Reporting by Roberto Garcia
Spanish-born designer Laura Vela’s namesake handbag brand is on the quick-rise worldwide. But rewind just a few years, and Vela was settling in Miami to pursue a Master’s degree to continue her education in business and management. A sophisticated free spirit, Vela rewrote her next steps in favor of fashion. Parsons School of Design was her gateway into the industry; while enrolled, she was chosen to show LAURA VELA at New York Fashion Week in February 2011.
LAURA VELA became an instant favorite among the world’s most stylish women. Artistic luxury brands like Sachin + Babi quickly grabbed her for a partnership. Glittery names like Anna Wintour, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and Sarah Jessica Parker have already approved. We caught up with the designer to recap what’s developed since then, and what’s to come.
Just a few years after launch, your brand has attracted the eyes of so many important fashion industry insiders. How has this exciting attention shaped your company today?
I’m very grateful for the recognition and attention that fashion industry insiders have paid to my designs in such a short amount of time, especially since they have a wide range of options to choose from. For me, the word “success” means to be constantly improving, becoming a better person, designer and entrepreneur every single day. I don’t grant a special value to celebrities wearing my handbags—seeing any woman wear my designs makes me feel incredibly special.
You’ve talked about the handbag being the most important item in a woman’s wardrobe. Tell us about the woman your handbags are a reflection of.
My designs reflect the free-spirited woman that exudes a chic and effortless style as she leads an adventurous and cosmopolitan lifestyle. I want to make women feel special, unique and exclusive, helping them realize that sophistication and elegance are not incompatible with having a free spirit.
The materials you use, like python, crocodile and haircalf, are so exquisite, and quality is obviously important to your brand. Tell us a little bit about the process of designing your collection.
Everything starts with inspiration, which I find everywhere. I like to travel abroad to immerse myself in the local architecture, nature and people, opening my five senses to everything these countries have to offer in order to transform them into textures, colors and ultimately, my bags. My creative process takes place 24/7. You’ll see me looking around and sketching everywhere I go; sometimes when I’m sleeping, ideas pop into my mind and I have to wake up to draw them on a piece of paper, so I don’t forget about it. This is my favorite part of the whole production process, because it’s where I can use all my senses to express myself. There’s nothing more beautiful than transmitting my emotions through my designs.
Congratulations on winning the Design Award at the upcoming Purses & Pursenalities auction! Tell us about receiving this honor.
Thank you! LAURA VELA is my passion – I love it, I live it and I breathe it. Building your own brand is not as easy as it sounds, especially when wearing many hats as a young entrepreneur – from designing, overseeing the entire supply chain, creating and managing the brand voice. I’m absolutely honored to receive this award in the competitive U.S. market, and be able to be part of this memorable event. Receiving recognitions like the Design Award from Purses & Pursenalities, along with receiving such positive feedback from my followers, motivates me to continue pursuing this dream project of mine.
You recently collaborated with Sachin + Babi to create a collection of handbags. How did this prestigious partnership come about, and what was your inspiration for these pieces?
In designing their SB47 collection, Sachin + Babi were looking to collaborate with someone who could bring a young and fresh style, and I am incredibly grateful and honored that they thought of me. It was fun to work on this project because it gave me the opportunity to work with embroidery, which is Sachin + Babi’s signature style. For this collection, I incorporated three different cultures: the design was developed in New York, the embroidery was made in India, and the final handbags were produced by the finest Spanish craftsmen. As a cosmopolitan woman passionate for experiencing new cultures, having the privilege of showcasing this mix of cultures in each piece of the collection was very challenging, yet exciting as a designer. These handbags were designed for the cosmopolitan woman who wants distinctive high-quality pieces in her wardrobe.
We love the blue interior of your bags, which we know represents ties to your country. How else do your bags connect to your heritage?
My bags speak of my childhood, which I spent traveling the world and exposing myself to different cultures and traditions from a very young age. Living in 10 different countries by the age of 16 opened my senses and creativity; you will always see my trips around the world reflected on my designs and my collections. The blue interior of my bags represent the blue ocean of the Mediterranean Sea and the boho-chic vibe that people breathe along its coast, which is present in all of my collections.
We hear you’re also planning to design apparel and men’s wallets. When can we expect to see some of these projects come to life?
I do have plans to expand my collections, and there are many ideas on top of the table; however, my handbag line is my priority at the moment. At the end, it’s like a game of chess; you have to know how to strategically move the pieces, where and when to move them. For me, LAURA VELA is more than just a handbag brand. I want to create a lifestyle—a unique world in which the brand’s philosophy, aesthetic and sophistication come together.
What else can we expect to see from you in 2014?
Our focus is to continue positioning the brand in our main markets, which include Japan and Saudi Arabia; strengthen our foothold in the United States, a very important market for us; and start exploring the South America market. In every market, we are very selective and exclusive about where we sell our handbags; we always make sure the retailers that carry the LAURA VELA brand are aligned with its aesthetic. It is important for us to grow by taking firm and stable steps. At the end of the day I’m a free spirit. I love creating and I give you a front row seat to my life and my current and future projects on my Instagram and Facebook pages.