Raff Fair Trade Handbags
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.
How would you describe your 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.
What inspired you to start a handcrafted leather bags company?
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.
You can view the Raff collection here
. Raff is offering free shipping in the EU. For those of you based in the Netherlands you can shop at nl.shopraff.com
. Customers outside the Netherlands can visit shopraff.com
to place an order.
The Student Gift Edit
Stuck for a gift for the student in your family? I’ve picked a bright selection of our handcrafted global interior accessories which will bring colour and warmth to spartan student bedsits. Choose from a selection of unique, one-of-a-kind silk screened cushions and floor cushions, super warm Berber pom pom blankets designed to withstand the cold of the High Atlas mountains and quirky storage solutions.
Gift ideas for students clockwise from top left:
1. Large Storage Basket Bonakele £180 | 2. Trinket Box £22 | 3.Pom Pom Blanket Multicolour Stripe £149 – £183 | 4. Small Spiky Sea Urchin Vase White £25 | 5. Haimi Vintage Embroidered Floor Cushion Cover £110 | 6. Farida Berber Cushion Cover Orange Green £85 | 7. Nejma Berber Cushion Cover Orange £85 | 8. Berber Basket Green Orange £55 | 9. Namibian collection cushions and floor cushions £65 – £87
Gift Inspiration For Him
If you, like me, are only just beginning to think about Christmas presents and haven’t bought a single gift yet then our edit of handcrafted global accessories for him, below might help:
Gift ideas for him clockwise from top left:
1. Berber Bread Basket £45 | 2. Storage Jars from £33 | 3. Moroccan Pom Pom Blanket Natural Black from £149 | 4. Sea Urchin Vase Green Medium £45 | 5. Selection of Cushions from our Chiapas Collection £75 each | 6. Black and Natural Block Weave Baskets Bonakele from £34 | 7. Copper Tea Light Candle Holder Seed Pod Large £28 | 8. Table Runner Yox £110
Happy New Year!
I hope 2014 is a happy, healthy and prosperous one for you all.
To kick off the new year I thought I would start with a blog post on one of our new suppliers, Gone Rural, a social enterprise based in Swaziland producing beautiful baskets. Our Gone Rural baskets were inspired by one of the families working with Gone Rural. Gogo (grandmother) Christina, her daughter Siphiwe and her granddaughter Bonakele all work with traditional materials and techniques passed down from generation to generation to support their families. Gone Rural has taken an age-old craft, handed down from mother to daughter over generations and introduced innovative new weaving techniques, new materials and colours to create eye-catching, intricately constructed, modern baskets. From the Gogo Christina open and large ribbed baskets, to the two tone block weave Bonakele baskets and the tactile black fabric and copper wire trays, all of which can be seen here, each handcrafted piece is visually stunning, providing versatile, contemporary storage solutions for the home and a sustainable income for Swazi women.
Gone Rural is a social enterprise, founded in the 1970s, which works with over 800 women artisans in 13 groups across Swaziland, from young women to gogos. The women are self-employed and are provided with home-based work, enabling them to earn a sustainable income whilst still allowing them to carry out traditional duties and care for their families.
All materials used to create the baskets are renewable, with the signature lutindzi grass (which is indigenous to Swaziland) sustainably harvested. Waste material from local textile mills is also used in some designs, such as the black and copper trays below, with the fabric strips wrapped around the grass to add another texture and interest to the baskets.
Purchases help support Gone Rural boMake (meaning women) a not-for-profit organisation providing health, education and empowerment programmes in Swaziland.