Leather for life
The moment when she hands over a completed handbag to a client is always the most beautiful but also the most difficult part of her job for the 23-year-old Laib, because it takes days to weeks of work on each piece before the process comes this far.
First she spends a couple of hours finding high-quality Italian leather at the few dealers in Budapest. As soon as she has the necessary material she sits at her sewing machine for days, perfecting the piece until she is absolutely satisfied with every detail … by which time she finds it hard to let her creation go.
Her flatmate says Laib is always focused and a real perfectionist. They were already sharing when Fruzsina founded her brand LAIB this spring, and established a small workshop in the storage room next to the kitchen. Her workplace is tidy. There are only a few fabric rolls, tools and parts such as eyelets and yarn lying around.
Her cast-iron leather-sewing machine stands on a wooden plate, and cost around EUR 600 second-hand. The industrial sewing machines she might need in future can cost EUR 1500-5000 if bought new.
Her parents supported her financially in founding her own brand, as they did during her three-year studies to be a textile designer at Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design Budapest.
Additionally, Laib works 40 hours a week as a project manager for an agency organising IT conferences. This is a job that not only brings in money but also helps to obtain experience in public relations and marketing, and even puts her in contact with potential clients.
She is still selling most of her bags on the basis of word-of-mouth advertising to friends and acquaintances, or people who see them on the street or in pictures on Facebook.
Laib would like to develop her brand within five years to a level where she can make her living just from selling bags. She is considering collecting money via a crowd-funding platform, as did Hungarian leather designer Sára Gulyás.
As soon as she has a larger selection and can produce faster, Laib will present at fairs and designer markets such as the Budapest WAMP market. She can imagine selling her bags and backpacks in multibrand stores throughout the whole country, if there is demand.Due to numerous requests, a specific development of the product line is planned: handbags for men. These are not simple to design at all, Laib says, since men have high expectations in terms of functionality.
However, the good thing about her way of working is that each client can express their special wishes and personalise their handbag. This can include anything from choosing the number of inner pockets to the engraving of initials, or even a whole name.
According to the time and money invested, a LAIB bag costs HUF 15,000-50,000. Her clients are mostly young businesswomen, but also mature women who often like the elegant shopping bags in the LAIB assortment.
However, the backpacks with cut-outs inspired by the geometric shapes found on buildings are rather meant for fashion-conscious people from the creative branch, who are looking for something rather unique.
Laib does not include traditional Hungarian folklore art, such as embroideries, in her work because she prefers to follow a minimalist style. However, as with the cut-outs on the backpacks, she was inspired by Hungarian lace motifs, and her homeland is important for her in many other ways too.
She would like to stay in Budapest to build her brand and her role models are all Hungarian designers; Réka Vágó, the founder of the shoe and accessory brand REKAVAGO for example, where she did her practice in 2015.
She learned the complete production process from Vágó, from the planning and sourcing up to producing and selling. Laib has also ventured into producing leather sandals such as REKAVAGO, but her real passion is clearly for handbags.She noticed at a young age that she was not really sporty or musical but did have a talent for drawing and a deep interest in fashion. She tailored clothes for her Barbie dolls and sometimes she drew outfits on paper and glued them on toothpicks, as if they were dolls.
After finishing the eight years of primary school, Laib spent five years at Budapest Visual Arts High School, where she learned how to design products from different materials by her own hands. She focused on leather accessories and has stuck with this up until today.
You can clearly see her passion for the material when she explains in her workshop which kind of leather is used for which part of the bags. She would like to travel to Italy and visit tanneries in person.
The high quality of the material and processing are very important to her, since only these factors can guarantee that a long-lasting product can be created.
Instead of creating many collections each year, she only has a single line, which she builds from piece to piece and completes with personalising touches upon request.
Each client can choose the colour and texture of the materials. If anything bad happens to the bag it can be returned for repair at any time. Such problems actually contradict her perfectionism but it makes her happy to be able to see her creations again, of course.