We sat down with Ceylon Toplamaoglu and Melis Erdogan, founders of stunning Turkish handbag brand Kia Ora to understand a bit more about how the brand came about, their inspirations and aims for the future.
1. Can you tell us about the origin of the company?
Kia Ora Design is based in Istanbul, Turkey. Our brand was founded by the two of us; two ex-colleagues and close friends. Its name stems from Maori culture, in which Kia Ora is a greeting that expresses wellness and best wishes. Nowadays, it is commonly used in New Zealand by locals to say hi and we love it! We love its sound and the good intentions behind its meaning. We believe that the continious use of Kia Ora for so many years as a positive word intensifies its positive meaning. To that end, we hope that our products will resonate positive energy and well being to people.
2. How has the brand evolved since the first collection?
Every season and experience teaches you something. Since the launch of the brand, the way we’ve been looking at things has totally changed. We’ve learned that what matters isn’t what you look at but what you see. We try to take advantage of everything around us. Ultimately though, our main motivation is to appeal to international women and produce designs they can wear for any occasion.
3. What countries are you currently manufacturing in? Are they specific to your company’s image?
We manufacture in our homeland, Istanbul, Turkey. We’re so lucky that we live in a country that is so strong with manufacturing and leather quality. We definitely take advantage of that. Country traditions of course support us but our designs are always in keeping with our target customer: the international woman.
4. How would you describe your customer?
The Kia Ora customer is elegant, dynamic and likes to differentiate herself through her style.
5. How do you want women to feel when they wear one of your products?
We want Kia Ora women to feel at ease, comfortable, confident and dynamic. Each Kia Ora bag is designed to accompany its user from day to night.
6. Who are your style icons?
The most influential names for us are Emanuelle Alt and Alexa Chung, with their efortless and timeless styles. We would love to see our designs on these two adorable women.
7. Which fashion brands have inspired you?
Among the bag brands, we can definitely pick out Bottega Venetta and Celine.
8. What aspects of your life do you draw inspiration from for the brand image and products?
As two girls, we are always inspired by the strongest women in our lives: our moms.
9. Is there anyone you’d like to design for and why?
We’d love to collaborate with Barney’s 🙂
10. Do you follow fashion trends or do you work from your own inspiration?
We believe in the charm of simplicity. We think that elegance is a harmony of beautiful details and simple lines. We all get influenced by trends, but the important thing is to interpret trends based on your personal style.
11. Can you guide us through your design process?
We first start by sketching our models. Then comes the sampling process, which is the most important part. After approval of the samples, we decide from our season colours which ones to work with.
12. Are there any new design techniques that you’ve introduced for the first time with your latest products?
We use traditional techniques; all of our products are handmade with the best techniques.
13. What were your biggest challenges as a company starting out?
The hardest thing was to actually make the life decision to dedicate our time to creating the brand. Leaving our corporate lives and regular salaries behind was scary for economic reasons and we needed to find the courage to realise our dreams. Then we had to be patient and take the right steps to move forward.
For more about Kia Ora and their beautiful designs, visit Kia Ora here.