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NEW YORK, United States — Floriana Gavriel and Rachel Mansur are the founders and designers behind accessories label Mansur Gavriel. Launched in 2012 with only two styles, including their now best-selling bucket bag, the idea for the brand came out of personal needs: the designers realised there were few quality handbag brands at a contemporary price point.
It took two years of product development and after making samples in Los Angeles and New York, the design duo settled on Italy as the production base for their leather bags. They compiled a spreadsheet of where they wanted to be stocked, and with only $100, shot their first lookbook.
Their debut collection hit stores in June 2013 and within weeks, blogger Garance Doré professed her love for the brand’s large bucket bag. By July, both the bucket and tote had generated long waiting lists. By New York Fashion Week that September, Mansur Gavriel had become the bag of choice for fashion editors and street style stars.
With over 486k followers on Instagram, Mansur Gavriel’s social media platforms have helped with their rapid growth. Four years later, the designers have just launched their first ready-to-wear collection at New York Fashion Week.
Below, the designers share four tips for success as a fashion entrepreneur.
1. Learn from a variety of industries
Rachel Mansur: Through the early years post-school, I had a variety of different jobs. I worked as an art department assistant and set dresser on television shows, films and commercials in LA. I worked in a dye house for the film and fashion industry. I soon learned that I found both business and design interesting. When Floriana and I met, it was the right time for both of us to combine our interests and begin building a story with many elements — product, graphic design, communication, business and more.
Floriana Gavriel: After school I interned at Lanvin in Paris and worked as a freelance costume designer on TV shows and commercials. I think because of both of our varied backgrounds — we’ve both worked in the film industry — we’re both interested in creating an atmosphere which is exciting and amazing, and that’s a huge part of the brand.
2. Be ambitious when you plan
FG: From the time we first began concepting the brand back in 2010, we had imagined and planned for a brand with many categories. Given the principles for the brand are strongly defined by colour, material and shape, it felt natural to expand upon this concept across additional product categories. We spent several seasons developing this until we were ready to launch.
When we opened our first retail store in New York, it was so rewarding because it was the first time we were able to offer this immersive environment to the public, and not just at fashion week. It says a lot about the brand and we’re excited to continue to create these environments.
RM: Today, at Mansur Gavriel, we are very interested in the brand experience and full picture. The graphic design, photography and emotion of the brand are as important to us as the perfection of the actual product, which we achieve through material, form and colour.
3. Be prepared to scale rapidly
RM: We grew quickly from the beginning, and weren’t expecting it. We had started the company with our combined savings and for the first two years worked remotely, part time while we worked other jobs to save money. We both moved to New York in 2012 to work on Mansur Gavriel full time. We worked out of our apartments for the first year. When the bags first hit stores in the summer of 2013, there were immediate wait lists.
4. Focus on product first
RM: From the beginning of the brand, we had a vision for many different products, but we wanted to take our time to develop and get it right so we could get the product and the ideas where they needed to be. We have been developing ready-to-wear for a long time, and we decided to launch it now because we feel we are ready. In terms of direction, we’re always interested in working across all categories.
FG: Our advice is to not try to do everything in the beginning, don’t feel as if you have to do everything at once. Just take it step by step. It’s been a long journey to where we are now, and we needed that time to support the projects that we want to do and the growth of the company.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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