Deciding to embrace the slowness that makes quality happen is what made Christina Bussmann, founder of Maravillas Bags, swap the world of fast-paced fashion making in Berlin for diligently crafting handbags in Mallorca, Spain. We take a look at some of the newborn natural-leather craft, and pick out our favourite words of wisdom to take away from the ethical brand.
Words: Hanna-Amanda Pant
What are the key values you decided to embrace when launching Maravillas Bags?
We always believed in timeless design, rather than fast fashion. Fairly and locally produced sustainable bags, handcrafted in small batches, using sustainable and natural materials, are our key values.
You produce all your bags locally in Mallorca. What are some of the benefits of local production?
We work with local people with top-notch experience in the manufacturing of bags. This allows a direct personal contact and imminent feedback from the production. It also avoids long transport of our goods and thus reduces the carbon footprint.
How do your surroundings inspire you and inform the development of Maravillas bags collections? Do you feel geography has influenced your design language in any way?
I always believe that the place where you live affects you, also when it comes to the design process. Above all, you can see the influence in the colours we use (especially in our Eco-Leather Collection). But since I grew up in Berlin, I also communicate a certain urban influence in my designs, as growing up in an urban environment still affects my work. You could call it 'urban style with a Mediterranean touch'.
"If fast fashion products would have a 'tag' declaring the reasons for the low price, more people would change their minds, as they would naturally become more educated."
Are the leather and other materials you use in your handbag craft all ethically sourced? What's your favourite material to work with?
Maravillas Bags offers two collections of handmade bags of proven quality and timeless design: bags and accessories made from vegetable-tanned leathers, and a vegan alternative using fabrics made from pineapple leaves. Originally, our designs were all made from vegetable-tanned leathers, which we obtained from tanneries within Europe. This decision to source our materials from Europe, not from Third World countries, means that we inspect the work at every stage and guarantee our processes are kept local. It also allows us to conform to strict European production requirements and ensure fair treatment of workers and the environment.
Recently, we integrated a new and extraordinary material into our production. A vegan alternative to leather called PIÑATEX. A material made from pineapple leaf fibres, PIÑATEX is developed in the United Kingdom and produced in the Philippines and Spain. This sustainably-produced fabric is well-suited for vegans and animal lovers. PIÑATEX uses pineapple leaves, which are the natural byproduct of existing pineapple fruit harvesting. This material is hard to top in terms of sustainability, and also creates an additional income for farming communities. PIÑATEX has similar properties to leather in that it is breathable, water-repellent, hard-wearing, light and colourfast.
What's your take on the fashion industry turning a degree closer to honesty, e.g. H&M's profits shrinking, as people are realising the environmental effects of badly made fashion? What would you still change in the industry?
Let’s face it, the problem is the price. Fast fashion is so seductively cheap that it can be difficult to resist. I think we are heading into the right direction with more small sustainable labels being accepted. Thus, consumers are starting to accept that fashion has a price. High quality tends to costs more, but is usually worn longer and with more care and affection. I guess if fast fashion products would have a 'tag' declaring the reasons for the low price, more people would change their minds, as they would naturally become more educated.
"Buy something unique that not everyone is wearing, and then value it."
What's the one change in the industry you'd personally like to encourage, a message you'd like to convey through Maravillas bags?
Go and find your own style! Buy something unique that not everyone is wearing, and then value it. Support labels that do not just want to make a quick profit. Think and buy sustainably, because at the end of the day, we are all in this together. You can find the same shops with the same clothes in every city around the world, and so many people look uniformed and all the same. Everyone should ask themselves, if it really is necessary to be part of this fast fashion cycle, because it is not helping you to find your own individual style. On top of that, we should understand the devastating effect the production of fast-fashion has: exploitation of environment and people, which has been made public and cannot be denied anymore.
Your fashion background is in the movie making scene. How does your previous experience in Berlin differ from ethical bag making in Spain? Is there anything you miss at all from the days of your more fast-paced fashion work?
It is hard for me to even compare the two occupations. I sometimes miss the big city life, but I do enjoy working on my own terms.
Who do you imagine wearing your beautiful designs?
I believe that everyone could wear the bags. But as mentioned earlier, I believe that everyone should search for their own style. Hence, I’m always happy to see someone who has started on that route deciding to choose my bags.
What are your personal tips for opting for a more minimal and lasting wardrobe that we could all easily adapt to?
A few good basics in combination with stylish accessories.
What is the definition of ethical luxury for you personally?
To obtain one or two good quality bags which last a lifetime, rather than plenty of seasonal, short-lived bags of low quality.