Finding Balance with Marina Raphael

Entrepreneur, designer and sixth-generation Swarovski heiress, Marina Raphael tells us about the creation of her eponymous brand and her life as a young boss.

When young people attempt to “make a difference” in the corporate world, they often face accusations of incompetence that are somehow linked to their lack of experience. Elizabeth Holmes, for example, endured great skepticism and scrutiny from Dr. Phyllis Gardner when she sought his advice regarding the affairs of then-19-year-old Theranos, according to cult show The Dropout. Not the best example. Agree, a terrible one. If one isn’t a fan of a tempting opportunity to be misdiagnosed with multiple life-threatening illnesses, so be it. But what about someone like Elizabeth Arden? In her late twenties, Arden challenged the entire makeup culture in the New World by associating it with liberation (and allegedly the suffragette movement) rather than vulgarity. This begs the question: what if a young and flexible mind was the best tool we could have to dismantle convention and innovate?

Courtesy of Marina Raphaël

Elizabeth Arden was the first association that came to mind when I spoke to Marina Raphael (born Marina Rafail-Vogiatzakis) – a 23-year-old entrepreneur and handbag designer whose the creations adorn the digital storefronts of Harvey Nichols, Moda Operandi and Harrods, as well as the coats of arms of starlets such as Rita Ora and Jessica Alba. The new inaugurated Forbes 30 Under 30 honored composed from Athens. Even Zoom’s choppy connection couldn’t get in the way of its vibrant, positive energy which, to be quite frank, washed me clean from the get-go, much like a gallon of ice water on an excruciatingly hot summer morning.

Marina Raphael
Courtesy of Marina Raphaël

Raphael launched her label in 2018. Aged 20 at the time, she juggled her assignments at King’s College London with fulfilling orders, creating new designs and securing deals with retailers in luxury. “I wanted to create a sustainable product. That’s where the idea for the bags came from,” she says. Raphael would later tell Business Insider that to launch her brand, she borrowed some money from a family member and combined it with money she had been saving since she was a teenager. And so, the vision of an international luxury brand began to take shape. “I did a little launch party in Athens, and I almost sold it out overnight,” recalls Raphael, “Lauren Santo Domingo [co-founder and Chief Brand Officer of Moda Operandi] put me on Moda at such an early stage. That’s not to say winning Santo Domingo’s approval was a piece of cake. Prior to being staffed with Moda Operandi’s digital spaces, Raphael tapped New York-based strategist Elizabeth Manice, who worked tirelessly with her connections and emails to help build the brand.

Courtesy of Marina Raphaël

Few can boast of the unwavering support of a 120-year-old crystal maker. Yet, even though he bears the title of “sixth generation member of the Swarovski family”, Raphael’s business is not entirely a family affair. “I started on my own,” she says, “It took me about [a] year to learn a lot of technical aspects [of handbag design] because I had no previous experience. Seams and structure, sketches, chemical reactions between leather and metal, so many crystalline applications, of different textures. I went in [it] and started learning from different people by watching craft videos, trying to figure out what was going on inside the bags.

Marina Raphael
Courtesy of Marina Raphaël

Raphael talks openly about the challenges she faced as a young entrepreneur, as well as the opportunities that were presented to her. “People sometimes associate young age with inexperience. Do I have 40 years of experience in fashion? No. Is my product exceptionally well built? Do I have amazing people supporting me? Do we have excellent customer service, quality and craftsmanship? These are yeses. She continues, “On the other hand, I have a much longer track to success. I don’t have kids, I’m not married, so I can focus on building my brand.” Having four decades of experience in the industry could undoubtedly be an asset in negotiating an outstanding deal with manufacturers and supply chain partners, however, for those who are at the start of their entrepreneurial journey, it It’s often a shot in the dark. In my last interview with Unspun’s Walden Lam, for example, he opened up about being on the “beggar’s side” of these negotiations. , problems associated with finding trustworthy business partners were less existential. “My main partner is Swarovski,” says the designer. “They do my quality control, make sure my suppliers adhere to clear sourcing standards and are certified . I immediately trusted the Swarovski suppliers and my partner who manufactures the bags, based in Florence. In business, trust is what makes you feel in control. Maintaining a close relationship with its manufacturer was essential for Raphael: “I always wanted to produce in Italy. I even learned Italian to better communicate with them and visit the factory.

Courtesy of Marina Raphaël

We see countless heirs and heiresses trying to hide their heritage to appear more “hardworking” – Kendall Jenner’s sad stories of having to lie about her name to enter castings on her own have inspired bearings of eyes from afar. For Raphaël, coming from a supportive background is not something to be ashamed of. Her bags read like a well-rounded concoction of what Raphael considers the essence of an elegant woman and a sentimental love letter to the house of Swarovski. The harmonious coexistence of the Riviera – a strong trapezoidal style with glossy rectangular handles – and Cabana – a crystal-embellished compact clutch, recently sported by Paris Hilton – reflects the dichotomy of Raphael’s identity. Even his muses, “people with their sense of style, who make [her] their creations”, are often Swarovski women, “…like Giovanna [Battaglia] Engelbert [Swarovski Group’s Global Creative Directcor], for example. He’s one of the most creative people I’ve had the chance to work with.

Courtesy of Marina Raphaël

As a Gen Z entrepreneur, Raphael understands the importance of sustainable practices like no one else. “I don’t claim that my brand is 100% sustainable. I don’t think anyone can. I think it’s important to try to take more steps towards sustainable production procedures, material sourcing, etc. she says. In 2020, Raphael launched a new model in collaboration with Moldovan sustainability consultant Doina Ciobanu, “it’s a completely vegan bag, the bottom is made of apple skin leather and 70% pre-consumer cotton. recycled. For every bag sold, a hundred trees are planted in Malawi. Raphaël continues: “I can incorporate [sustainability] from the start. I don’t have a brand that’s been around for 120 years where I would have to change all my practices.

Courtesy of Marina Raphaël

Like many young people entering the job market, especially as an entrepreneur, Raphael has had some doubt cast upon her by industry veterans (being endorsed by Queen Máxima of the Netherlands n is apparently not a sufficient quality testimony). “I’m very young and I can adapt,” she says, “The line is fine, because you have to listen to criticism and implement [it] and improve, and not be too stubborn. On the other hand, you have your aesthetic and your style. Have the confidence to try. Does it still work? Of course not! But at least you know you tried and did your best, and no matter what, it’s meant to happen. This was indeed my initial mindset when starting the brand, but with hard work, support from my business partners and perseverance, I managed to succeed and build a thriving and growing brand. growth over the years.

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