LE SURI is an innovative handbag label creating unique handbags made from 100 % cork. The line features highest quality natural materials – organically grown, locally harvested and produced. Read more about our interview with Le Suri’s co-founder Nina Tack.
Tell us about yourself – familial/personal story, education, and prior work.
My name is Nina. I’m 29 years old. I am currently living in Dublin, Ireland – this is where LE SURI is headquartered. My business partner lives in London, which is our “design hub.” Luckily, those cities are well connected and it is only a 45 min flight, so even though we collaborate virtually most of the time, we can hop on a plane whenever we feel an urge to see each other face to face.
My family background is half German half Polish, but I was born and raised in Bonn, Germany. Throughout the past decade I have travelled a lot and have lived in several different countries, including Australia, Brazil, Portugal and the UK, before I moved to Ireland in the beginning of 2016, following my partner.
I hold a Master’s degree in Economics and a Master’s in International Management. After graduation, I first started to work in the education industry for a private education company, first as an executive assistant and then in sales. I have always wanted to do interesting work that would have a positive impact on society. At the same time, I have also always strived for independence. Having my own company has been my dream for a long time.
How did you get interested in ethical and sustainable fashion?
We, the founders of LE SURI, Nina and Paab met in London in 2013 through a common friend. The first thing that brought us together was vegan cooking. We soon also discovered that we share a passion for fashion and design.
At the same time, we both felt that sadly, the exploitation of animals, humans and the environment are prevalent in the mass fashion industry. We believed that there must be another way of creating beautiful fashion without sacrificing on ethical values.
The idea for designing bags from 100% cork came when I was living in Portugal, the “home country” of cork. It is there that I first discovered cork, it’s incredible qualities and versatile ways in which it is used.
We saw that cork was already used here and there in accessories, but on a small scale by local handicraft to create souvenirs. We immediately thought that this material is amazing and has the potential to be recognized widely beyond the borders of Southern Europe and even revolutionize the entire handbag industry.
We felt, however, that it has never been given the design-attention that it deserves, so our mission became to revamp the image of cork by creating bags in contemporary design made from ethical and sustainable high quality materials.
How did your educational/professional experience inform fashion work?
In my studies and professional experience, I have learnt quite a bit about marketing, which is a very important aspect of launching and running a successful fashion brand. The industry is so competitive and even when you know you have a great product and you’re convinced that there is a large audience looking for exactly what you have to offer, the challenging part is to reach those people. That’s essentially what marketing is to me.
We are newcomers to the fashion industry. It is our first label and we have never worked for any other brand before, therefore this is for us a unique journey where we are both learning and supporting each other in designing, material sourcing, manufacturing process, logistics, marketing etc.
Both of us have a business background which helps us to manage the company with a cold head. Paab has also studied interior design in the UK, however our main creative skills for designing our handbags come from pure passion for fashion.
What is the importance of ethical and sustainable fashion designers and companies?
The challenges that the fashion industry is facing today are enormous. It is both the consumers and large fashion manufacturers that need to be made responsible for the situation that the industry is in – Consumers who want cheap new clothes every season and fashion manufacturers that respond to this and fuel this demand by ever lowering prices and production cost.
The price we pay as a global society are unethical working conditions, child labour, pollution, violation of animal rights…Change is long overdue but too hard to bring about for one single brand alone. Therefore, we need to change the industry one brand and one consumer at a time. Sustainable fashion designers play a pivotal role in this change.
They are the ones experimenting with new design concepts and presenting them to the consumer. Consumers are also seeking out those products more and more. The industry is moving in the right way and I hope that the number on the designer and consumer side will increase.
Who is a personal hero or heroine within the ethical and sustainable fashion world for you?
Luckily there are more and more innovative brands dedicated to creating beautiful designs with 100% commitment to sustainability. Not necessarily only in the handbags space but look for example at Shrimps, which have changed the perception of faux fur or Uashmama who designs small household accessories and everyday bags from washable, waterproof paper.
Those brands are our heroes, as they are a transformational transformational force in the industry. When it comes to luxury sustainable handbags, there is no doubt that Stella McCartney has achieved a unique reputation for focusing on beautiful designs without making the sustainability of her bags her primary value proposition. She is a great role model and inspiration for us in that sense.
What is LE SURI Ltd?
LE SURI is newcomer fashion brand creating unique premium handbags in contemporary designs made 100% from cork – an innovative and sustainable material with similar qualities to animal leather.
We see ourselves as a transformational force within the fashion industry by redefining the rules of the traditional leather handbag industry.
Our mission is to become the first globally recognized fashion brand to have introduced cork as a reputable alternative to leather to a wider fashion-savvy audience – based on the stunning look and qualities of cork – not only based on the sustainability aspect of it.
What are some of its feature products?
Our debut collection is a handbag line which consists of 4 handbag models for men and women in various colour combinations.
In our first collection we wanted to showcase the beauty of cork both as a very natural as well as a modern and contemporary material. Therefore, we have chosen to combine cork in plain colors such as natural, black and navy with an ultra modern cork material with silver square shapes.
Geometrical shapes symbolize timelessness, elegance and modernity which is exactly what we want to embody with our brand. We have hence chosen squares to be not only the leading pattern in our first collection, but also they are represented in our logo and social media.
What is your customer base – the demographics?
Our clientele is fashion savvy, eco and socially conscious consumers who are confident about their own style and are open for experimenting with their cloakroom and trying new concepts and brands. Typically aged 25-40, well travelled and living in larger cities.
Our customers are well-aware of the global issues facing the fashion industry and would like to contribute with their choice as consumers to it’s gradual transformation. Primarily our customers love great design and value uniqueness and high quality.
Continued in part two…