When we first saw the bags made by this luxury leather label we took notice. Luxurious soft Italian leathers in classic designs are made by expert craftsmen, with our favourites being the Baker briefcase, blue laptop bag and this Nerissima holdall.
In a quest to find out more, we sat down Dr Neri Karra herself over coffee.
Tell us about your yourself and your brands history
"The desire to create something of my own, and to give something of value to others, was born in me when at the age of 11, I had left my home country. Along the 360,000 other Bulgarians of Turkish ethnicity, my family and I immigrated to Turkey. We faced poverty, and many challenges that come along with being immigrants, and at that moment, I knew that the only way out of this would be through getting a good education. My perseverance led me to receive a scholarship at the age of 18, to pursue my undergraduate degree in the United States. It is true when they say that it is a land of opportunity, but I also see the U.S. as a land of inspiration. It was there, during my studies, that I first had the idea to start my own label of leather products. The first collection was made all from Italian leather (I had worked as a translator during high school, and would take business owners to Italian trade fairs, where they bought leather from), and started to offer to sell in Russia. Russia, at the time, was just coming out of communism, and I was also just a kid, who had immigrated from a communist Bulgaria to Turkey. So, it made sense that I would first go and offer the products in places where I had a shared understanding and history with. As the brand started to take off, I also realized my life-long dream of going to Cambridge University. I got accepted to the PhD programme, where my thesis focused on the fashion and global entrepreneurship. I actually had published papers in top academic journals, in addition to lecturing (and I still do) at some of the best universities and colleges. Today, the brand continues strongly and we are expanding into new markets, and opening new stores."
Who is your typical customer?
"My customer is someone who likes to dress well, is aware of quality and demands quality - whether that is a bowl of pasta, or a handbag, or a dress. What characterizes my brand is its outstanding quality, and my typical customer is someone who appreciates that. My customer asks questions, wants to know how things are made, cares for the environment and is also well travelled. I say 'well travelled' because one of my best selling categories is the travel goods - passport covers, holdall bags, laptop bags, as well as the bags of course."
What makes your leather and craftsmanship so special?
"I hand select and visit every single factory where I buy the leather from, including the support material, even the glue. All leather is French calf leather, tanned in Italy, and all skins and hides are from animals that were raised for milk, wool and meat, and then it is tanned in Italy. The leather suppliers I work with are some of the best in this industry. l also make sure to work only with suppliers where the hides are of animals that were bred for other purposes. All the suppliers I work with comply with at least one of the internationally recognized standards for quality. All the exotic skin used in my products are only bought from the world’s most exclusive and highest quality tannery, that holds the very first ISO 9001 certificate in the tanning industry, in addition to providing CITES certificate that ensures traceability for all the exotic hides. Therefore, Neri Karra is both substance and style, ensuring that the leather products are not only made beautifully, designed elegantly but also that they meet sustainability, ethics, and quality criteria that are set by internationally recognized bodies. What makes the craftsmanship special is the fact that the craftsmen I work with have at least 15 years of experience, and I have worked with the same team of craftsmen since the inception of my brand, and we have now become a family. When my craftsmen work on a product, they work with love, with the greatest attention to detail because the final work is a source of pride, a source of admiration, and therefore, even the slogan for my business has been 'love made visible'."
Do you think men are using bags such as briefcases more than they did in the past?
"I don't think so. It is changing. Briefcases are a classic - they will always sell, but if you look at today's modern man, there is a lot less sturdiness, seriousness. There is an air of freedom, ease to how they dress and express themselves, and it is something that I really like, personally."
If we could buy just one item from your collection, which should we get and why?
"A wallet. We make the most beautiful, excellent quality, well-made wallets that have timeless and classic style, as well as a sense of fun."
Any exciting plans?
"We will soon have our own e-shop launching, and I am particularly excited about that. There are definitely surprises in store for our brand, and so, watch this space. We are also planning a collaboration that I am particularly excited about, but I can't just yet reveal all the details. I am also starting Neri Karra Foundation, a charity that aims to help further education in developing countries, and those in need. I was able to create what I created today, thanks to education, and today, it is my way of giving back, of completing the cycle. I want to give back to education, and allow many many others to better their own lives through education. This is actually a project that makes my heart sing, and I am incredibly, incredibly excited about it."
Article by Menswear Style