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Interview with Bag Designer So Long Marianne

I have always been a bit of a bag addict, handbags are so good at finishing off an outfit or even making a statement in their own right. With so many brands out there it can be a minefield to find a brand that not only makes great handbags but has ethics at its core. With fashion being one of the most wasteful companies in the world we are all as consumers trying to invest more in brands that are sustainable and that’s how I came across So Long Marianne. After researching the brand and learning a little more about their story and their founders I got the opportunity to interview Brooke and Soraya, who started the brand.

What does So Long Marianne stand for and what sets you apart from other handbag brands?

Our brand name is inspired by a Leonard Cohen song which was released in the 1960s. The nature of the song is about a romance between a man and his love and very much part of what we wanted to bring into our brand.

So Long Marianne is more than just a brand. We are part of a growing compassionate movement in the fashion industry that will hopefully change the future of luxury accessories forever. We stand for change, we stand for equality, we stand for women, and we stand for animals. For a while now high fashion brands have been about the weird and wonderful and although we love that and celebrate it, we feel there’s something uniquely beautiful and timeless about celebrating our feminine side, soft edges, beautiful designs, pretty colours.

We feel we stand apart from other brands with our unique logo and opulent hardware combined with a luxurious feminine design. We celebrate women and we encourage romance and chivalry. Every woman deserves to feel special. 

Why did you decide to create your handbags to be vegan and leather free?

We have both lived a happy vegan lifestyle for many years now. We have both attended animal rights protests and spend a lot of time online advocating for animals and educating others on the harm they’re causing by purchasing animal products. We only support brands that are in line with our core values. Finding non leather accessories isn’t so difficult if you are not concerned about quality and ethics but both Soraya and I were adamant that we could have both simultaneously without any compromise. We love luxury handbags, but most quality luxury brands pride themselves on using animal leather materials! We decided to create a brand without using animal leather because we believe in fashion with compassion. We do not agree that fashion should cost the lives of others. This was of course met with hardships along the way and we spent time going back and forth with manufacturing companies trying to get the quality we desired. We quickly understood why not everyone designs and manufactures their own brand! However, we stuck to our beliefs and our first design has exceeded our expectations. 

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How do you decide on each seasons designs and collections?

We have just launched so we have many ideas still in the making! However, one thing Soraya and I did agree on was that we would mostly make non seasonal designs. We like to create styles and colours you can wear all year round. We have some exciting collections in the pipeline. The Camargue Collection is our first and will feature 3 styles, the first of which is the Medium which is the bag we launched with.  The following 2 styles will be launched in 2021. We have some beautiful vegan leather options that will really signify luxury to our customers.

Where do you produce your handbags and why is it important to be able to trace production?

In the beginning we tried to get our handbags made in the UK, however sadly a lot of factories are no longer operating in our own country and the ones that are left mostly specialise in animal leather. Although our handbags were designed in the UK and our linings are from the UK our manufacturing company is in Turkey. They are fantastic in quality control and we feel lucky to be working with them. We have spent many hours talking to our manufacturer and making sure they understood our ethics. We have had videos and pictures of the factory and speak to our contacts there regularly via video calls. It’s important to us that the people making our pieces are treated with respect and care. 

How important is it to be identified with such organisations as PETA?

It’s very important for us to be identified with organisations like PETA as they’re a trusted charity that does amazing work for animals. Their values are in line with our own and we are proud to be able to have our brand associated with their logo. They are also a trusted source for reviews and recommendations by people looking for specifically vegan and cruelty-free products so their endorsement is important to us.

Why is a personal touch so important to women when shopping and how can you achieve this digitally?

A personal touch is important because women like to have individual identity, we like to feel special and loved and that we are of value. We are not just women we are our own unique characters. We try and showcase our design with different outfits and soon with many different models and locations. This way people can get an idea of what will best suit their characters and wardrobe. We hope wearing one of our handbags will help make women feel their own confident beautiful self. 

Have you found the present economical situation has changed how people shop and if so how?

Of course, people are now shopping online more which is great for us! Technology has allowed us to purchase luxury goods from the comfort of their own homes. It’s also more trusted now even with more expensive items. With many high streets closing some people are left with little choice but to browse and shop online. We also think due to the current climate people are thinking more ethically about where their clothes and accessories are from. People are becoming more conscious of sustainable fashion and being thoughtful about how and where they spend their money. Why wouldn’t you want to be part of saving the planet we all share? It is now frowned upon to mindlessly indulge in fast and cruel fashion without a second thought. It is cool to be kind, cool to be ethical, and cool to be vegan. The world is changing! 

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What has So Long Marianne done to pivot its business to work with these new shopping trends?

We have always had one main goal in mind. That is to launch an ethical, sustainable, luxury vegan brand tailored to those who can afford a little extra. Our vegan leathers have an EU environmental seal of approval and are DMF chemical free. The leathers we use are eco-friendly and can be recycled. We are also talking more! Speaking up about the true cost of fast fashion, why it’s so important for them to turn their back on leather as we have done, and what the benefits are of investing in ethical brands. We provide a cruelty free alternative to leather brands and we only look to collaborate with other brands with the same values as ourselves. We hope that ethical fashion will not be a trend but a way of life for us all. 

Do you think becoming more ethical and sustainable is important in the fashion industry in general what with so much fast fashion?

Sustainable and ethical fashion has never been more important. The suffering of our planet is hugely down to how we have treated animals and our environments. Fast fashion has gotten out of control and we need more brands to put that right. This way luxury brands can also offer more competitive prices to customers. We feel it is very irresponsible to not be looking at more ethical vegan materials even within high end brands that only produce and sell leather. Yes, the consumer is the one that ultimately decides the industry however if people had better options to choose from then we could really see that side of fashion speed up. It is the responsibility of the brands to slow down and hopefully stop the production of fast fashion and leathers in order to make a big impact for this planet we all share. We do not see other vegan brands as our competitors, we see them as our friends on the same mission as ourselves and welcome them. 

What is in the future for So Long Marianne and do you have any exciting new launches in the pipeline?

We have only just begun and with the sustainable vegan fashion market on the rise we are looking at a very bright future. We would love to begin to work with charities and raise awareness for those in need. We want to be spokeswomen not only for our brand but for our planet. Investing in So Long Marianne is making a statement to the world to be part of the solution and not the problem. We have so many amazing designs coming up we can’t wait to share with everyone. Readers can follow us on Instagram @solong.marianne, Facebook and subscribe to our newsletter on our website to be kept up to date with new collections and other news.

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