used, such as leather and metals, come from second-hand sources.
With her philosophy, the young designer, who belongs to the Swarovski family, not only wants to contribute to sustainable, climate-neutral fashion but also to empower women of today. In an exclusive interview, she told us how she achieves this and revealed her inspiration for her new Spring/Summer 2021 collection — a collection of compact bags in extraordinary designs that reflect Greek lightness.
Your elegant bags with their clean aesthetics are made for women of today “who move through the modern world with a sense of purpose and poise”. What exactly do you mean by that, and how does your brand mirror this?
My goal is to create accessories that “speak” to the person wearing them and empowers them to take charge of their day-to-day life. I am a big advocate that we should all be shopping more mindfully and gradually straying away from fast fashion, as I believe that having one handbag that is a statement piece on its own, but also an item of excellent quality that will withstand the test of time, is more wearable and sustainable. My focus on the creation of timeless accessories that are practical yet captivating at a glance is what embodies the above statement and brings life to my vision.
With your brand, which has a strong focus on sustainability, you aim to empower women. How do you do so?
Being inspired by strong, confident and elegant women in my family, I built my brand with the goal of creating accessories that will make every person wearing my designs as empowered as these women made me feel growing up. My passion for sustainability always went hand in hand with my vision, as the importance of creating something that is not ephemeral and respects both society and the environment was instilled in me from a young age. The way I try to empower women is not only by creating reliable, practical, long-lasting and timeless accessories but also by offering equal job opportunities to women worldwide and supporting many charities that look after women in need.
You yourself are a businesswoman and created your own brand at a young age. What advice can you give to other ambitious young women?
My advice would be to never give up on your dreams and your passions. It is certain that pursuing your dream will require a lot of work, effort and motivation, but it is all very worth it once you have achieved your goal! I personally feel extremely lucky to have chosen a career path that excites me every day and makes it feel less of a “job”.
Surrounded by successful and influential women, you had strong role models growing up. How did they inspire you to create your own brand?
I was very lucky to be able to grow up with many confident and influential women around me. What inspired me most was their way of helping me shape my own identity growing up. This way of bestowing upon me the power to create my own path is something I wanted to convey through my brand and give my clients a way to “unlock” their true potential by accentuating their look.
Alongside creating your brand, you studied Business Management at King’s College in London. What did you learn during that time, combining work and studies? What was most challenging?
I was very lucky that the company received almost immediate success since launching, so it was very challenging to learn how to balance my work with my academics. On the other hand, it was a very important time of personal growth, as I truly learned the significance of being organized and also improved my time management skills. The most difficult time for me was during my final year of studies, where balancing work and studies became extremely hard, especially since my program was filled with many fashion week appointments, buyer meetings and press days!
Your new collection only consists of smaller handbags that “adhere to today's reality of carrying less and really enjoying every moment spent outside.” What does “carrying less” mean to you? What are the absolute essentials that you HAVE to take with you, anywhere you go?
To me, “carrying-less” means that you are unburdened by all the clutter in your life and choose only the bare essentials to spend your time outside. Now more than ever, when we are all really looking forward to enjoying our summer adventures, I wanted to convey a message of feeling liberated from things we used to deem “necessary” to carry and truly relishing every minute. My absolute essentials for the summer are my phone, credit card, keys, and my sunglasses!
Other than the smaller size of the bags, what inspired you to the extraordinary shapes and accessories such as crystal handles in your latest collection?
What inspired me for this collection were my summers in Greece. I tried to combine all the vibrant blue colours of the sea, the crystalline reflection of the sun on the waters and all the earthy tones of the islands into a very fun and practical collection. As I aspire to create timeless items, I like to experiment with intricate shapes and textural plays, and that is how the idea for the crystal handles came about!
All bags are available online at marinaraphael.com.