FK chats to Laura of Melbourne based label Mina & Oli, and what inspires her to recreate!
Tell us about your lovely label Mina & Oli and what the concept is behind it?
Mina + Oli handbags are one of a kind made from upcycled leather jackets and fabric. I wanted to create unique quality handbags that were not mass produced. Every piece has its own personality and a fun lining that matches. It takes a certain kind of person who can still wear a 1980’s batwing jacket with giant shoulder pads. I like to think that I am saving these doomed jackets from the land fill and giving them a new stylish life. All bags are all hand crafted by me in my Melbourne studio, with help from my cat Mayzie.
What inspired you to start your own label?
After traveling around the world, I fell in love with a Melbourne guy and settled down. I have always loved being creative and it was the perfect time to pursue that passion. I made myself a bag and then one for a friend. Everyone loved the concept of upcycling leather, owning a handbag that was special to them and enjoyed sharing in its story. I wanted a name for the label that had some meaning so I choose my grandmothers nick names, Wilhelmina (Mina) and Viola (Oli). It’s nice way to remember my grandmothers.
How has your creative style developed over time? and what inspires your work?
I’m always experimenting with new designs, ideas and listening to customer feedback, although I must working within the constraints of the jacket. Some design ideas would require me to go out and buy a large piece of uncut leather but I want to keep using upcylced leather so I must change the design to suit. I don’t really follow trends. The jackets and fabric are my inspiration… a great seam line, interesting pocket or cuff, a tea towel with a cool print or beautiful lace doilies. I want to use as much as the leather as I can so I’m always thinking of ways to use the smaller scraps like in tassels and hair bows.
What do you love about living in Melbourne?
I have lived in Melbourne for around five years now and love it! It’s the perfect sized city, easy to get around on my bike. We have great food and something is happening every night. The markets here are full of beautiful creations; it’s great that Melbourne has such an amazing and supportive creative community. My favorite thing would have to be the weather, I know it gets chilly in the winter but it’s nothing compared to the freezing Canadian winter I grew up with!
Where do you source your leather jackets & materials for your range? and are their challenges in doing so?
I source all my leather and fabric for the linings from op shops. I’m an op shop addict and love the treasure hunt. It’s a challenge to find coloured leather as most jackets are black. I could buy in bulk but then I have no control over selection and I like to hand pick each one for its individual details. Cutting the leather is the most time consuming part. The jacket must first be deconstructed by taking out the lining and shoulder pads. Then the jacket cut apart until it can be laid flat. The challenge is fitting the pattern pieces into the odd shapes of the jacket using as much as of the leather as I can. It would be a lot easier to just use new leather but the jackets have that amazing quality that only comes with time.
What new plans do you have for the rest of the year?
This year I hope to launch a new personalised service where you can give me your jacket and I will transform it into a special handbag for you. Clothing holds sentimental value but sometimes the style or fit are no longer flattering. This way you can preserve the memories and have a handbag you will actually use. A friend’s father bought a leather jacket in London years ago. She asked me transform the jacket into two clutches, one for her and her sister. They both love that their clutches are made from their father’s jacket and the story behind them.