How a 22-year-old Swarovski crystal heiress launched a luxury handbag brand that counts the Queen of the Netherlands among its elite clientele


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In 2017, then 20-year-old Marina Raphael had an idea. “I wanted to launch a handbag brand, where the quality and the craftsmanship was impeccable, but the prices were not too high,” she told Business Insider.

The only problem? She had no background in design. She didn’t attend Parsons in New York or Central Saint Martins in London. She says she was never the one to sit down and design clothes as a little girl.

Instead, her journey into the fashion industry stemmed from her entrepreneurial drive and her passion for luxury.

She spent a year learning how to design and draw the technical sketches for her handbags. She studied topology and learned how to choose leather and how to understand the weight of the bags. 

Just a year later, she was ready to launch her own business: an eponymous handbag line. But of course, her journey from sketch pad to fashion week wasn’t quite that simple. 

“I failed so many times in the beginning,” Raphael told Business Insider. “But without failure, you don’t learn. Failure is so important in any company because it’s what brings you to the next level. And it is what separates you from the people that quit.” 

“My first 10 handbags were a disaster” 

Raphael was born and raised in Athens, Greece, and is a sixth-generation member of the Swarovski crystal family. She entered the International Baccalaureate program at St. Catherine British School in Athens, then studied business management at Kings College London. 

“Kings College was so much about theory, but I am a practical person,” she said. “I wanted to go out there and create something of my own.”

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Raphael chose handbags, she said, because they are “investment pieces” and “no matter what age you are, you can always wear a bag.” To get her company off the ground, she borrowed some money from a family member and mixed it with money she had been saving since her adolescence.

She then spent a year learning Italian and headed out to Florence, Italy, to find a factory that could produce her handbags.   

“I speak Spanish, English, Greek, and German, and so I learned Italian because I wanted to be able to communicate with the factories and have a hands-on approach,” Raphael said.

“Handbags are a personal accessory,” she said. “I wanted to give my clients impeccable quality, but still be sort of affordable, so it’s still luxury.”

According to the Marina Raphael website, bags from past collections roughly range in price from $550 to $2,700. Bags in the current Apricity Collection FW20 range from $550 to $1,200.

There are currently seven people working for Raphael full-time, but it took over 200 people, including press and sales teams, to get her operation off the ground. She recalled that her first year of production was like most entrepreneurs: a bit wobbly.  

“My first 10 bags were an absolute disaster,” Raphael, now 22, recalled. “But all of these things happen and they are just part of the job. You just have to keep moving on.”

Disastrous situations …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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