Merandi Founders Know What Hermès Bag Users Want
Kate and Grace, founders of Merandi luxury bag inserts, give their first interview ever about the journey of their sustainable luxury brand from Southeast Asia.
Founded in 2021, Bangkok-based luxury bag inserts maker Merandi believes that the “product complementing Hermès bags should not only add value in terms of function, but artistic value of the owners’ pride as well.” Using the best materials like Thai silk that has been awarded badges by the Queen Sirikit Department of Sericulture, its products are of the best quality to help Hermès bags owners to organise items, maintain bag shape and protect its interior.
LUXUO had a chat with the founders of Merandi to learn more about the inspirations and creative process behind the brand.
You are based in Bangkok with numerous friends and customers around the globe. Tell us about your first steps in the luxury world?
(Kate) The luxury world is not something new to me. I spent my high school years at a boarding school in England, where I would read a lot of Vanity Fair and British Vogue, to get better at writing. That was my first touchpoint. After graduating from a Master’s in Management at the London School of Economics, I went on to spend two years in creative content for luxury brands based in Bangkok and New York.
(Grace) Having worked at a Michelin-starred restaurant, I’ve always been passionate about luxury lifestyle, hotels, and gastronomy. And actually, me and Kate, we are both Hermès users. This plays a big role in allowing Merandi to fully be customer-centric. Our bag inserts are made by Hermès users for Hermès users.
What sparked the idea to make bag inserts and what were some problems you had with the ones in the market?
The existing ones are just not luxurious enough to complement such high-value bags. We define luxury as craftsmanship, material, and design. With these aspects checked, the bag inserts will then be Hermès-worthy.
Our products excel in all functions — they help organise items in the bag, keep the bag’s shape as it should be, and protect the bag interior from stains and scratches. These are extremely important for anyone with an ultra-luxury purse because you must maintain its value and market price for when you wish to resell later.
What were the seven months of R&D like? What number is the final version of the Merandi insert that you’ve designed and produced?
It was definitely a lot of work but there’s no shortcut to it. We have lost count how many prototypes we have done. Some days, we thought “This is the best it can be,” only to wake up the following morning and realise that there was still room for improvement. Thai silks are tricky and complicated to sew, implicating several techniques. Both of us are not one to settle for less, so it was a lengthy process but also worthwhile.
Why do you choose specifically to make for only Hermès bags? Are you particularly fond of them?
With all the time and effort we invested, the final product is meant to be for the holy grail of handbags, which could not be any other brand but Hermès, whose creations have always caught our eyes both on the street and online. Their bags just effortlessly complete any look, and it doesn’t even matter how dressed up you are. We also have a deep respect for their craftsmanship. Overall, the values held close to heart at Merandi do align with those at Hermès — we showcase a longstanding heritage, which in our case is Thai silkcraft, through a modern-day luxury lens and products.
How did the idea to use Thai silk come about? It’s wonderful that you incorporate local craftsmanship and traditional know-how into a luxury endeavour like this. How was the process of finding these master weavers like?
Not so many young bloods in Thailand are like us. We are absolutely captivated by Thai silk and recognise the craftsmanship that goes into it. People in our generation do not see its worth like we do because they don’t get to experience and learn enough about it.
These Thai silks do not come easily. The process from thread to yarn to fabric requires immense patience and creativity from the weavers. This fact adds to its prestige and value, making our inserts a luxury item, not merely an ordinary product. It is a fruit of countless trips we have made all over Thailand, to learn, to discover, and to get to know master weavers and their fabrics. Every trip has enhanced our expertise, and this is how we find the right ones to work with as we make-to-order all of our fabrics.
Did you select them based on certain criteria?
There are several details, some of which we cannot reveal. However, all of our Thai silks have been awarded badges by the Queen Sirikit Department of Sericulture. These are given to fabrics that meet certain criteria and standards. And of course, our fabrics are sourced and crafted ethically and sustainably.
It is quite interesting that you also encourage the use of contrasting colours, because inserts are normally supposed to blend in and not take the limelight away from the bag itself. How did this colour contrast idea come to be?
Every brand tries too hard to fit the colour of the insert with that of the bag; we find that slightly boring. At Merandi, it’s about giving your bag a new life. It’s about falling in love with your bag all over again through the excitement of expressing your style in your choice of colour play. Say, you and your friend both have a black Birkin. You choose a yellow Merandi insert to create a bumblebee look whereas your friend goes for a green one. We are all different and unique, and this is what we encourage you to express. However, if customers want colours to closely match their bags, they can of course make a Special Order, for which we create silks in colours and patterns requested.
We don’t have a permanent collection as all Merandi silk colours come in limited series. Adding a Merandi bag insert to your Hermès bag is like adding more value to what is already valuable.
Are you planning to produce them in the entire Hermès shade range?
No, and our current designs and colours are not in any way influenced by Hermès. We have our own creative journey, taking inspiration from exotic shades, authentic patterns, and weaving techniques. With these, we create functional pieces of art, luxury bag inserts, and our customers recognise this when they first experience our products.
Looking at the current bag and insert pairings, do you have a favourite colour combination for the Birkin, Kelly or Lindy?
(Grace) Tough question. My go-to combination would have to be Tequila, the white one with a very unique pattern, paired with my toffee Hermès Kelly. For this white fabric, we visited Northern Thailand to develop the pattern we wanted with the local weavers.
(Kate) For me, my black baby Birkin and a silvery purple Merandi insert. It’s a Special Order piece, meaning it’s the only bag insert in the world made from this customised fabric.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while putting this project together?
The huge challenge is how do we make the rest of the world see what we see in Thai silk? It is a craftsmanship that has spanned thousands of years. The process is highly intricate and complicated. Let us give you an example. To form silk threads, silkworms or Bombyx Mori must feast on mulberry leaves and build a cocoon with their spittle. After that, the weavers will have to degum the cocoons, and the retrieved silk gets boiled with various dyes. Then, the silk is put through lengthy spinning and weaving processes. It’s a time-consuming journey, involving hands-on and natural processes.
Every country has heritage and stories to show the world. For Thailand, silkcraft is one of them. By creating Merandi bag inserts, a modern-day luxury product, using this exotic material, we are determined that by the end of next year, Thai silks will be found in the Hermès bags from the most coveted wardrobes around the world.
You have a special order service for using limited edition silks, but will you ever consider making inserts for bags of other brands in the future?
It’s definitely in the making, and would have to be a separate brand but under the same umbrella as Merandi. For the time being, non-Hermès users can experience our brand through the newest line “Merandi Wrap”, a CSR project in collaboration with Pasaya, a leading luxury textile brand in Asia.
Merandi luxury bag inserts are now available on merandiworld.com for Birkin, Kelly, and Lindy, with other models coming soon. There is also free worldwide shipping.
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