If you haven’t heard of MANU Atelier – the luxury leather label started by Beste and Merve Manistir – then chances are, you’ve probably seen one of their bags. MANU Atelier’s perfectly crafted box bag, aptly named ‘The Pristine’, has made waves in the fashion world over the past few months, worn by everyone from bloggers to editors — even Facebook’s Head of Fashion Partnerships Eva Chen featured the bag in one of her iconic #EvaChenPose shots.
Although MANU Atelier’s Pristine styles could be said to have reached ‘it’ bag status, the way the pair create each bag is totally opposed to the throwaway mentality; the belief that a bag is for life is central to their brand ethos. Growing up in Turkey as the daughters of one of the oldest hand craftsman and leather goods manufacturers in Istanbul, the sisters were inspired to create their line in 2014, modernising their father’s designs and making every bag by hand. We sat down with Beste and Merve to hear exactly how they make their bags, how important artisan craftsmanship is to their brand and why they’ll never change their production methods.
Beste and Merve Manistir
Luxury leather handbags
Istanbul, London, LA, New York, Ontario, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Korea and Hong Kong (and we’re growing every day!)
Our inspiration source is women themselves – we call them ‘MANU’s people’. The MANU Atelier woman is one who defines the brand, not one who is defined by a brand. She is passionate, original, pure and courageous, but can be fragile, sharp, weak and strong. She has an attitude, her style is her own. She is both inspired and inspiring, embraces her spirituality, aspires to her dreams and lives through her passions.
Our father has been a making handcrafted leather goods since 1961 and was working with leather throughout our childhoods, eventually passing on his talent of combining vegetable leathers to make something beautiful. We used to play on the balcony of our father’s first atelier above Istiklal Avenue in the Beyoğlu district and loved the smell of the leathers and the bustle of the factory. We spent lots of time in his studio just waiting for our own bags to be finished – he used to make us beautiful mini backpacks and handbags as children which we always loved. When we were dreaming about creating a brand, it was these memories that inspired us to go ahead and create something for ourselves.
Yes, he has always been and still is our inspiration. He is an amazing human being as well as an amazing craftsman. I think we always knew that we would eventually create our own business because we wanted to follow in his footsteps, as well as show the world his amazing work.
The Pristine was our first style, the box bag which we recognise as our signature, and was inspired by an old design that our father created and we remodelled it in new fabrics and sizes.
MANU Atelier offers considered designs. Each piece is still hand-cut by our father, and we create every bag with an extreme attention to detail. We offer sincerity, originality and a family-produced product, while still making bags that feel contemporary and relevant.
The most important thing for us is to remain old-school and make sure we use traditional methods to create each product. We want customers to feel that each piece is unique.
We work together on every single stage of the business from start to finish. Of course, there are times when we do clash, but we believe the best results come from those arguments, especially while we are working on the new collection. To work together so closely you have to be open to different suggestions. When an idea comes up, we directly take note of it and share it with each other. Our father is also very much involved in the business, and he has invaluable experience to offer us. When we are preparing each collection, he gives us feedback, and it is this real collaboration between the artisan and the designer which is at the heart of MANU Atelier.
We would advise young designers to focus on what they want to create and believe in it. Work hard and stay true to your vision.
There are lots of different cultures and backgrounds in Istanbul – it’s an exciting city. You can see a beautiful combination of European and Middle Eastern influences in so many different areas of the city, from fashion and food to art and architecture. There so many talented people who are trying to find their place in the international market that surrounds us. You should check out Rumisu’s storytelling scarfs too.
Our day-to-day duties are spread out across Istanbul, so we spend a lot of time in different areas. Our workshop is in Beyoğlu, right in between the old city and the new. There are lots of antique shops, workshops and artists here and it’s also one of our favourite areas to spend time when we’re not working. Our showroom is in Nişantaşı – the most prestigious shopping area in the city – so we’re surrounded by the east-west combination of Istanbul every day, and we love it.
You know how you have that one incredible friend who knows their city inside out? Yeah, that’s us. We take the world’s most dynamic destinations, hand-pick the best parts and give them to you in one place. This is the kind of guide that you don’t need to run by a local. Eat your heart out, shop ‘til you drop, drink like a fish, dance your socks off, sleep – then repeat.
Join us as we travel the globe, uncovering up and coming destinations while revisiting the classics in a fresh light. We’ll take you everywhere – from frigid expeditions on the Faroe islands to weird and wonderful bachelorette parties in Vegas.
We'll tell you where you can find the perfect boutique hotel in Paris for under €100, if you tell us about the best dive bar in your city. Deal? Share your stories and photos with #SUITCASEtravels.