Mina + Oli Interview

The lovely Lilac and her photographer husband Joshua dropped by my studio the other day. They did an interview and photo shoot with me about Mina + Oli, the preloved leather handbags I design and sew.

Joshua is a great photographer and you can see more of his work at www.photosbyjoshua.com.au

I love how Mayzie got in too, a studio is not complete without a cat!


People & Places: Laura Thomey of Mina & Oli

May 13, 2011

Words by Lilac Limpangog, Pictures by Joshua Winterson.

We’re absolutely delighted to bring you the second in our series of profiles of local business people in our region of Melbourne. Meet Laura Thomey of Mina & Oli, a manufacturer of bespoke handbags. Laura works quietly in a spare room of her home in Preston, designing and crafting unusual accessories that reflect her unique mind, using materials recycled from pre-worn clothing. When we met at a Moreland Council networking event, I was fascinated by the elegant black bag loosely hanging on her shoulder. It was classy and daringly different. This fashion design graduate told me that it was a castaway leather jacket now reincarnated as a bag. Hunting for materials from op shops is part of the fun.

Laura’s practice requires a gentle and patient temperament willing to endure long hours of solitude, hunched over sewing machines. All her pieces are not just handmade, but seem to have personalities as well.

Cutting up the jackets can be an exacting art; trying to harvest as much usable material from them as possible. While Laura tailors the bags with particular clients in mind, she also soaks up inspiration from the buttons, pockets, cuffs and embroidery of yesteryear.  Her nostalgic corkboard neatly displays jacket tags from all over the world, and bygone eras.

Inside each finished pouch is a swing tag that tells of its origins. But don’t be deceived by her dominant right-brain approach. Coloured post-its adorn Laura’s walls, meticulously keeping track of time spent making each item, notes on the client’s expectations, ideas about marketing and scribbled reminders and inspirational advice.

One important challenge for Laura is to educate the buying public about the value of handmade products, and developing her online market. She’s slowly but steadily reaping rewards as orders come not just from Australia but also from abroad. Not bad for a Canadian backpacker who decided to call Melbourne home five years ago. And her long-term goal? “A hobby farm in the country where I can base my artwork. I’d like to train and hire local women,” in keeping with the fair trade principles.

As if they are her guardian angels, the brand is a tribute to Laura’s grandmothers Wilhelmina (“Mina”) and Viola (“Oli”), a cruise ship nurse and a quilt-maker, respectively. The sense of beauty, adventure, history, and recycling all came naturally to Laura who enjoyed making her own handbags even during uni days. Today, she’s not just creating unique pieces but also sharing her craft with a multicultural women’s sewing group in Brunswick.

We think Laura rocks; her work comes straight from the heart. If you’re interested in getting your own business profiled here, get in touch with us, and make it happen!

laura x

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