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  • Divia Harilela

Why Chinese designers behind Ratio et Motus don’t want to make their luxury leather bags in China

The next generation of emerging handbag brands owe much of their popularity to social media and street-style stars – and “it” label Ratio et Motus is among them.

Their bags are plastered all over feeds and magazines such as Vogue, while Net-a-Porter stocked the brand as soon as it launched last year.

Its founders, however, feel that they are offering fans more than just Instagram-worthy bags.

“Sure, the market is super competitive right now, but I really feel there is a gap between contemporary and luxury brands. Within this segment, the customer is not satisfied with the quality on offer. Craftsmanship must come first regardless of the price point. Women want to spend maximum money on something worth it, and that they can wear for more than one season,” says co-founder Angela Wang.

Wang and her design and business partner Daniel Li are industry veterans. Although both are originally from China, they met while working at an accessory designer’s studio in New York. Li studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology, while Wang majored in finance and journalism, before taking the leap to follow her passion for fashion.

“We worked at that company for such a long time, but towards the end we felt totally unsatisfied. We finally gathered the courage to express who we are, and handbags were the most familiar medium for us,” Li says.

“The brand name translates to ‘reason and emotion’ because our aesthetic is about trying to find a balance. While our designs are different, they have to make sense in term of functionality and quality. We want to deliver emotion through the products,” Wang says.

Unlike most brands who debut with a multitude of styles for every occasion, the duo launched with only two bags, including their now bestselling Twin Frame bag, a 1950s-inspired box bag featuring a detachable mini version on the front.

While the “modern classic” shapes drew attention, so did the quality. Every piece is sustainable and is made in Italy using the best quality leathers.

“Sustainability is a social responsibility to us. We only buy products from vendors who have passed the Leather Working Group’s certification, which monitors things like water consumption, carbon footprint, raw material traceability, toxic waste management and working conditions,” Wang says.

“For us it’s not about creating a selling point. We are happy to talk about [sustainability] especially because the leather industry isn’t as transparent, but it has been a challenge for us to find tanneries. It also means limited resources as all of our bags are currently only made with leather – we can’t do novelty goods such as embroideries,” Li says.

Despite this, the brand has grown exponentially in just a short period of time. Autumn-winter 2019 may not include new styles, but the duo has insisted on perfecting their current offerings by changing small details from patterns to quality. They have also managed to secure 22 new stockists worldwide, including in their native China.

“It’s a great potential market because consumers in China are more open to new brands [than before]. There are a lot of local brands in China that are doing better and better every year. We are open to having a homecoming, but it has to come naturally,” Wang says.

Li adds: “People often ask us why we don’t make our products in China. China is getting better for sure, but Italy still feels right.

“It boils down to both perception and quality. If I was a clothing designer I would make my clothes in China. But the handbag [industry] is still a very traditional one that requires experience. A lot of it depends on the worker and artisan, how they’re feeling that day, and you can see the results in the product.”


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