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Laila is the talented designer from Mary and Marie Bags, Mary and Marie design handcrafted luxury leather handbags, made from high quality fabrics. Laila lives a busy lifestyle in Hong Kong but we got the chance to catch up with her on a recent trip to Sydney.

Read all about her magnificent life and one half of the designer duo of Mary and Marie.

How did you begin Mary and Marie?

When I was 19 I feel in love with snowboarding and, quite by chance, a friend asked me to help him start up [surf label] SMP, so I took up fashion design at East Sydney Tech. I would spend my days cutting patterns and samples and then go to college at night to make sure I was doing it properly. This is where I learned attention to detail and how to design and construct functional apparel and accessories.

It wasn't long before I opened a local beachside surf shop and I started selling my designs at these great markets around Sydney. I loved the mix of family and business and appreciated the opportunity to meet and please my customers.

When did you know you wanted to design bags?

I came up with the initial concept of having the inside removable section of our bags, to make day-to-day life more organised and friendly for our ever-changing roles: a seamless switch between career, mum, traveler, exerciser and beach-goer… or when you’re just running wild!

What would the design process entail?

The design process is constantly evolving. Our first two collections of bags were great for mums and also great for the beach. They were made from recycled plastic, making them hardy and functional. I loved our first two collections, but leather is so essential for that luxe feel, and I know that my customers want that too!

We have been able to design leather bags with the same concept as the day bag and keep all the amazing compartments the beach bag has. What is unique about Mary & Marie is that all of the lining still zips out for easy wash care!

Where do you get your inspirations for designs and materials to use on your bags?

When I found a Taiwanese fabric supplier that prided itself on using recycled plastic bags and bottles to make their fabrics I was very excited. Not only do they make amazing fabrics, but they have invested so much time and money and the machinery to knit the recycled yarns.

As I get older my own personal footprint has become important to me. I'm also keen for my [daughters] to learn the impact we make on the environment. Actually they teach me!

How do you determine your typical customer?

Anyone from 18 to 99! But most of our customers are mums in their 30s and 40s.

Why are functionality and organisation so important to you and your designs?

Laila: Being a Capricorn I think being organized is built into my system. If I could create a compartment for everything I would! I like to think it's a perfect combination of fashion and function. I don't like to compromise, why should we sacrifice one for the other? Life is too short.

What advice would you give to aspiring designers?

The same advice I have given my production customers for the past 14 years and that is you need money and a lot of it.

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