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School News > Alumni Success Stories > Alumni Achievement: Marina Raphael Alumni '15

Alumni Achievement: Marina Raphael Alumni '15

In an interview with Business Insider, Marina Raphael talks about her journey as a young entrepreneur and her success as a handbag designer

We are always pleased to share the achievements and successes of our alumni!

In an interview with Business Insider, Marina Raphael talks about her journey as a young entrepreneur and her success as a handbag designer.

In 2017, then 20-year-old Marina Raphael had an idea. "I wanted to launch a handbag brand where the quality and the craftsmanship was impeccable, but the prices were not too high," she told Business Insider. The only problem? She had no background in design. She didn't attend Parsons in New York or Central Saint Martins in London. She said she was never the one to sit down and design clothes as a little girl.

She did come from a prominent family, as she acknowledged in an interview with Business Insider. To get her company off the ground, she said she borrowed some money from a family member and combined it with money she had been saving since her adolescence.

She pays homage to her heritage by incorporating crystals on all of her products but she also said that while she's been "fortunate" to have family support, she still had to work extremely hard to build off of that and achieve what she has so far.

"Sometimes people look down on me because I am very young and I did happen to come from a background that has supported me," she told Business Insider. "But I am a very hard-working individual, and I love my job and I wouldn't trade it for anything."

She said her journey into the fashion industry stemmed from her entrepreneurial drive and her passion for luxury. This led to a year of her learning how to design and draw the technical sketches for her handbags; she studied topology and learned how to choose leather as well as how to understand the weight of the bags. She then spent a year learning Italian and headed out to Florence, Italy, to find a factory that could produce her handbags.   

There are currently seven people working for Raphael full-time, but she said it took more than 200 people, including press and sales teams, to get her operation off the ground. She recalled that her first year of production was like it is for most entrepreneurs: a bit wobbly.  

"My first 10 bags were an absolute disaster," Raphael, now 22, recalled. "But all of these things happen and they are just part of the job. You just have to keep moving on."

Once the first collection of handbags was completed, Raphael hired New York-based strategy firm Tiger Shark to represent the brand and began working with its founder, Elizabeth Manice, to send out cold emails to retailers. The goal was to get one of them to pick her young brand up. 

Now, nearly two years later, Raphael says the brand is "going really well" and works with top influencers including WhoWoreWhat founder Danielle Bernstein. Queen Máxima of the Netherlands is also a fan of the brand — the royal has been seen on numerous occasions sporting Raphael's latest designs. 

Raphael has also joined the growing number of young emerging designers at the forefront of fashion's sustainability movement. For her own brand, she has made sure the company incorporates ecological wool and biodegradable leather. She is also following a near-zero waste policy, where the company tries to reuse old leather and skins. 

Read Marina's whole interview in the Business Insider.

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