Marina Raphael on building her eponymous handbag brand

As a sixth-generation luminary of the esteemed Swarovski family, Marina Raphael ventures into the world of handbag design with her exquisite craftsmanship and boundless creativity

Dress, Y/Project X Jean Paul Gaultier. Ring, Swarovski

Marina Raphael, known originally as Marina Rafail-Vogiatzakis, crafts masterpieces for her eponymous label, Marina Raphael, as well as collaborating with the renowned Swarovski brand. Her exceptional contributions garnered her a coveted position among Forbes Europe’s prestigious 30 Under 30, specifically recognized in the esteemed Arts & Culture domain in the year 2022.

HARPER’S BAZAAR: What sparked your interest in fashion?

MARINA RAPHAEL: I always think of it as a combination of factors but the biggest is probably my family heritage which exposed me to a lot growing up. It taught me that fashion is a vehicle for communicating bigger values and messages,  and  that it is also inextricably linked to wider socio-economic factors. For me fashion is a sign of the times and it says so much more than just what you are wearing. I find that inspiring and intriguing. It is a form of art as well as a gateway to discover and express one’s true self.

HARPER’S BAZAAR: Can you share the story behind your captivating involvement in design and unveil the ethereal tapestry that weaves the very essence of your brand ethos?

MARINA RAPHAEL: I always had a desire for exploration and a need to express myself in a creative manner. I come from two different backgrounds, one being my Swiss Austrian side, from my mother, and the other being the Greek side from my father. So, I have an international outlook which I bring to the brand. A love of travel has also been instilled in me since childhood and I think one of the reasons why I chose handbags. The idea of something that accompanies you on your travels and keeps memories and essentials inspires me daily.

I studied business and see the brand as a blend of my strategic mind with my creative side. An interest in creativity has been instilled in me from a young age through my family heritage and I love that I get to indulge this daily while building a fast-growing business. At Marina Raphael we are inspired by women with purpose and strength and channel this through our mindset and designs.

nữ doanh nhân Marina Raphael

Dress, Jacquemus. Handbag, Marina Raphael

HARPER’S BAZAAR: What, for you, is the difference between a handbag for life and one purchased just for a season?

MARINA RAPHAEL: A handbag is a staple and necessary accessory that is essential to all women. At Marina Raphael we constantly build off this core principle of form and functionality. What keeps a woman wearing a handbag is the way in which it fits practically into her day-to-day life. To me the balance of design and practicality is what makes a great handbag. It also creates a loyal customer.

To some, handbags are decorative but to me and also the Marina Raphael women they are a key component that can bring a whole outfit together and elevate a simple look.  I love the idea of creating these very personal items that carry you from day to day, protecting life’s essentials and personal mementoes. I want to build the most special handbags to encase these things.

At Marina Raphael we design all styles with the intention of having them passed down from generation to generation. The concept of buying a “handbag for life” is a sustainable mindset and speaks to the quality and craftmanship that goes into every bag.  My bags go through rigorous quality control by Swarovski and are also road tested by myself before they go into production, to make sure that they are as practical and as durable as possible.

Dress, Christopher Esber. Jewellery, Minas

HARPER’S BAZAAR: How important is it for you to incorporate traditional techniques in the creation of your designs?

MARINA RAPHAEL: Craftsmanship is one of the foundations of Marina Raphael. Our pieces stand the test of time and I have yet to come across better techniques for the materials that we are working with that can lend such quality and artistry to designs.

I have also always loved the history behind traditional techniques, knowing that something you own has been made with love and care. However, we are always treading a balance between modernity and heritage so equally important to us is being able to employ traditional techniques in a different way or fuse them with modern materials.

Marina Raphael

Top, Alaïa. Skirt, Mônot. Jewellery, Minas. Shoes, Ancient Greek Sandals

HARPER’S BAZAAR: Your designs have been recognized quickly after your brand was launched – what do you think was key to your/the brand’s success?

MARINA RAPHAEL: I was very fortunate to have received such incredible love and support from many influential people in the fashion industry, which of course helped the brand immensely. Having our bags worn by singers Jennifer Lopez and Rita Ora, actors Florence Pugh, Lily James, Priyanka Chopra, Katie Holmes, supermodels Irina Shayk, Candice Swanepoel, Alessandra Ambrosio and Izabel Goulart; influencers Paris Hilton, Chiara Ferragni and Camila Coelho; fashion icons Olivia Palermo and Giovanna Engelbert and royalty like Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands is truly humbling.

From the outset we have stayed true to a very strong brand philosophy which resonates with others. People love our ethos of creating timeless statement pieces, made at the hands of skilled artisans in Italy, all according to today’s sustainable guidelines.

This coupled with our statement shapes that are instantly recognizable. You can feel the power in a Marina Raphael bag and people want to be a part of that.

Bag, Marina Raphael

Bag, Marina Raphael

HARPER’S BAZAAR: What makes your brand stand out in the market?

MARINA RAPHAEL: My designs stand out because they are not defined by passing styles, trends and fashion rules but by exemplary quality. The focus on quality is at the heart of Marina Raphael.  I never wanted to produce something ephemeral. I have always wanted to make strong pieces that can last for years and have a timeless character. Plus Marina Raphael has become recognized for strong, architectural silhouettes that push the boundaries of what is expected of a handbag.

We also love to place this expert quality alongside fun and impactful designs. A maximalist approach to crystals makes for eye catching styles.

But I am also equally proud of our values that make us stand out as a business.

HARPER’S BAZAAR: What’s in the future for Marina Raphael?

MARINA RAPHAEL: The future is an accessories universe! And one day I hope we get to showcase this in flagship stores around the world. The brand has only been operational for 4 years and we have had such an exciting trajectory so far with so much love from customers, celebrities, editors and retailers alike.

We are expanding our existing product range by introducing small leather goods like cardholders and vanity cases, made with the same exacting standards as our handbag line.  There is a constant rush of new ideas that I can’t wait to channel into upcoming collections while in my pursuit of creating an accessory for every occasion.Along similar lines, I am excited to keep pushing the brand into new spheres and working on multi discipline collaborations that explore all the cultural touchpoints I love from fashion to architecture to interior design and more.

Top, Jacquemus. Ear cuff, Mérbabe. Rings, Elena Votsi. Bag, Marina Raphael

HARPER’S BAZAAR: As a sixth-generation member of the Swarovski family, how has your family’s legacy influenced your works as a fashion designer?

MARINA RAPHAEL: I am very lucky to have grown up as a member of the Swarovski family, which represents 120 years of innovation and creativity. The dedication of creating “a diamond for everyone” in accordance with the vision of its founder, Daniel Swarovski, is something that has always inspired me  and definitely was the start of my journey into a creative industry.

Growing up I witnessed the company’s constant strive for innovation and the importance of attention to detail. Just like Swarovski’s perfectly cut crystal, I wanted to create perfectly crafted Marina Raphael bags. Hence, I am always proud to include an homage to my Swarovski heritage in every design. Whether it is in a captivating starry pattern or a discreet yet distinctive crystal detail, my vision is to offer a dose of sparkle to everyone.

HARPER’S BAZAAR: Your designs are known for their elegant and feminine aesthetic. How do you balance creating pieces that are both timeless and on-trend?

MARINA RAPHAEL: Aspiring to push aesthetic boundaries in order to redefine the idea of classic design is part of the Marina Raphael brand philosophy. We achieve that through utilising modern techniques and materials while retaining traditional craftsmanship that always ensures the highest quality.

Marina Raphael never follow trends, but we always seek to surprise and delight our customers through the unexpected whether that be in construction, shape or material. At Marina Raphael, we push boundaries but always incorporate craftmanship and quality which I believe ensures that our pieces never go out of style.

Marina Raphael

Top, Alaïa. Bracelets, Alaïa. Skirt, Mônot

HARPER’S BAZAAR: Can you speak to any notable collaborations or projects your brand has worked on?

MARINA RAPHAEL: I feel very lucky to work on amazing collaborations with friends and colleagues that result in eclectic and unique designs, each with its own history.  We created our best seller with my dear friend Evangelie Smyrniotaki, our first collaboration came about after meeting 3 times by chance on an airplane, and happening to be sitting next to each other. If that is not fate, what is? Another memorable collaboration was of course the one I did with Swarovski and Giovanna Engelbert. During our work together we were able to push creative boundaries even further and create a functional bag out of a single piece of crystal.

Lastly, my latest collaboration with fine jewelry designer Eugenie Niarchos saw our brands, Marina Raphael and Venyx, make a sparkling entrance into the Metaverse, with 10 unique NFTs, each featuring a handbag from the collection in a completely different digital world.

HARPER’S BAZAAR: How do you see the future of the fashion industry evolving, and how do you see your brand adapting to these changes?

MARINA RAPHAEL: I see sustainability as the future of fashion. Marina Raphael is a fast-growing sustainable luxury handbag brand that promotes environmental consciousness and inclusivity without compromising aesthetics and affordability. As a luxury brand, we really pride ourselves on the incredible work environment we have created from the start, believing this to be integral to the business success. As customers buy into values rather than brands I see a future where hopefully only brands like this exist.

For Marina Raphael, sustainability is integral to our brand’s philosophy, as we make sure that the creation of each handbag, results from the unwavering dedication and impeccable craftsmanship of all our manufacturers. By responsibly tanning small quantities of leather and avoiding the use of harsh chemicals, we steer away from mass production rules and pave a new way towards sustainable fashion.

Through selecting top quality materials such as napa, suede as well as eco-wool we introduce biodegradable properties to the bags, conscious of our environmental impact.

Working towards a near zero–waste policy, we continue finding and implementing new ways of upcycling all of our remaining materials for a better tomorrow. Our goal is to create products that are made to last for a long time and possibly be passed down from generation to generation.

Dress, Jacquemus. Earrings, Mérbabe

HARPER’S BAZAAR: What can we expect to see from Marina Raphael in the future? Are there any upcoming collections or projects you’re particularly excited about?

MARINA RAPHAEL: At the moment I am working on, perhaps, what is the most fun Fall Winter collection you have seen from us. This upcoming season I am really excited for everyone to embrace their inner fashion icon, and go all out with these eclectic statement pieces!

*** Team Credit ***

Photographer: Panos Davios
Styling: Vina Neofotistou
Set Design: Aliki Karmitsi
Hair and Makeup: Sophia Sarigiannidou
Styling Assistant: Elina Psylou
Nails: Ilira Kaso. 

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