What challenges are posed by being so successful so young?
It’s safe to say that there are many challenges that I and other young designers have encountered. Perhaps the most frequent challenge is that of trying to reassure clients and retailers of our professionalism and standards when it comes to business, quality and finances. Most people wrongfully associate youth with inexperience and lack of understanding which, for our brand, is not the case.
What I personally do to overcome all these challenges is to focus on my passion, and never lose sight of my true goal, which is designing luxury products that make people feel confident and empowered while wearing them. I have such a clear direction for the brand and remaining true to this helps keep things on track no matter how much people underestimate or try to sway you. I always try to stay positive and motivated as well as patient. Another thing I always remind myself of is to let the quality of the product speak for itself – let people judge what I’ve created, not me.
What, for you, is the difference between a handbag for life and one purchase just for a season?
The concept of buying a handbag for life adheres to the idea of spending more, but in return receiving something that makes you feel amazing, something you truly love and can be passed down from generation to generation. It’s not about trends and buying on impulse – it’s a thoughtful and considered process, investing in something that speaks to you.
It’s a more sustainable mindset, and therefore one of the core philosophies upon which my brand is built. Marina Raphael strives to offer clients longevity in each handbag. Our bags go through rigorous quality control, which is undertaken by Swarovski and, prior to their involvement I also test them myself to make sure that they’re practical and durable.
What philosophies did your family instil in you from an early age?
Being a member of the Swarovski family, I’ve been very fortunate to learn many things about business and the world of fashion from a very young age. The two most important philosophies that were instilled in me were: to stay true to myself, while listening carefully to criticism – you always have something to learn; and to aim towards creating something meaningful. Just like the founder of Swarovski, Daniel Swarovski, who had a purpose and a goal of creating a “diamond for everyone”, I founded my company with the goal of empowering and showcasing the confidence of whoever wears my handbags.
What measures are in the pipeline to make the brand even more sustainable?
Each season we try to improve our methods and discover new technologies. Other than sourcing materials from suppliers who comply with our sustainable standards, we’re continuously looking into ways to increase the level of upcycled leather, which is leftover leather from previous collections of ours, as well as integrate new biodegradable textiles. This season we’ve incorporated a sustainably sourced blend of wool and cashmere. We operate a zero waste policy and work with small artisans to ensure we are investing in age-old traditions and techniques.
Additionally, we always try to listen to our clients and retailers. We produce all items mindfully and only make a very small quantity of each model. This tactic helps keep the bags more exclusive and more unique to each customer. Brands with a lean supply chain and who are not over-producing have emerged as winners from this current crisis.
What are your priorities when choosing where to source materials from?
Careful research is the first step we take before selecting a new supplier. It’s necessary to learn as much information as you can about them as you want to build a sincere relationship based on trust. I always meet them first. That personal knowledge and understanding is key for me. After that we prioritise attaining the necessary certificates from them and making sure that they comply to Swarovski’s sustainability standards. Using renewable sources of energy, upcycling crystals and recycling water are only a few of the things that Swarovski does, sustainability wise. I’m so lucky to have this framework for my company – it can be a real minefield for a brand just starting out.
What’s your personal definition of luxury?
True luxury, to me, is all about the experience. That’s why we have tailored Marina Raphael so that it offers clients a holistic experience, from the website to the packaging to the product. Another thing that defines luxury is customer service that means you retain a special place in someone’s thoughts. We spend a lot of time listening to our clients, and helping them find the right bag but also ensure they have a seamless experience.
Who – dead or alive – is your biggest inspiration and why?
My biggest inspiration is, by far, my grandmother. I’ve looked up to her since I was a very young girl, as she is really the embodiment of elegant and timeless chic. Her impeccable sense of style throughout the years, that was never based on trends, shows me what a true fashion icon she is. But most of all it has been her strong personality, and a confidence that I find magnetic.
See more of Marina Raphae’s handbags below.