The sisters behind contemporary leather goods label Manu Atelier share their thoughts on their talented family

Daughters of handicraftsman, sisters Merve and Beste Manastir grew up with an infatuation with handbags – so it was only natural for them to launch contemporary leather goods brand Manu Atelier in 2014.

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Anna Vitiello for #manuspeople (Photo: Courtesy of Manu Atelier)

Manu Atelier is a family business—can you tell us how the brand started, how your father’s involved and what it’s like working as sisters?

We were exposed to the raw talent of our father, one of Turkey’s oldest artisans, who created leather goods by hand at his atelier in Istanbul since he’s eleven years old. Our childhood passed by combining the vestigial leathers and by making miniature handbags with them. Handbag is the most tangible element of our childhood and infatuation with our father and his artisanship. Smell of the leather ties the past and the present for us… These were in existence both in our hearts and our minds while we were dreaming about this brand. In brief, the history of Manu Atelier has already started many years ago when we were yet two little girls; it was just born in February 2014.

Working as sisters has been and still is a great journey for us. At the beginning, it was more like discovering each other at work and it was more challenging. We had lots of arguments but in time we learned each other strengths and today we both can’t imagine doing this job alone or with someone else.

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Jeanette Madsen for #manuspeople (Photo: Courtesy of Manu Atelier)
Anna Vitiello for #manuspeople (Photo: Courtesy of Manu Atelier)

What were some challenges you faced when starting the business?

We have faced lots of challenges, from creating the perfect product to building up the office team as well as the production team from scratch. And doing both the creative and business work at the same time has also been really challenging as well.

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Anna Vitiello for #manuspeople (Photo: Courtesy of Manu Atelier)

Do you think it’s an advantage being women creating shoes (and accessories) for other women, as you’d know how they feel and what women look for? 

Doing this work as women definitely put us one step ahead. While we are making our designs, we are questioning our own day to night needs via considering our anatomical structure. We have the opportunity to observe the accessory usage habits very well. Apart from this, we have the opportunity to try and examine the products on ourselves. Wearing these enables us to trial our products in our everyday lives and make sure they meet the end user’s needs in terms of style and comfort.  We also like it as it feels like we are building some sort of exclusive bond with our users.

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Anne Laure Mais for #manuspeople (Photo: Courtesy of Manu Atelier)
Anne Laure Mais for #manuspeople (Photo: Courtesy of Manu Atelier)

We’ve seen guys carry your bags as well—did you expect that? Will there be a menswear range at some point?

Yes, it’s very exciting to see our bags on men as much as women. We did not set out this with aim, but we never made a sharp distinction on genders. It is a fact that we address our audience as #manuspeople since the beginning also symbolizes our purpose to break down the gender walls. 

Bettina Looney for #manuspeople (Photo: Courtesy of Manu Atelier)
Flora Johnston for #manuspeople (Photo: Courtesy of Manu Atelier)

In the context of everything that’s going on in the world today, what do you feel is a fashion brand’s role in all this?

Fashion has always been part of, or even lead sometimes the cultural and social changes. Such influence should be used for the “good” definitely. And not just fashion brands but everyone who wants things to be changed needs to be part of the change, to support their causes and make only “the good things” fashionable.

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