Colombian-born Marcela Velez and Melissa Losada present a prime example of the exceptional talent that can come out of Latin America. It was only two years ago when they launched their luxury handbag label M2Malletier, and in this short time, the brand has positioned itself as a leading emergent luxury name. A perfect balance between modern and minimal style, their the recognizable signature ‘needle’ handle – inspired by medieval armour and medical instruments – has been sported by the likes of Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba and Cate Blanchett, just to name a few.
By Natalie Theodosi @
Photos courtesy of M2Malletier
The duo was studying at Parsons School of Design in New York City when they met, and soon envisioned a handbag that would preserve their Colombian roots while, as they say, “transforming traditional leather goods into an intelligent, extraordinary piece for collectors of the remarkable and unexpected”.
It all started when famous street-style photographer, Tommy Ton began to capture industry insiders during the Fashion Weeks: from Russian entrepreneur Miroslava Duma, to Caroline Issa, fashion editor of the British magazine Tank, carrying their slick leather handbags, gold bar handle in hand. M2Malletier gained instant recognition and their signature pieces became part of every modern girls’ wish list.
Melissa and Marcela claim their sudden success comes of presenting a different option in the market, something that, as they say, “does not have the brand embedded all over the bag,” and ultimately also providing a modern, updated perspective on luxury: “luxury is something that is timeless and classic, that you will be able to wear now, put it away, bring it out 20 or 30 years from today and still look amazing”. They explain that even though they have a strong signature with the gold needle handles of their handbags, its power is a ‘quiet’, subtle one.
This interpretation of luxury and fashion aims to connect with women who are self- confident and favour design and high quality over ostentatious brand logos. This is why it only makes sense that Marcela and Melissa also talk about the importance of female empowerment, “it doesn’t matter what age women are or what society they live in, it’s important to have a voice and stand up for their beliefs”. They hope that apart from providing women with great fashion pieces, they can set an example, through their brand, of the importance of following one’s goals and working hard towards them.
The duo’s references about elegance and quiet power are drawn from iconic women like Marie Laure de Noailles, a powerful and influential patron of arts as well as the female characters of Italian neorealist films, who remained elegant under the harsh, post-war conditions. When putting together M2Malletier, Marcela and Melissa look for similar qualities in the women that inspire them today, “they are strong minded, powerful characters but also carry themselves in an elegant way no matter the circumstances”.
When the conversation shifts towards their native Colombia, they speak with equal passion about the potential of its art and design talent. They cite Esteban Cortázar as one to look at closely, and hope that more members of the fashion industry will become more active and involved in searching for raw talent and helping them get support they deserve.
Even though their work is informed by a variety of sources like the “modern but classic look” of the designs of Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill, Parisian flea markets and. Marcela and Melissa always honour their Latin American heritage and stay connected to their Colombian roots. This is why they lean towards “deep intense natural colours”, evident in the beautiful dark burgundy and forest green leathers of their latest collection.
They also express their support and encouragement of Colombiamoda, the country’s main fashion event held yearly in the city of Medellin. “It’s a great platform for young and new talent to get the attention and exposure that they need”, saying that it would be a great honour to be part of it and follow the likes of Haider Ackermann who also showcased his collection there as a special guest, last year.
To any up-and-coming designer from Colombia or Latin America, the success of M2Malletier should stand as a clear indicator of the recognition that can achieved. It’s no longer required to be based in a major fashion capital or to have a specific background in order to create a successful fashion brand. In fact, both Melissa and Marcela are currently based in Barcelona, and express a liking for their slight isolation from the fashion scene, “it allows us to take a break and work on our inspiration and designs”, they say.
On the other hand, what is indeed a necessity for a brand is having a clear vision of the aesthetic it aims to present. Also, just as essential, is having a true passion for the craft and a great relationship with your collaborators. This duo’s synergy is palpable in the conversation and it’s surely a key element of their success: “we are like sisters, we laugh together, cry together, have fun and work hard together”.