In the dizzying and dazzling world of traditional fast fashion, objects are made by the multiple, a true and undeniable symbol of the overproduction and overconsumption in the capitalistic-consumer field. Now, more than ever before, words and phrases like sustainable and slow fashion and deadstock fabric are moving to the forefront of conversations around design. Felina, of Felina’s Handmade, is perfecting her craft of creating unique, one-of-a-kind bags that are full of personality using one-hundred-percent repurposed second hand materials.
When asked for the best three words to describe her creative aura, Felina’s answer was total poetry. “Giving New Life,” she says. “For me, the whole creative process is taking something that has already been here and had a life, and taking it and creating something new out of it. Giving it a new life.” And you can totally see that she walks her talk: Felina’s Medium Tube Bag in Turquoise was created out of an old puffer jacket; her Tube Bag in Yellow was made out of a blanket.
But what inspired her interest in handbags in the first place? “It happened very early. My mom used to sew handbags and sell them. She always dressed me up, she’s very into interior design. I think I got it from my mom, I got into it at a very young age. I used to have these drawing books with figures where you could draw your own clothing designs. But the decision to go in this direction for my career, I decided by the time I finished high school.
The craft behind fashion design was always the thing that interested me the most. Creating with my hands, sewing, making the patterns. The process from having the idea in my head to then turning them into real pieces of clothes always fascinated me. I didn’t know what to do with it in the end, in terms of career and where I would really go with it, I just knew I wanted to learn everything around it, all of the craft.
As a brand centered around sustainability, it’s always a point of curiosity when and why that focus appeared. Were the ethics behind the material always of primary concern, even before becoming a designer, or was it something that was present even in everyday life?
“It was always in my head, but it didn’t really come through that much at first. I was so wrapped up in learning all of the skills as I studied fashion design. When I finished that, I suddenly thought, I don’t want to be a fashion designer! I don’t want to make more clothes in this world that’s already filled with even more clothes than we could ever wear. I didn’t want to be that sort of person. No. That’s where the question came up in my mind. Because I love to work with textiles, I love creating things, so how can I find my part in this? I really struggled for a bit. And then at some point out of curiosity, I thought about handbags; I was so broke at the time. I started making handbags out of everything I could find at home.”
Is there not just something so absolutely fascinating about a woman’s handbag? It’s been the object of mystery forever, the focus of thousands upon thousands of YouTube cult exposés―what’s in my bag? It’s fantastic that there are more eccentric, affordable, and ethical designs these days; people can choose a bag that not only fits into their wardrobe but also fits with their philosophies, their values. It’s so cool. It’s such a welcome change.
“I always loved handbags very, very much,” Felina shares. “I could wear a different handbag each day. Sometimes I think I could have had this idea for creating handbags earlier but I think it was the right time. It’s good the way it came up.”
Surely, we can all relate to that. Life sometimes has a funny way of making you feel like you’re playing catch-up with something that should’ve been done five or ten years ago. You feel like, I kind of already knew what I was interested in, so what was I doing? But sometimes it takes that time to just fumble around. You have to pay attention to what you just keep coming back to. Your soul knows best.
Even with style, when we’re growing up, we go through these phases of wondering, is this a good look or is this a bad look? Are people going to get it? You pay so much attention to the external. But when you focus on yourself, that’s when your shit really comes together. A lot of people can think of style as something superficial. But I’ve always been super interested in what someone chooses to express versus not express or whatever persona that they’re projecting. Even a projection can say so much about a person. It’s really personal.
What does it mean for Felina to have an honest style?
“It means just doing your own thing. Not following a trend. You don’t have to wear expensive clothes, you don’t have to wear what everybody else is wearing. You just express yourself and own it. You have to have a sense of yourself and see yourself and be confident with yourself. I wouldn’t say I was a stylish person when I was younger because I was trying out things. You want to fit in for a certain amount of time and then you finally start trying to develop your own style. That’s what I love. That’s what I love about fashion.”
And as for her handbags, “I want the bag to be the eyecatcher of the outfit. Something special that is completely functional. I want you to feel comfortable with my bag and I want it to feel special. It’s the same with my clothes. I like to feel good about what I have on and whatever I’m wearing. I don’t want to feel like I can’t breathe, I don’t want to feel like I can’t hold this anymore. It’s so annoying!”
And how does Felina know intuitively when she’s finished a bag? What makes her think voila? “When I find a material I almost already know how the design should be in my head and then I start to work on it and while I’m working on it, I’m developing it during this process. And when I’m finished and I think to myself, “Wait—should I keep this bag for myself?” That’s when I know the bag is finished. When it’s something that I would be happy to wear. When you’d be proud to own it, that’s when you’d be proud to sell it.”
Felina also works with an agency/platform for artists known as Cozy Palace, also Berlin-based. “One of the founders is a really good friend of mine and she had the idea for this platform at the same time that I had the idea for my bags. We basically decided to join our projects for the drop of my handbags on the launch of her platform. So we worked together but individually in a way. She photographed my bags. Everyone loved them! I was so surprised but I had been telling myself beforehand that I’m doing it for myself, it’s just something that I’m trying. So, I was super happy because everyone was so enthusiastic, they loved the handbags, they were asking for more. I thought, okay! I have to. I want to do this now.”
Luckily for Felina, she’s endlessly inspired by the materials that she works with. Dry spells hardly exist in her world. “Material is my main inspiration. I’ve always loved materials, I love textiles. I just need to see a great material and then depending on the pattern or the texture of it, I already know which direction I want to take the piece in.”
And as for her next project, Felina has a denim-inspired drop planned for October 7th, 2020. “My friends gave me all of their old jeans and I want to use all of the material I have.It works for every outfit and every place. That’s what I love about denim. It’s totally timeless.”
If you want to keep up with Felina, follow her journey on Instagram.