PROJECT #BEYOUROWN BOSS: IRINA BRAGIN
Meet Irina Bragin, founder of the trendy Victorian fashion-inspired CARPET Bag brand. The idea of these beautiful unique CARPET Bags has been inspired by the romantic Victorian Era and in some way influenced by such famous English literary characters as Mary Poppins and Miss Marple.
Bags made from the finest quality rugs produced in Western Europe, that woven from unique synthetic yarn, patented by a rugs manufacturer. It is plushy, soft, light and silky, but deep-piled, quite thick and firm at the same time, that makes bags look and feel full-bodied.
Irina’s #BEYOUROWN BOSS Story
My Polish Jewish parents fled from Nazis, but get to Commies (there were only those two to choose) in 1939, this is why I was born in a small extremely poor village behind the Iron Curtain. Then immigrated to Israel with 150 USD in my pocket (no language, no luggage, no right to come back, no even citizenship). Then served in ל״הצ (Tzahal, Israeli Army). And even had my own shop in the centre of Istanbul at age of 27
The only thing I regret is that I’ve spent 15-20 years of my life moving from place to place, trying to make my roots somewhere without languages, acquaintances or money.
I came to London nearly 25 years ago with an intention to learn the language and to get a degree in fashion and textiles. I had no intention to want to stay forever, but then a new wave of intifadas, followed by explosion after explosion, then death after death in Tel-Aviv, made me linger and finally stay in London well.
Very soon after, I realised that it wasn’t rational to try to and penetrate the snobby and arrogant British fashion industry in this stage of my life especially with my independent character and pride.
So in 1998, I was invited by an American company to apply my strength and knowledge as a graphic designer with languages and off I went to Boston for almost a year. I love America! It is really ahead of the entire planet and something immediately felt that once I returned. I worked for a medical publisher, a number of Hollywood studios and for a big international advertising agency. My unique specialisation was gradually formed.
Nine years ago, I decided that life is way too short to wake up every day at 6am and to spend 2/5 of my time making just enough to survive the rest 3/5.
It is no secret that we spend money earned selling our time and effort on the elementary survival and stupid bric-and-brac, which should simply somehow compensate for the loss. But this is an erroneous “compensation” because the time of one’s life cannot be compensated with anything.
If you ever been to the shopping centre under Canary Wharf’s skyscrapers, this is exactly what I am talking about.
I was looking for a business idea for 4 years when one day I decided to buy a Carpet Bag and start surfing the internet. How disappointed I became when I realised that there was no bag made of real carpet in the world and at the same time at a price slightly less than half of my house! I have bought several carpet bags from around the world in the price range from £100-£500 yet none of them was made out of the real carpet.
Immediately a light bulb has lit in my head! I had no idea where to get the carpet, who will make it, where to get the trimmings etc. More of it, I had no idea how business works: all those taxes, intellectual property, marketing, export/import, etc, etc, etc. All of it was absolutely new to me. I spent almost a year of learning and searching. I kept my job and left full-time employment only when I receive the second collection.
Is it worth it? Undoubtedly!
In the beginning, it was quite difficult financially. I started with 10K of my own money and have never take any investments or loans which is I haven’t taken a penny out of the business in the first five years.
The British fashion design industry hasn’t changed much since the 90s and I believe it is still arrogant, snobby and most of the time nonsense-like, but, unlike in 90s, today I do not need anyone to help – we have the internet. The internet gives us freedom from the old-fashioned, opinionated and stubborn “decision-makers”. I run a successful business with a unique product, which I am now selling all over the world without any help whatsoever from any official or unofficial fashioning industry bodies.
A long-suffered Jewish concept to “be better to be equal” works perfectly in my co-existence with a big, reach and powerful brands. None of them has managed so far to create bags made out of real carpet in my price range. The cheapest I have seen was one zero longer in price, the most expensive, almost 70 times!
Currently, I sell to the end-customers online from my own web-store and from different international marketplaces. People from many countries buy my bags, but unfortunately, Japan is still not on that list. I am going to exhibit at the FASHION WORLD TOKYO trade exhibition next October to find out why and what to do about it. It is a costly experiment, but I need to do it to make things clear.
I do a lot of social media and general marketing, learning more and more every day. I have set up a goal to introduce 3-4 different new major marketing tricks and techniques every year. Some of them work, some do not, but it always worth to try.
I am not going to take any investment and grow my brand to corporate size, because I do not believe that the corporate model works effectively enough and that to grow too big will make me unhappy.