I had been looking for a small, sturdy, stylish and comfortable leather backpack for ages when I came across the Hugo backpack from Raff. I was thrilled to discover a contemporary backpack, that can also be worn as a cross body bag, which has been handcrafted using traditional techniques. Each bag is handmade in India according to Fair Trade principles. We caught up with Raff’s Creative Head, Rashi Agarwal, to find out more about the brand.
Raff is inspired from the simplicity of minimalism. A contemporary brand but still traditional in the way that the bags are made. We focus on the details and the craftsmanship to provide great quality leather bags which are unique and stand the test of time. Raff supports Fair Trade and we pay fair wages to our craftsmen, which is an integral part of the brand.
Leather is something that I love working with as it only gets better with age. After graduating in 2012 from London College of Fashion in Accessory design, with the extensive knowledge of leather bag making under my arsenal, I joined a leading leather handbag company in India as a Product Designer. Working there for two years gave me a good insight into how the leather handbag industry works. During this time I met my now fiance and partner Maurits. Designing and making handbags at home for myself was a hobby. A tote bag that I made (which is now called Maus, named after Maurits)(above) inspired us to develop the range and start our own leather bags company. We wanted to create something that is unique but is still practical and of top quality. We worked hard on the designs and the brand for two years before finally launching Raff in January, 2016.
Why buffalo leather?
Raff handbags are made of natural, vegetable tanned buffalo leather which is one of the strongest hides and provides durability to the bag. It is the perfect leather for hand stitching as it doesn’t stretch over-time. Also, our bags are quite unique in their shapes and it is an important design element. The buffalo leather holds the shape really well even with frequent use.
What makes a Raff bag unique?
Raff’s unique shapes sets it apart from other bags in the market, yet they still blend seamlessly with a modern women’s wardrobe. The handbags are completely handmade and hand stitched using a saddle stitch technique. This painstaking and traditional construction method offers unmatched strength, lasting longer than normal machine stitching. This is not commonly seen in brands at our prices, as it is very time consuming and a dying art. We wanted to bring that to our brand and hence each bag is completely handmade with no use of any machinery. Our leathers are environmentally friendly and harmless to the skin. They are made by artisans in India who are provided fair pricing and healthy living conditions.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Inspiration is everywhere. Modern art and architecture are a great source of inspiration. I look for interesting shapes that I could redesign and create into a silhouette for handbags. Raff’s current collection was inspired from a top view image of the Praxis 48 typewriter by Ettore Sottsass and Hans von Klier. I took the negative space and started sketching, which resulted in the design for Maus.
What’s next for Raff?
We are very excited to finally reach out to customers in Europe and are looking to expand our presence there. Currently I am working on designing small leather goods and a few designs for men to add to the range, which is very exciting.