When it comes to designer handbags, there are the big players that we see on the sidewalk at every fashion week, like Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Chanel. And then there are brands like Manu Atelier, that are a little more understated yet so exclusive, you want to be part of the gang.
Because you see, albeit having been launched a mere four years ago by sisters Beste and Merve Manastır, Manu has quickly become the new ‘it’ bag brand, and counts the likes of Bella Hadid, Sarah Jessica Parker and Eva Chen amongst its loyal customers.
It’s easy to see why: the bags are chic, modern yet timeless, and exude understated luxury, with a reasonable price point, and I’m hooked. So what’s the secret? I asked Beste and Merve to tell me everything.
What was the inspiration behind the brand?
Since we were eleven years old we were exposed to the raw talent of our father, one of Turkey’s oldest artisans, who created leather goods by hand at his atelier in Istanbul. This really inspired us to start the MANU Atelier brand. Our childhood is full of memories of us combining the different leathers and creating our own miniature handbags. Throughout this time, one of our most treasured memories is watching our father being creative and us trying to imitate him and learn his craft.
How did you start off?
We spent a lot of time in our father’s studio, sometimes we would wait for our own bags to be finished, or our father would bring the bags we made home for us. We’ve always believed in his and our artisan and design skills and our main aim was to bridge the gap between an old traditional talent and modern style; opening his talent to the world. This has been our main wish, even before we explored our own passions. So, the idea of Manu Atelier has been around for a long time but it became a business plan after Merve graduated.
First, we both decided to gain experience and assisted other designers to launch their own leather accessories collections. Then we worked on Manu Atelier for one and a half years before we launched it.
We believed that there was a gap in the market in terms of considered and carefully designed products but with more of an accessible price. Living in Turkey, a country known for its leather and ateliers, provided the us with the opportunity to offer those prices to our customers.
When did you know you’d ‘made’ it?
Meeting with our global sales agent Luisa de Paula was an important step for the brand. She was the one who helped move Manu Atelier into the global market. A real turning point for us was also when Eva Chen posted our classic style The Pristine in her daily shoe, bag and fruit Instagram post. This helped us to reach so many new customers from all over the world.
We kept the momentum going by organically growing through Instagram. Sarah Jessica Parker recently wore our Micro Fernweh style to The Late Night Show with Stephen Colbert which was a real highlight and another turning point for us.
Did social media really affect the brand?
Instagram has helped the brand to tell its own story and vision directly to the customers. Before launching the brand in 2014, we always believed in the sincere relationship between the brand and the customer. There has to be a real bond and social media has played an important role in this. For instance when Eva Chen supported the brand it reached Manu Atelier to an international level.
Would you say social media is the way to expand a brand now?
Social media’s effect on expanding a brand cannot be underrated nowadays, but you have to support the virtual with quality, functionality and design.
Who would you love see wear your designs?
Sarah Jessica Parker wore the Micro Fernweh style recently which was very exciting for us, we are now looking forward to see our designs on people such as Gwyneth Paltrow.
What is next for Manu Atelier?
We are planning to introduce new shapes and we also have surprise for the upcoming season, so watch this space! We will keep working hard to create a renowned international brand.