Which factors define a cult handbag? Great quality and classic designs with a distinctive twist are top of the list. Turkey has long been known for its excellent handmade leather accessories and emerging handbag specialists are combining this heritage with modern, cutting-edge designs to achieve cult status. Chic Turkish brands such as Mehry Mu, Manu Atelier, Sanayi 313 and Mlouye are taking the fashion world by storm.
Güneş Mutlu founded handbag brand Mehry Mu in 2009 and the label has since gained a large international following. Characterised by boxy, sculptural bags, often featuring wicker and woven details, velvet and embroideries, Mehry Mu was created from Mutlu’s love of fabrics. Eastern design is very much part of the brand’s aesthetic, alongside influences from colourful destinations such as Istanbul and Morocco. Functional design and effortless style are Mutlu’s signature traits.
Sisters Beste and Merve Manastır founded Manu Atelier in 2014 to promote handicrafts and pay tribute to their father, who is a renowned leather goods craftsman. Their boxy, structured styles are available in a wide variety of colours and are perfect for the modern woman. This season’s tweed Micro Bold and Frame bags, in warm shades of burgundy and tri-colour tones, are ideal choices for autumn and winter.
Sanayi 313 is an accessories brand for the fashion-forward individual. Launched in 2015, the label offers a ready-to-wear line designed by Serena Uziyel; every piece is handmade by skilled artisans, in processes that can take around 100 hours. Uziyel previously worked for luxury brands including Alberta Ferretti before teaming up with interior architect Enis Karavil, who set up Sanayi 313 in Istanbul. Since last season, the brand has been focusing on expanding its handbag line with the creation of three new shapes.
Meb Rure founded Mlouye in 2015 in Turkey and has excellent quality and design at its heart. Mlouye offers styles in monthly drops rather than following trends. The Lantern bag was inspired by a classic lampshade and is made of smooth, sturdy Italian leather. The label’s sculptural bags are connected to Rure’s background in industrial design – they are works of art and fit together playfully.
These four labels have avoided counterfeits by producing handmade items with intricate details that are impossible to copy. The young designers also work with artisans from long lines of skilled craftsmen, ensuring the highest quality. This, coupled with unique signature styles and striking designs, has helped to capture the attention of the fashion world, with everyone from respected fashion editors to emerging influencers now paying attention to Turkish handbag labels.
A loyal customer base is absolutely essential for brands to achieve success. Each one of these accessories labels has amassed a substantial international following and is available in some of the world’s leading stores. Mehry Mu is stocked in London store Browns, while Selfridges carries Manu Atelier and both labels are sold at Istanbul’s Beymen department store.
For Sanayi 313, the support of editors and other key fashion industry figures was vital to the rapid growth and development of the brand and the cementing of its luxury status; the label is now showcased by some of the biggest retailers worldwide. The brand has only recently introduced handbags and plans to gradually add more styles, due to the popularity of its hand-embroidered designs.
A sense of community is also vital and Sanayi 313 fosters its relationship with its audience through pop-up stores, where the customer can explore the designs before buying. Mehry Mu also seeks to create a community, including campaigns to show how fashion editors and bloggers style its pieces. Highlighting how the different designs work and how they look in real life illustrates the importance of relatability.
Exploring how its bags are worn and how customers use them to express their own style is also very important for Manu Atelier. ‘There is a common ground, shared values, an understanding of cultures, an open outlook on life working in synergy for all Manu people,’ explain the Manastır sisters. ‘Together we support each other. Together we inspire each other.’ They see consumers as defining their brand rather than the other way around.
At Mlouye, with its minimalistic aesthetic, most lookbook imagery focuses on the product itself but the brand often shares pictures of influencers wearing its designs. Creating a sense of community offers the chance to promote an image for customers that perfectly fits the laid-back, simple aesthetic of the label itself.
These brands are strikingly individual, but each is following a similar path to success, combining great aesthetics and a focus on excellent manufacturing and design while harnessing the power of social media to spread the word about their products across the world.