INTERVIEW WITH MIN ERDL-ZHANG – FOUNDER AND CREATIVE MASTERMIND BEHIND MIA MIN
For the world première of the new Eleganza and Extravaganza collections of MiA MiN smartphone bags.
At Berlin Fashion Week 2019, the new label MiA MiN unveiled its smartphone bags for the world to see for the first time. The showcased products from the Couture collection were unique handmade pieces made using specially designed Italian leather and adorned with wonderfully decorative, iconic ornamental elements.
MiA MiN is now launching two new collections: Eleganza and Extravaganza. With identical features and the trademark premium leather, these two collections differ from the high-end Couture collection in style and price.
In addition to the stunning design, what makes the MiA MiN smartphone system so special is that the bags allow you to access your smartphone at any time and, when combined with the optional peripheral bags and the Magic Ring, it becomes a highly functional and adjustable system unlike any other.
Ms Erdl-Zhang, what is special about your label and what sets you apart from other labels?
My label MiA MiN is exclusively centred on smartphone bags. They offer an unprecedented synthesis of design and functionality. I'm finally giving the object we pick up the most often every day, and which our lives have come to revolve around, the attention it deserves.
What exactly do you mean by attention?
I want my customers to feel joy every time they use their smartphone thanks to the sleek design, the elegant feel and the perfect workmanship of the MiA MiN smartphone bags. My smartphone bags also double up as pretty accessories. Wearers can use them to escape the technological monotony of smartphones and express their personality.
What material do you use for your smartphone bags and how do you create that beautiful look and feel?
Unlike many smartphone cases that are simply injection moulded using plastics, I only use premium leather. I work with various manufacturers worldwide, with many based in Italy, to create the unusual designs of the surfaces. I give the Couture collection an additional and unique twist with my striking monogram brooch, which opens up more design potential.
Isn't it really difficult to get the leather to fit current smartphones so precisely, especially with the almost bezel-less displays?
Yes, that was one of my biggest challenges and it took me more than two years to master. I wanted the smartphone to be instantly usable without it having to be taken out of a bag. To achieve this, it must be possible to see the display clearly and operate the touchscreen.
It would have been easy if I had used plastic, but I wanted to create a high-end product that people could fall in love with. That's why I developed special processing methods with my suppliers, which are carried out by hand by specially trained experts.
Every detail is lovingly crafted, with the neat edges and the precisely worked decorative seams emphasising the difference. This way, the smartphone, a device we rely on day in and day out, is transformed into a stunning accessory that is a joy to wear every day.
The fine leather in the Couture collection is paired with a decorative metal brooch studded with sparkling stones or pearls. Are they precious stones?
Given the amount of stones we have on a brooch, we couldn't afford precious stones and they would be too risky for an item used on a daily basis. We will definitely bring out a special precious stone collection later on. The high-quality stones and pearls from Swarovski and Preciosa that we currently use are almost indistinguishable from real ones, shining and sparkling in beautiful splendour.
Now we've already covered aesthetics, but you've emphasised the connection between beauty and functionality as one of the distinguishing features. Can you talk a bit about functionality?
The smartphone is first and foremost a commodity, and Apple's success was rooted in its ease of use. That was my model. With my smartphone bag, you always have your smartphone with you. It's always at your fingertips and my customers can use it right away without having to search for it or pull it out of a bag.
It's really easy to answer a call or take a quick snap. You can keep your hands free for other activities, as you don't even need to hold the smartphone. The Magic Ring and my chain make this possible.
Can you tell us about this Magic Ring?
It's brilliant because its carabiner function allows the wearer to change the length of the chain as needed and, depending on her mood, to wear the smartphone bag in many different ways: as a crossbody, belt, halter-neck, shoulder or wristlet bag or as a clutch or purse. The possibilities are endless.
And do you have any other ideas for making life easier for your customers?
Yes, I do. I came up with a solution to accommodate the popular headphones as well. Until now, you had to stow them separately and look for them before you could use them.
The solution is an additional small peripheral bag with the same design as the main bag. It is part of the chain so you always have the headphones to hand and don't lose them.
Do I have to buy this peripheral bag separately?
In the Couture collection, it is included in the delivery. In the new Eleganza and Extravaganza collections it can be ordered at the same time or separately later on. This gives you the option to combine bags and peripheral bags with different designs.
Incidentally, designing the peripheral bag and the Magic Ring was a very complicated process that cost me many sleepless nights. But now I am delighted with the perfect result.
Not only have you designed a smartphone bag, you have created an entire system! Was this all your own idea or does something similar already exist?
I am very well acquainted with the other offerings for smartphones but there's nothing with even remotely comparable functionality. My MiA MiN styling system, which consists of a smartphone bag, chain, ring, shoulder strap and two different peripheral bags, is much more than just a bag or case. There is nothing else like it on the market.
And I forgot to mention that my bag offers the option of carrying credit or code cards, ID, a driver's licence, bank notes and so on in two compartments.
This enables women to go to events without having to watch their handbags all the time. They are free to move around without that constant worry. Even lipstick is taken care of, with a space included for it in its own peripheral bag. So there's no chance of losing anything!
A system like this must have huge potential. Do you already have ideas for future improvements?
Of course! I have made improvements to the peripheral bags in the last few months. Now there's a second cute peripheral bag for lipstick, eyeliner or even a pump bottle filled with hand sanitiser that seamlessly blends in with the existing system.
Different chains are another design option, allowing women to vary their look: low-key during the day and fancier in the evening. A little tip: The additional elements make great gifts.
You can continue to use the additional elements even if you switch to a new smartphone with a new bag. So my system is versatile and future-proof. And I have many more ideas that I've got to keep secret for now.
You also sell to men, don't you?
Of course! Firstly, the MiA MiN styling system makes an excellent gift and, secondly, there are some avant-garde men among our customers. In the Eleganza collection in particular, the jet-black Dio Mio products with crocodile-embossed calfskin are very popular with our male customers.
What smartphone models are your bags available for and what does the MiA MiN smartphone bag collection look like in detail?
At the moment, we are focusing on popular Apple iPhones, including the 12 series, and some Samsung models. We are in the process of designing bags for other manufacturers.
Our high-end Couture collection is sewn individually by hand and custom-made for the customer, making each case unique. It stands out with its decorative brooch, special materials, fine Italian leather and sparkling stones.
The exchangeable brooch is a special feature. Customers can use it to personalise their MiA MiN to suit the occasion. The brooch is also a great gift idea. The COUTURE line is gorgeous and wonderfully individual.
I decided to go for a modern, urban look for the two new collections, Eleganza and Extravaganza.
For the Eleganza line, I went for plain, premium leathers, some with a crocodile effect, which go well with everyday looks. It is all about timeless, luxurious elegance but is also understated.
The Extravaganza line picks up on current colour and pattern trends and is designed for anyone who likes to make a grand entrance. It suits the courageous, self-confident woman who likes to be expressive, artistic and sometimes even provocative. We will also launch new designs for these every season.
And what product lines and designs are available for delivery?
The Eleganza and Extravaganza products are usually delivered within a few days. We need twelve weeks for the Couture pieces, which are made to order.
Now we'd love to hear about the creative woman who came up with it all. How did you get into fashion?
When I was a little girl I was trained in calligraphy and made my first trousers using fabric scraps following my ideas. That was my artistic side coming through. But then I had to be sensible and study computer science first. What a contrast! But today I benefit from both elements. I combine my talent for aesthetic design with my understanding of good and practical functionality.
And how did you come up with the idea for the MiA MiN smartphone bag?
I was in the process of bringing my long-held dream of having my own fashion label to life. My first designs were a new generation of bags. Then, as I was taking a taxi from the airport to my hotel in Milan for Milan Fashion Week, I realised I had left my smartphone behind when I was boarding. It was such a drama! I was completely helpless.
Most people know how it feels when you can't find your smartphone at an important moment, even if it's not always quite as dramatic as it was for me. And so I came up with a solution that would allow my customers to always keep their smartphone by their side and ready to use without having to hold it in their hand all the time.
At the same time, I wouldn't be Min if I hadn't designed this product to look incredible, to combine the joy of functionality with the joy of beauty.
As well as designing a bag, you have created a whole system. Why?
It quickly became clear to me that the basic idea of combining functionality and beauty had much more potential. Where could you put your headphones, lipstick, bank notes, credit card or key card? Could I make it into a small handbag? And how could I design it so that it can be worn in different ways? I was able to address all these questions with my MiA MiN system. It is far more than just a bag.
What does the name MiA MiN mean?
Since my label is very personal to me, the name contains my first name Min, which I gave myself at the age of twelve. It denotes reason and intellect as well as sensitivity and empathy. My husband finds the intuitive choice I made in my youth to be very fitting because it really reflects the many different sides of my personality. And when we were in Italy, thinking about a name for my label, he came up with the lovely "MiA MiN", which means "My Min".
MiA MiN caters to the mind and emotions and we express this with our slogan: "Smart Emotions".