MORELLE - How, when, where?

MORELLE - How, when, where?

It was in Oslo, Norway in 2006 that the idea for Morelle was first conceived. Initially I wanted to design and make knit dresses. The name “Morelle” came from the mushroom Morel. I had been browsing a book on mushrooms and found the beehive shape of the mushroom interesting and the name stuck with me.

After realizing knitting was far too time consuming to be made into a business, I gave up on it. The following year I moved to Amsterdam, the Netherlands and rented an apartment in the hip area De Pijp, right next to the Albert Cuyp market. For those that haven’t been there, it’s a market filled with flowers, cheese (of course, we’re in Holland!), fabrics, clothes, fresh fish, produce and vintage shops. I browsed through the fabrics, touching them to feel their texture and imagined what I could make with them. At that time, I didn’t even have a sewing machine but the temptation was so big (I had already designed in my head decorative cushions) that I went out and bought a sewing machine. I didn’t know how to sew but the machine had a manual, so it was pretty much learn as you go from there.

The first thing I made was a headboard for the bed and some cushions. I made the headboard from brown corduroy and used some Indian fabric to make some round cushions and bolsters for the bed. Actually for a complete novice they came out pretty good. Then I started to make some skirts. I wanted to make clothes, but to make clothes you really need to know how to make patterns and I didn’t have patience for that.

I had some corduroy and buttons left from the headboard and thought, “Why not make some bags?”

My first bag

The design was pretty crude but also not bad for a self-made designer.

It was around that time I came across Etsy via a cooking blog. I thought, “This is perfect! I will make some more bags and start my own Etsy shop.” That was back in 2008 and Etsy was still relatively new. Within a few days I had my first sale! Then more and more followed. With the help of a friend whose mother was a seamstress, I learned a lot about sewing and pattern making. From the start, I have always made my own patterns; I have never used patterns from magazines or websites.

I started to use all different kinds of fabrics and even wool. After 6 months I was able to quit my job and work full-time making bags. I was even then featured on Design-milk’s fashion section: Morelle -The Truffle for my best selling bag at the time - The Truffle.

Photo from Design Milk’s post and the Truffle in Leather

Nine months later, I got an email from Etsy asking me to be a featured seller! Back then they chose a successful designer, had an interview with them and posted it on their front page for 3 days. It was a huge deal! Morelle seriously took off then. By that time I had started making leather bags.

The Morchella was one of our best-sellers

Morelle was hugely successful from then on, but in 2010 Ι got the opportunity to move to Australia and decided to take a year off. A year turned out to be 4 years, but in 2013 I was back and started over again.

It took a while to get back on track. Etsy had become huge by that time, and there was a lot of competition. But Morelle was already an established brand: our 100% positive feedback earned the trust of new customers. It was a lot of hard work to come up with new designs, new suppliers and to start over in general. But the hard work paid off.

In 2015 I introduced the Shopper and the Tote as two easy-to-wear, everyday designs. They were a huge success. Our Shopper was featured on Etsy’s blog Three Need-to-Know Bag Designers.

The Shopper and the Tote 2016 versions

The original versions were made from soft leather, but we quickly realized that for a raw-edge model a tougher leather was more appropriate. So we did some research for some stiffer leather, and we found a tannery in Tuscany that makes amazing vegetable tanned leather.

The vegetable tanned bags are our best-selling items now. We’ve sold hundreds, and to this date we’ve had fewer than 5 returns. This is the kind of leather that ages beautifully with time creating a patina. Think of those vintagey looking postman bags – but better. Our Shoppers and Totes have been “updated” now to include a lining and a zippered closure. And for this Spring/Summer collection, we made a variation of the Shopper to include a crossbody strap! Our customers have been asking for this for years. The Shopper is too bulky a bag to made into a crossbody, so I made a variation of the straps and made it a tad smaller.

The Crossbody Shopper

It was really great to revive Morelle again, but I didn’t do it alone. I got the help I always wanted (and needed)!

My sister always wanted to join me. She was a typical case of 9-5 worker that hated her job and envied the joy of creativity of my job. But quitting your job in Greece during the economical crisis was unobtrusive. IF you had a job you had to stick with it because unemployment and poverty were hitting red.

As a really analytical person she helped me with all the statistics and finance buzz, which I in turn hated. She even took an e-commerce marketing course to get in the spirit of online shopping. They say choose a partner that is exactly the opposite of. And that’s what I did. I was the creative one, and I just needed the analytical one.

Eventually she quit her job after 10 years of coping for it and joined Morelle.

The idea for morelle home

One night Jenny and I were having a “business” meeting over some wine, in a small winehouse bar in Ioannina. Just like many cities, Ioannina has a part of town that still has the traditional old houses and the roads are made of stone. In that part of town there are a lot of the old craftsmen selling throws and brass kitchenware traditional to the area. It is not hard to get inspired here. In other parts of the world you would call these items “ethnic”, as they are ethnic to Greek culture. I’m going to ahead and say here that ethnic is a Greek word; ethnikos in Greek means national. We had this idea of creating a shop bringing all these “ethnic” home decoration items together.

Since it all starts from our studio, we took our primary material - leather and thought “Why not start with cushions?” I did my market research and it turns out there is a huge lack of leather cushions on the market. But why? Leather cushions are great in so many ways. First of all, they add a tone of luxury to any room immediately. Secondly, as with bags, they are more durable! If you have leather cushions, chances are your children will inherit them. Some people say they will be too hot or too cold. Well, they are decorative, just like the ones made out of kilim rugs which are scratchy. Yes, you can lie on them, but they are not made for comfort.

So I made some home decor items from leather and traditional woven woolen fabric.

From left to right: patchwork cushion in veg. tanned leather, ottoman in veg. tanned leather, bean bag in soft leather, coasters in veg. tanned leather and vintage woven throw.

Jenny learned another old but fashionably current craft; macrame and made some amazing pillows and wall-hangings:

Jenny’s unique macrame designs

Making home decor items was a further way to express our creativity and to work with my favourite material: leather! Jenny and I explored different designs and leather types to find the best for our new home decor line. Leather decor is quite rare and we want to become experts at it. Leather cushions are hard to find and usually overpriced. We want to change that and offer quality leather home decor at reasonable prices and a great variety! So far our home decor line is having the same success as our handbags, and we are still at the beginning.

Jenny has really uplifted the brand doing all the nitty gritty work I’m literally incapable of – opening our Amazon shop and doing all the backend work on our online shops and  I've been busy creating so many new styles, while tackling photoshoots and customers. Stay tuned for more amazing stuff coming soon!

Thanks for visiting!