Mlouye Reflects on the Intersection of Design and Fashion

By  | 

Mlouye: a forever ‘it’ bag adored by the likes of Gigi Hadid, the Istanbul-born brand packs powerful colors and architectural design into every piece. Recently expanding from bags to shoes, Mlouye continues their legacy of structural, industrially inspired pieces in their latest drops, which include a gummy colorway and the release of the Studio Hobo line.
Founded in 2015, Mlouye’s founder Meb Rure, an industrial designer by training, was tired of designing items and furniture that were not usable. Passionate about the intersections between creativity, usability, and design, Rure started Mlouye and the brand has taken off, with worldwide popularity. Inspired by Bauhaus Movement architects and artists, Mlouye strikes a perfect balance between simplicity, utilitarian function, and beauty in each of their bags, all with a sustainable mindset.
We spoke with Meb Rure, Founder and Creative Director, and Asli Gurdil, PR Coordinator, about all things Mlouye. From the design process to the future to their international marketing, Meb and Asli reflect on the experiences that landed Mlouye international fame.

By Ethan Dincer

Walk us through your latest collection/release. What were some of the inspirations going into it?

Meb Rure: We aim to release something really good every two months. Not a big collection, just refined drops. Our latest model is called Studio Hobo, inspired by folding screens of the popular interior design element in the 1920s-era of Arts Décoratifs. We created Studio Hobo by folding the leather in fine and precise panels. As a descendant of our Studio bag, the design behind Studio Hobo was taking the characteristics of the Studio collection and recreating a sleek silhouette with geometric detailing, referring to the glamorous era.

Mlouye seems to pride itself on its industrial design mixed with fashion. How does this influence your creative direction and designing of Mlouye products?

MR: I developed a hybrid approach. The artistic side of my work is heavy but I’m trying to think as pragmatic as an industrial designer on and off. This helps me to create beautiful products without ignoring user needs and technical limits.

What does the process of design to manufacturing of these highly industrial products look like?

MR: I do not work with muses or mood boards. My creativity mostly relies on experimenting with shapes, geometry, and materials. I prefer building mock-ups rather than sketching. Three-dimensional form is the essence of my work. I also keep the customers and their diverse needs as my compass throughout the design process, which helps me navigate towards a certain direction. There is true artistry, hard work, and labor expertise in the manufacturing process. Each piece is hand-cut, stitched, dyed, and finished by our talented artisans. Our priority is to ensure that the products are long-lasting.

When thinking about how your designs want to be generational and timeless, does that reflect in Mlouye’s decisions in how to design?

Asli Gurdil: Definitely. Mlouye wants every piece to first of all be functional, not just something you can look at. Meb being an industrial designer really helps in terms of functionality. She takes inspiration from different kinds of sources, but she mostly refers to a specific area. And also of course a lot of architects are a source of her inspiration.

“Each piece is hand-cut, stitched, dyed, and finished by our talented artisans. Our priority is to ensure that the products are long-lasting.”

Sustainability is integral to Mlouye’s mission. What does being a sustainable brand look like?

AG: Our understanding of sustainability is different from other brands. For us, it’s about durability and longevity of a product. Our products should last for generations. If you buy one product and use it for many many years, that’s the right way of sustainability for us. We don’t love the word sustainable, but I know editors and the media love it and it’s important to be sustainable, I can tell you that we are sustainable in the design process and also how we source the leather. All of our leather is certified and it’s coming from Italy, the best tanneries that most of the luxury brands are also sourcing from. That’s really important because you can really buy leather from anywhere.

The other aspect regarding the design process. For example, our Sara Tall bags, all the leather panels are cut and stitched into the microsuede. Usually when you design and produce a bag, you need plain and pure leather. If there are any stains from the animal itself–natural stains–you usually throw it away. It’s a huge waste. Instead of doing that, Mlouye uses 3D programs, a different design tactic, as if the bag is an object, not using sketches. So, that makes the process easier and Meb comes up with different solutions on how to use the leather. This is another aspect of sustainability.

Who is Mlouye for?

MR: Everyone who doesn’t follow, who doesn’t blend in.

What’s the future of Mlouye? New collections, new products, new markets, new goals…?

MR: There are some very exciting projects in the pipeline for this year. We are working on other categories to expand our offerings, we want Mlouyers to reflect their individuality in the most complete way. True craftsmanship has been at the center of our mission since day one and soon we will be realizing this long-lasting dream with a very exciting project.

How did Mlouye get its start?

MR: There wasn’t a certain moment when I decided to start a brand. It was a process that was instinctive rather than intentional. I always knew that I wanted to become a creative person. I was so into fashion during my teenage years but it was perceived as a superficial career path to pursue, so I studied industrial design. I was interested in all aspects of creativity, designed furniture pieces, packaging, interiors however none of the stuff I designed was for my own use. On the other hand, the things that I wanted the most – like a Hermes Lindy – was way too far from me to get. So I started conceptualizing handbags for myself. Designing handbags, making mock-ups, working with leather was so satisfying, so I continued. That is how Mlouye started.

Where did the name Mlouye come from?

AG: Meb wanted to come up with a unique name that didn’t necessarily have a specific meaning, considering the brand started as an online-only DTC (Direct-to-Consumer) business, an untranslatable word without any equivalence on Google would be ideal. As she was scribbling down a few letters on a notebook and started flipping the pages, her eyes picked up the Mlouye letters, then she decided to name the brand that. It is pronounced as Me-Loy but we love hearing our customers from all over the world pronouncing it differently.

How did Mlouye last during the pandemic? It seems as if the brand skyrocketed during it when a lot of fashion brands were struggling.

AG: Being online helped a lot. Usually, contemporary brands like us depend mostly on retailers, the wholesale part of the business. Of course, this is important, we cannot neglect that. We are more powerful online through our website than through any other retailer. We didn’t start our business depending on third parties. Thanks to that, we have a very loyal client base.
There’s always people who would like to buy, no matter if there’s a pandemic or not. There’s always a need for this kind of special products. We are really doing something special, you can understand it’s coming from our brand. We didn’t get affected that much thanks to our online presence.

In terms of third party retailers, do you work with a lot of local Turkish or international retailers, or keep it mostly in-house?

AG: We keep it mostly in-house. We actually don’t have any retailers in Turkey. We are not that famous in Turkey either. We are more well-known in the US and Asia. When we started we were really really strong in Korea and East Asian clients seem to really appreciate the design and colorways. We are working with several retailers around the world, but none in Turkey. Maybe in the future.

“It is pronounced as Me-Loy but we love hearing our customers from all over the world pronouncing it differently.”

Is there a reason you think it’s not that popular in Turkey? Even though it’s made in Turkey?

AG: It’s not that it’s not that popular, but we are not necessarily promoting the brand that much in Turkey. As we are doing very well in the other markets we gave our focus to where we are really good at. We have many Turkish clients and you can order to Turkey through our website, but we are not doing promotional events both online and offline in Turkey. But there’s not a specific reason. Maybe in the future we can open up to Turkey in a very very different concept that would surprise Turkish clients and be very different from what other brands are doing. Also in Turkey there are a lot of brands.

Was it challenging to start a label in Istanbul? Talk me through some of the benefits and challenges of the Turkish creative fashion design scene? The situation with Turkey’s current economic state?

MR: Istanbul is not the best entrepreneurial environment, it comes with lots of problems to face, a lot of challenges to overcome. Especially now, the country has fallen to one of the worst economic recessions. All the constraints on the business side aside, the city has a unique allure and a dynamic soul. It’s rich with culture and creative people. I value that. All other constraints that come with this city motivate us to generate new ideas in Mlouye and to provide focus. Trying to break free from boundaries to thrive our innovative thinking. 

Discover more about Mlouye, right here!