Tell me a bit about how the label was started.
It was while showcasing our prêt-à-porter collection of luxury coats, which featured distinctive statement leather pockets, that we noticed the interest being given to the pockets themselves. Buyers were asking whether these artistic and handcrafted pockets were detachable or could be used as a small bag. They weren’t, but we realised that maybe they could be or should be. We realised we had conceived something unique and interesting. An idea was born to design and produce artistic bags that would elevate the concept of handbags into works of art. The detachable element and the collaboration with artists were the two major inspirations that shaped Lobos at the outset.
How were the initial products developed, and what was the response?
We spent a great deal of time exploring the concept of classic handbag shapes that could be transformed into works of art using detachable accessories. We wanted the art to be as wearable as the handbag itself, so why not use the bag as the canvas and marry the two? We then began the search for suppliers, craftspeople and artists while studying the nuances of the fashion industry itself. With these fundamentals in place, we produced the prototypes, which reassured us we were on the right path. The response was so encouraging. Consumers and business friends loved the spirit and style of what we had done. Most importantly, they smiled, and we love that about our bags; they’re uplifting.
What challenges did you face, and how were they overcome when starting the business?
The first challenges that we encountered were finding the right partners for our business. It took us some time until we found suppliers and manufacturers that met our standards. We already had some experience in this so knew what we were looking for in terms of credentials, experience and transparency. Since collaboration (with different artists) is so central to our brand, it was crucial that we found the right people with whom to develop long-term relationships. Fortunately, we come from an artistic background ourselves, so we understand how to work with creative people and ensure everyone is engaged, inspired and happy. We’re pleased to say that the result of these artistic collaborations is a never-ending supply of distinctive and beautiful designs, handcrafted by an amazing team.
What is it that sets you apart from your competitors?
Our alternative vision of what luxury means and how wearable art can tell your story. At Lobos, we’re redefining luxury and wearable art by using beautifully handcrafted bags as the canvas for our customers’ stories. Rather than designing according to fixed seasons and convention, we decided that collaboration with independent artists would be the most authentic way to combine leather craftsmanship with artisanal design. Unlike those labels into which customers buy into a brand identity, we believe in the freedom of self-expression and the importance of versatility. This is a philosophy that led to our signature concept of one bag, two looks. Armed with one luxury handbag and a handcrafted detachable accessory, our customers can express a classically subtle style or choose to make a statement and embrace their artistic side. Redefining the luxury handbag to make it your own is our signature. Rules are there to be broken, and fashion should be free-loving, fun and full of art.
How important is the location and history of the company to its success?
We adopt a multicultural and cosmopolitan approach to what we do, so it’s the artistic spirit rather than a fixed identity that matters most. Whether it’s Milan, London, New York or Shanghai, our customers share the same desire for individuality, self-expression and creativity. Location and history are both important, but they are not everything. Even though each one of us is different, we all share universal values. Lobos celebrates this cultural diversity through art and collaboration. Both of us have lived an international life, living in many different countries, but it’s Milan that has found a special place in our hearts, so it’s right that the spirit of Lobos started there. We believe that being a European brand is important in terms of quality, credibility and sustainability. We know that the rich heritage of European design and Italian craftsmanship allows us to work with the very best. However, regarding the art and inspiration behind the designs, the world has much more to offer. We believe in globalisation and drawing from multicultural influences and feel this attitude is especially important today. Someone once said that the world is like a book and that if you don’t travel, you read only one page. We believe this to be true.
How has the product offering changed since you started, and how would you describe your current collection?
The model with which we launched was the Mini Quadratino, which we released in five colours. This remains our signature style and one that is available for customisation and personalisation too. However, each season, we introduce a few new styles and now have seven models with many variations, so there’s a continuity of handwriting but a variety in design. For SS20, we’re launching 16 new styles alongside commissioned capsule collections and, of course, the personalisation options across the range.
How often do you launch new lines?
We launch two main collections a year, although it’s the bespoke pieces and capsule collections that really highlight Lobos’ distinctive selling point. It’s magic. The hand-painting element opens myriad opportunities for us, using the two principal collections as a canvas for any number of unique designs.
What trade shows do you attend and why?
Since this is our first year, we’re still assessing the market and identifying our positioning. Recently, we’ve been focusing on our Milan showroom and our agents in an effort to work with the right buyers. Our target retail sector is high-end boutiques, as well as department stores, and our preferred method at this stage is to engage with them directly so that we can fully explain the story behind the brand and discuss exclusive arrangements with a retailer. As far as trade shows are concerned, we’ve heard some great things about some of the small, niche shows such as Scoop, so these may be something we explore going forwards.
What are your current bestselling designs?
Our bestselling design remains the Mini Quadratino bag – our signature design. This season, we’ve had such a positive response to the pastel colours Cielo (mint), Waterfall (baby blue) and Cipria (lilac), which are so uplifting. Our small colourful bags not only look cute, but they’re also surprisingly capacious, which is helpful given the ever-growing size of smartphones today, besides all the other daily essentials women carry. As such, they can be practical for the day and perfect for the night. Next season, we’ll be adding more colours and styles that share the same vision – being simultaneously functional and artistic.
When was the website launched, and how does it support the business?
We launched the website in August 2018, though it saw a complete overhaul in May 2019. At present, most of our sales come from stores, but we’re seeing the online traffic increase each month, so we envisage this becoming a strong route to market. Of course, the website is the largest shop window we have and is often the first encounter people have of our brand. Having our story and ethos told online enables us to communicate directly with our customers and reach a wider audience. The personalisation facility on there is a new development. We hope it answers most questions and also expresses the personality and spirit of our brand.
What have been the key milestones in the business?
At first, we had to develop our prototype bag and launch the first collection. Having high standards, refusing to compromise on production values and the relationships we maintain with suppliers require a great deal of time, dedication and money, so our path is very much slow fashion! As such, launching our first collection in August 2018 was the culmination of many years of research and study and months of hard work. Creating the website and launching on Wolf & Badger were two more major milestones, with our first Wolf & Badger sale being made in under two weeks. Our next challenge will be approaching the wholesale market and securing some wonderful retailers and stores to work with. It’s an exciting road ahead.
How do you view the current market, and what trends – both in business and product – do you see emerging over the coming months?
The current market is challenging but also full of exciting potential for innovation. We believe that collaboration and an awareness of production costs is shifting the market focus to respect slow fashion, craftsmanship and creativity over volume and fast fashion. We’ve noticed a willingness to experiment and an appetite for innovation and self-expression through customisation and personalisation. All these things reflect the values, spirit and design of Lobos. We think that craftsmanship, artisanal collaboration and sustainability will continue to shape the market over the coming months as customers opt for quality over quantity.
Do you have any thoughts on how Brexit will affect your business?
While we hope for a soft Brexit, we don’t believe it will affect our own business dramatically. Perhaps we will see longer queues at passport control at the airport, but overall we feel Brexit won’t affect our business too much. It’s a question of the attitude of our industry, which we feel is collaborative and full of goodwill.
What are your future plans for the business?
From a business perspective, our future plans involve entering the wholesale market. We’re very excited about developing those relationships with retailers and providing them with a personalised, unique and profitable addition to their store. Ultimately, we aim to create a global brand with a truly artistic DNA. We can see Lobos working with some big names in the world of art as we collaborate on new designs. As this artistic collective grows and we launch new designs, we’ll also explore opening our own store, wherein we can provide customers with an immersive, 360-degree experience of our artistic brand.
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