State of Green Interview

I did a little interview with 
 State of Green check it out...

Sustainable fashion find: Mina + Oli leather handbags

Most of us have owned a leather jacket in our lifetime – A great cut leather jacket is a classic wardrobe staple, be it new or vintage, they carry us through from season to season.  On the other hand, there is another category of leather jacket that passes as neither vintage, nor classic, nor stylish – It is that old leather jacket that one wonders what attracted you to it in the first place.  I have a bright red one in my wardrobe…  Not one to waste good quality fabric, Melbourne based designer Laura Thomey of Mina + Oli seeks out these jackets stuck in no mans fashion land, and transforms them into stylish handbags fit for public viewing again.

Wristlet featuring hand stitched doily

Coin Purse with hand stitched doily

With a degree in fashion design under her belt, and experience as a stylist assistant in London, Laura decided to launch Mina + Oli in 2009.  Singlehandedly, she sources old pre-loved fabrics, drafts the designs, cuts the pattern and sews each handbag in her sustainable fashion range – creating an individual and unique bag that you will not see elsewhere!  When not making handbags, Laura also shares her love of design, and teaches others the craft of sewing.

Once a leather jacket....what a transformation!

Laura was kind enough to put down her needle, and share with us an insight into her business!

1. What inspired you to start designing handbags?   I have been making handbags from leather jackets since I was at university.  After graduation I explored the world.  I worked on a cruise ship in the Caribbean, in the fashion industry in London and travelled around Europe.  I came to Australia and fell in love with a man in Melbourne!  Preloved leather has such a lovely warn-in feeling and has so much character. It’s one of my favourite materials so I made another handbag for myself.  My friends loved it and wanted one of their own.  Since I finally settled down it was the perfect time to follow my passion for design and being creative.  Mina + Oli was born.
 2. How did you come up with the name Mina + Oli?   I wanted to have a name that was special to me.  The names Mina + Oli were my grandmothers nick names.  Mina for Wilhelmina and Oli for Viola.  These ladies were adventuresome, creative and inspiring to me.  The name is a way to allow their memories live on.

 3. What types of recycled materials do you use in your designs?   I have always loved to hunt for treasures in charity shops since high school, so this is a fun part of my business.  I look for leather jackets that have interesting features as they are the bodies of the handbags.  Colourful printed fabric remnants and clothing make up the bags lining and sometimes I use a selection of lace doilies, tea towels and embroidery for embellishment.  I get very excited when I find a fantastic jacket or embroidery, already envisioning how I will use them in a design!

Love the clutch. Love those studs!

 4. Which comes first in the design process – the material or the design idea?    It’s a bit of both.  I have different patterns and will look through the jackets to see if there is one suitable for that design.  Let’s say a jacket has an interesting pocket, I’ll save that jacket for a bag design where a pocket can be used.  I like to save as much of the original character of the jacket as I can, using the seam details, pockets and embossed areas.  This can make the cutting process quite challenging and time consuming.  I want to use the interesting features of the jacket to best advantage but also not waste the leather.  It’s like a jigsaw puzzle fitting all the pieces in.

 5. Do you have a favourite design in your range?   Oh, that’s a hard one!  Each new bag is different even if the silhouettes are the same.  The new tote design with the geometric cat print that was once a tea towel is a favourite at the moment.  I like to carry a lot of things with me and it’s a nice and roomy bag with lots of pockets.  And I love cats!

Laura's Assistant - Mayzie the cat. Photo: Agent Morphe Design

 6. Share with us your easy eco living tip?  When I’m not sewing I’m in my garden.  I try and grow as many of my own vegetables as I can. It saves money, there are no pesticides, it’s relaxing and they taste better.  I’m still learning the Australian growing seasons which are quite different to Canada.  I also have a worm farm where all my organic waste goes and I receive nutritious worm juice to fertilize my garden! 

Thanks Laura!

** mina + oli **

laura x

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