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Your Design and Sensibility: Mel Boteri Handbags

by Kenyatta D. Pious
Style mavens are afforded a rarity when it comes to Mel Boteri handbags. They can design their own handbag so that their sensibilities take center stage. For example, they can select to accessorize with tassles or chain straps. Minimal embellishments or funky hardware are now the choice of the wearer. Mel Boteri handbags, which exude a youthful vibrancy, offer a slew of options which translate into smart and versatile handbags that style mavens will adore for seasons to come.

Melanie Mueller, Founder and President of MEL BOTERI, provides some insight into her company, and talks trends, going green, and why Heidi Klum is the ideal Mel Boteri gal.

Tell us about the latest collection. What is the inspiration behind it?
During a short stint living in New York City, I came to realize that most retailers have confused their huge inventory of product choices with giving us what we want, when in fact these “choices” are dictated by retail buyers and pushy salespeople. I felt uninspired and frustrated in a sea of sameness, and by the overload of styles that did not meet my unique needs or sizing. The inspiration behind Mel Boteri and my first collection, therefore, is to renew the inherent power of fashion which allows you to express emotions based on your personal style and creativity. Each design was created to simply provide a basic silhouette, but each client becomes the true designer as they are empowered to create products and services precisely as they want them.

Who are the core clients of Mel Boteri? Do you see this changing and/ or who do you wish to target?
An important function of being a fashion brand is to express to the world the values embodied in your designs and services, and to create a trust-based relationship with clients where they can express the same principles by wearing your brand. Mel Boteri stands true to its values of quality, fashion-forward, customized products, so its target and core client has naturally become a professional, modern woman who is confident in expressing her personal style and uniqueness through her own creations. Eventually, I do wish to target the professional, modern, confident man.

Does the name mean anything - - how was it conceived?
Much of my motivation to design and become a success derives from my family who has instilled in me a set of values which influence and shape me as an individual. My mother is a strong Colombian woman who has taught me to be loyal to myself and to others, to pursue all of my dreams, and to enjoy every moment of my life as if it were the last. My father is an industrious German who has instilled in me a high self-esteem, an intense desire to be successful, and accountability for the decisions I make in my life. These values are the foundation of whom I am today, and they will ultimately become the foundation of what my business will become in the future. Mel Boteri therefore stems from Melanie, the name chosen for me by my German father, and Botero, my mother's Colombian maiden name.

Where is the company located and where is manufacturing handled?
The company is located where I was born, raised and currently reside, Atlanta, Georgia. The leather and components for our handbags originate from both Italy and Spain. Each bag is then hand-made with personalized care and love in Portugal.

What is one thing that no one knows about the company?
One thing people may not realize is that Mel Boteri originally started strictly as a custom fit, custom design shoe business for women. The handbags did not come along until almost a year after I started developing the shoe line. It was much easier and quicker to set up the suppliers, manufacturing, and distribution for the handbags so I decided to launch these first. I am focusing on establishing Mel Boteri as a custom, high-quality, premium fashion brand with the handbags and hope to introduce the shoe line within 6 months to a year.

Describe Mel Boteri in three words...
Custom, Quality, Innovative

Finish this sentence: The celebrity that best fits the Mel Boteri brand is (and why?).
Heidi Klum. Heidi Klum embodies the characteristics of the Mel Boteri woman. She is a self-made, confident, successful business woman who is determined to achieve her goals no matter how large the obstacles may be. Rather than follow trends, she dresses to express her personal style and uniqueness. Her confidence allows her to stand true to herself in any situation without becoming negatively influenced, and she does this all with style and grace.

What do you think are the biggest trends right now?
In terms of color, the current trends for winter seem to reflect the tough economic times we have recently experienced with black, iron grays, burgundy, and deep blues. The move away from extreme statement making colors makes for a safer purchase. Along those same lines, I think a big trend right now is layering which extends the life of past pieces. For example, even in the height of winter I have seen floaty, floral dresses typically stored away until spring layered under a heavy coat and worn with tights and tough boots. This translates to handbags and other accessories as I think women are looking for products which are versatile and can easily go with them from day to night.

What trends do you expect will be big next season?
For spring 2010, subdued versions of vibrant colors will be back to add a sense of calm yet excitement for the anticipation of an upturn in the economy. Because the global financial crisis has yet to disappear, consumers will still be cautious and want to simply complement what they may already own. This is a great market for handbags and other accessories, which can be used to freshen up any look and add a pop of fun color against a more neutral, practical outfit.

What is the toughest thing about the market right now and what is your solution?
During this down market, everyone is extremely cautious about spending their money. As an emerging, up-and-coming designer without an established brand name I have found this to be especially true. My solution is to set Mel Boteri apart from other accessories designers by offering an overall personalized experience, not just a product. Although I design the basic silhouettes, each client is empowered to create a unique handbag they will love and carry with confidence for years to come. For a truly one-on-one experience, we meet with clients by appointment only and private shows can be scheduled to take place either in our showroom or at the client's choice of location.

Describe one of your best sellers and give us a quick reason why this is the case.
One of our best sellers is the Christy satchel, particularly in camel calf-skin accented with black patent leather. I believe the reason this particular style in these colors and textures is popular is because it is a highly versatile option which can be worn with most color palettes. Additionally, the patent accents provide an elegant polish which makes this bag easy to carry at night as well.

Do you have any “green” initiatives?
Part of my decision to source and manufacture in Europe was because of the EU's dedication to its Environment Action Programme, where it holds manufacturers to strict environmental rules including air quality control, waste management, and pollution reduction to fight climate change and preserve biodiversity. Although China and other large manufacturing countries claim to hold similar rules, the penalties are often so low that it is cheaper to non-comply. In addition to our manufacturing, we are attempting to reduce our negative impact on the environment through “green” packaging. We have already accomplished this with products which are made with 25% or more post consumer content.

Are there any promotions/discounts currently on the site?
There are currently no discounts running on the site, but you can stay up to date on future promotions by signing up for our newsletter on www.melboteri.com (under my account). Come visit us during any of our trunk shows to receive a promotional coupon for $100 off your purchase. As of now, we have shows planned for 2010 in Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Charleston. You can receive news on these and future shows by signing up for our newsletter or by checking out www.facebook.com/melboteri or following us on twitter at http://twitter.com/MelBoteri.

Anything else we should know?
My clients always ask me how I come up with all of the names for my handbags. Much of my inspiration to design comes from the beautiful and powerful women in my life. Each handbag style is therefore named after a special friend, family member, mentor, or acquaintance that in one way or another has left a lasting impression on me. The LOLA, for example, is named after my grandmother who was a classic, chic and elegant Colombian woman.

Mel Boteri handbags are available at www.melboteri.com and range from $475-$785. Photos and other news can be found at www.facebook.com/melboteri and http://twitter.com/MelBoteri.

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