Eleven – A Family Affair To Launch ILNI Handbags

On the 16th November, we launched our bags with an exhibition of 11 bag designs in cooperation with 11 photographs from Patrick Carbin, Minemice. This launch was a family affair with Carmela, ILNI’s founder sharing the limelight with her brother Patrick and his photography. 

In a fantastic space, The Mood, on the historic Koninginnegracht in the Hague, eleven designs of ILNI bags were displayed along with eleven photographs; 11 designs and 11 impressions. The effect was magical with guests mingling and sharing stories while viewing the photographs and trying the ILNI bags.

Delicious vegetarian snack platters and drinks were supplied by Room2Meet. A canopy of floral hoops hovered above the crowd artfully created by flower artist Gerwin Van Den Boogaard. DJ Jill Kleinjan, provided super chilled world music sounds to compliment the artistic intersections and two speakers, Jeffrey Grüne and Arnoud Bakhuizen, shared their vision on the theme Connect – Share – Grow. Our official photographer for the event was Anouk Kulaleen 

The event was a splendid intersection of art, design and inspiration brought together in this family affair. These eleven handbags, all made of leather-free materials highlighted the ILNI philosophy of elegance and compassion. These cruelty-free handbags prove that elegance is more than appearance and is a reflection of inner beauty, or as Carmela explains her motto is; in a world where we can be anything, let’s be elegant and kind. These handbags show what can be created with the combination of luxury and compassion. 

fashion model Uncle Bobe (@unclebobe)

Patrick Carbin AKA Minemice, is a freelance 3D artist, musician and photographer as well as the younger brother of Carmela. He has exhibited in galleries in Russia and internationally via Thought-landscape. This was his first exhibition in the Netherlands. Patrick’s photographs intertwine the nature of tranquil landscapes with urbanization in a quirky style that shows the human touch on the scene but without it being personal. 

The event was a huge success, and we are now excited to have officially launched the ILNI brand formally. 

Diary of A Brand – Getting The Basics Of Social Media Marketing

In one of our latest diary entries, I spoke about Being of Service, in other words, Being Terrible in Sales. Since the launch of our website in March, I have dived into the world of Social Media. Learning about different platforms and how to work with and on these platforms to best share the word about our ILNI brand.  I am learning how to use social media calendars to manage our online content and apps to help us build our visual communications. 

At a certain point, I would get Facebook and LinkedIn messages from friends and acquaintances who were wondering where in heaven’s name I could find the time and energy to post the ungodly amount of Instagram posts on a daily base. And not on one, but on three different types of social media platforms. At first, I thought that they were being sarcastic. But the questions just kept coming and I decided to have a look at some of their accounts. 

To make a long story short; they were in the dark about how to use their accounts. Not that I’m that unusually savvy when it comes to anything in the digital landscape. But, for someone my age, I think I do know the common basics. And with that, I was under the impression that surely everyone knows them as well.

To set the scene: 

While having my massage, I would be giving tips and tricks for Instagram to the owner of the health-center (for she didn’t know what all these silly things called hashtags were about). 

At networking events, there will always be this one person that would ask me if I use social media for my business and if I know how to work with it. I would always say that I do know some things about it, just enough to make it work and would then notice further down the conversation that they have trouble doing – again, for me – the very basics?! They would ask if I could help them out, perhaps.

Just the other day, one of my friends who owns an interior decoration agency in Warsaw: she asked me if I could schedule an emergency Skype call – not my words – with her Marketing & Sales Manager to help her with this extremely intimidating Social Media calendar which they had bought a few weeks before, on my recommendation. She had purchased this app after a short phone call asking me which app to use. From looking at their posts and stories nowadays, her Sales- and Marketing manager has mastered it so much better than I have. And I love it!!

Diary of A Brand – We Have Extended

We have extended our contract with Berry Rutjes Jr.! Meaning that you can still find me and our bags in the Royal District of The Hague, at Berry’s Hat Boutique on Noordeinde 182. 

And, we are planning another Vernissage as we did a few weeks ago, so keep an eye out for the invitation. Like before, this will be a chance to come together to meet and greet Berry and the ‘Guest at the Salon’ of the moment, which will be ILNI.

During those three hours, we’ll have a drink (I prefer the Prosecco), and some snacks. There will be the opportunity to try on some of Berry’s handmade hats and ask questions about our Italian handmade and cruelty-free handbags., You’ll even get to do some networking, for Berry has quite some interesting guests on her list.

That doesn’t mean that your only opportunity to visit us is during the Vernissage. Not at all, you are more than welcome to visit the shop any other day. I might make you a cup of tea, which is my expertise (hint: I’m a terrible coffeemaker). 

Every Tuesday from 11:00 till 17:00 you’ll find me in the store. Typing away behind my computer: answering and sending out emails, scheduling social media posts or trying to come up with branding ideas. Which begs the question: if one of you out there happens to be a branding expert and could help me out?  I’ll buy you a bottle of Prosecco from across the street (at one of the best Italian trattorias in The Hague) Would you please be my guest?

Diary of a Brand – “I Have Served, I Will Be of Service”

The last three months have been quite busy. As we mentioned in our previous post, we have had a guest spot in Berry Rutjes Jr.’s Hat Boutique since April. Which only highlighted, to my dismay, that my sales skills are beyond disastrous. Something to work on perhaps!?

Before I became a mum, I worked as a flight attendant for Lufthansa. My dream had been to do something with my PR-Study, but for some bizarre reason at that time, I decided to give working as a stewardess a go. 

To my astonishment, I discovered that I love serving people. Not only their meals and drinks – mind you – but actually listening to them and helping them in any way possible. Just the mere fact that I could be of assistance to someone was such a joy for me. The smiles, the subtle thank you nod, eyes that would light up when the help would come unexpectedly: I just couldn’t get enough of it. The sheer challenge to overdeliver was my thrill, my dopamine!

Now, imagine this person trying to do a sale. It was, and still is, something totally out of my comfort zone. How does one switch from being service orientated to being focused on sales? To this day I have no idea! I just end up chatting to people and listening to their (life)stories, meeting other former flight attendants and looking back at those good old days. Scrolling through images of adorable grandchildren and adopted dogs, discussing Brexit. Even welcoming tourists on their way to the Peace Palace, who were attracted by the beautiful window shop and decided to enter. Most of the times these guests end up trying all the different hats, carefully(!) and leave with such a high spirit, that I am left with a glorious feeling, even though I did not sell one bag. Not even a hat. Nothing! 

It would seem that my natural state is to be of service. Like that line in the latest John Wick movie, I’m paraphrasing: “I have served. I will always be of service.” That is my core belief! 

Diary of a Brand – We are Live!

We are live! On the 7th of March, 2019, our ILNI website was complete and the publish button pushed. This exciting moment came after weeks of back and forth exchanges with our Web designers working to get just the look we were after.

Then, only a few weeks later, an email appeared in my inbox that set in motion an exciting collaboration for ILNI. A Dutch Milliner from Gouda had heard about ILNI and was interested in showcasing our bags in her hat salon. “Your style / your bags fit really well next to my hats!” were the magic words in her email.

Her gorgeous hat salon is located only a few steps away from the Royal Palace, in the most elegant shopping street of The Hague, Noordeinde. No one in their right mind would refuse an offer like that, so we immediately emailed her back and made an appointment to meet.

Her store was everything we could have hoped as an excellent example of a handcrafted business. The space was complete with a long table filled with needles, a big variety of textures,  and unfinished hats that were, nearly perfect. Simple, black mannequins lined the walls showcasing a wide range of different hats. White, round boxes with the elegant ‘Berry Rutjes Jr.’ signature were stacked on the floor, displaying even more beautiful hats. 

Betty Rutjes explained in our first meeting that she had heard of our brand via Linda Zoon, the fashion illustrator in Rotterdam, with whom we worked with before. We were grateful for the connection made by Linda. 

She loved the ILNI brand and bags and agreed to showcase the ILNI bags in her shop over the next three months, from the 1st of April to the end of June. The bonus was I also got to be in the shop two days a week giving to the chance to share the story behind our bags with customers walking into the shop. You can find me there on Tuesdays and Sundays until the end of June.  

Behind the Scenes – The Photo Shoot

Finally the day of the fashion photo shoot has arrived.

Getting Lisa ready for the shoot

The amazing Sarah Kirsten Vlekke ordered me to take a seat on the sofa – as a prop. Something with the light(s)?? But it gave me a chance to capture her at work!

Then the photo shoot is under way…

It was a lot of hard work, but the photos all came together and we all managed to have a little fun too.

We all had so much fun. After the shooting I realised that it all went unbelievable smooth; so grateful that we met people that were so kind, funny and sweet!! Really counted my blessings that day.

Behind the Scenes – Finding The Perfect Photo Shoot Location

Location Hunting!

Here we are at Het Spaansche Hof in The Hague. Unfortunately, we decided the cost to rent for one day was too high. Nevertheless, I took some pictures of its amazing interior. At that point so depressed and anxious that we would not be able to find the perfect shooting location for ILNI.

Then, Stefan found Het Huys ten Donck. Dear lord! I can honestly tell you that I was speechless while walking through this historical mansion. I could not believe this place existed not that far from The Hague.

Everything was perfect, the furniture, wall paper, paintings…just everything!!

I just gasped when entering yet again another room. I can remember that I just wanted this location so much for the ILNI shooting.

Each corner in this unbelievable house is just Instagram ready. And the owner literally still lives here with her husband, two children and two dogs. So you can not help thinking how great their Christmases, Summer parties in the garden and other days must be.

We came to an agreement with the owner and are very excited to be able to photograph our bags in this superb location in a few weeks!

December, 2018 – Finally!

These past few months we have been working avidly on the details and materials for our new bags. After visiting the LineaPelle Fair in Milan, we discovered some new ideas for using different types of material. While we were excited by this development, it took a little longer than expected for things to start moving. This was because not all the materials were available immediately from stock and some actually had to be produced especially for us. So the waiting game started again.

Until this last Friday! A week ago we had finally received the long-awaited call to say that the materials could be picked up! We took the last flight to Milan on Friday evening and dedicated the whole weekend to completing the finishing touches on our very first batch of bags.

On Saturday morning we started the day early with the usual espresso and tea at the bar around the corner from Luciano’s atelier. We were eager to start discussing the last details with Luciano. His dogs greeted us first with noticeably less barking; they must be getting used to seeing us now! With Luciano, it was straight down to business this time, with none of the usual pre-work discussion about Italian politics or football.

It’s amazing how every time you think you already have looked at all details, you notice that there are many more aspects that come up that need to be addressed! As always, Luciano’s input, experience and solutions were of invaluable worth. Massimo also added valuable input by coming up with a design idea for the B-Bag, which we loved. Dedicating the whole Saturday to the final details was exhilarating and, as it turned out, particularly fruitful. However, not wanting to be too much of a nuisance, we decided to leave Luciano and Massimo to it in the late afternoon and headed back to our hotel. We were exhausted but feeling pumped with excitement at the same time. Our bags were nearly done!

Luciano and Massimo have informed us that our bags will be ready by the next weekend; we can’t wait! Next task on our list is to organise the transport to bring our ‘babies’ home and finally start showing them to the world!

Alla prossima – Until Next Time

July 2018, – But Wait, There Is More.. Our New Line

We have been working on some ideas for a new bag line the last couple of weeks. The new collection will be made of Faux Fur. As with our faux leather bags, this new line will include three different sizes and will be completely different from our first collection.

The perfect faux fur for our next collection was found a few months ago when we saw the material hanging in the meeting room of our, now, second Italian supplier. We had been meeting with two ladies from the supplier in their showroom, and while they were both out of the room gathering samples of faux leather, we browsed the three clothing racks, against the walls. All were chock full with patches of faux feather, embroidered fringing, wearable macramé, cotton, linen….AND Faux Furs which we instantly fell in love with. Each piece was labelled: Made in Italy. We were sold. We instantly knew we had to design bags with this fabulous faux fur fabric.

Our excitement and drive to get the ball rolling quickly on our new line hit a uniquely Italian snag, Ferragosto! Otherwise known as the holiday season, Ferragosto is one of the most important religious holidays in Italy and it is the time when the whole of Italy seems to close up and head to the beaches or mountains. Everyone is in holiday mode and no one is working. Not a bad thing, except when you have a brilliant new line of bags that you are dying to get started on!

Instead, we filled our schedule with media-agency meetings, mentor talks and the best of all; planning dinner evenings with family and friends!

Alla prossima – Until Next Time

June, 2018 – Quasi Perfetto!

Upon receiving photos of the upgraded ILNI sample bags from Massimo, we could immediately see that they were almost perfect! The thickness, shape and rounding were exactly what we wanted. In Italian, quasi perfetto!

Luciano our craftsman still had some doubts about the Betty-Joan (The B-bag). According to Massimo, the craftsman had said: “I’m happy with the result, but I want to go for the 100%, so let me try something else.”

We can’t help thinking that Luciano secretly loves the challenges he has encountered working with Faux-Leather.

Weeks went by, during which time we have been working on more ideas for our blog, new ideas for our next women’s line and even more new ideas about our marketing approach. Then, one day out of the blue we received a message from Massimo, Luciano had managed to improve the B-bag. He has found a way to ensure the side-faces were finally smooth. Scrolling through the pictures Massimo had sent us, we saw two or maybe there were three, different samples of the B-bag sides with each of them differently creased. We were astonished by Luciano’s persistence and craftsmanship. According to Massimo, the Maestro had a few nights in which he just went to bed with the question ‘what is the best solution?’ on his mind. Ideas came and with the help of his son they folded, carved, and sewed until they were finally happy with the outcome. True craftsman perfectionism in action! Hence the chronological visual proof of the bag’s evolution on our Whatsapp and the conclusion we were waiting for: “The samples are on their way!”

A few days later UPS delivered a large carton box, from Italy and we could hardly contain our excitement. Nestled safely inside were our bags, our three ladies, and they were beautiful.

Thinking back to the first batch of sample bags, the third, fourth!… Our dissatisfaction with the first couple of samples – and at times our hindering perfectionism – that could whip us instantly into a frenzy. Thankfully, at some point, Luciano noticed that we actually did value his input, we did want him to come up with solutions, and we did expect him to go beyond his normal routine of putting together the leather patterns/pieces. This faux leather issue was new for him too. Our Maestro has truly explored this new challenge and the result is perfetto!

Alla prossima – Until Next Time