On our first foray into Ho Chi Minh, we were fortunate enough to stumble upon the Anupa Eco Boutique in District 1. It was here that we got our first introduction to a style of discreet and refined luxury in a land consumed by “logo mania” and copycat fashion. Breaking the myth that goods made in Vietnam cannot match up to international standards of luxury, London-raised designer, Anupa Horvil, has succeeded in creating her own brand of bespoke leather accessories and jewellery that embodies her principles towards ethical and sustainable production.
There is no denying that Anupa is an enterprise founded on passion. For one, Horvil puts an incredible amount of thought into each and every minute detail. From individually hand-sewn beads to sustainably sourced leather, each one of Anupa’s luxuriously soft leather bags is a product of rigorous research and carefully executed craft. Soft and supple leather shoulder bags, duffles, cylinder bags, envelope bags, clutches and wallets are stylishly branded with a large circle of iridescent beadwork. These come in various shades and are no two are alike! Yet the easiest way to recognise an Anupa original is by its crowning glory – a piece of tourmaline, which Horvil uses to accent each piece she creates.
More than just an ethical fashion statement, Anupa prides itself on the strength of its unique handcrafted design. This design-focused approach is probably what makes Anupa much more than your basic eco-friendly label.
I was born and raised in London with a strong Indian heritage. London is a fun, dynamic, fast-moving and incredible city; quite unique to most cities I have travelled and lived in. I am thankful to be surrounded by an incredible and loving family that has introduced me to such diverse cultures and arts. It’s probably the very reason I created Anupa Luxury.
I set out to create collections that I would wear myself. As an avid shopper, traveller and busy executive, I wanted something that would offer something apart from the mainstream. I want to feel confident and comfortable wearing well-designed pieces that enhance who I am.
The Tipping Point
I got really bored of shopping and seeing the same mass-produced fashion sold everywhere. No matter where I shopped, I struggled to find brands that were offering bespoke designs with a unique point of view. That’s when I decided to help make timeless quality pieces more easily attainable.
I have made a conscious effort not to go too much down the green road in terms of marketing Anupa as a “green business”. Yet the bones of the company are firmly based on ethical and sustainable values. I believe sustainability starts with the supply chain and that means using responsibly-sourced materials and working closely with the artisans to create all of Anupa’s products.
Challenging the mindset that brands based in and produced in Asia can offer a luxury product was difficult to do. All our products are made in Vietnam and it can be hard sometimes to convince consumers that they are paying a premium for something of value. But by demonstrating consistency of design and quality and strong communication, people will eventually come round to the idea that you get what you pay for no matter where an item is made.
Our designs are timeless and classic. It is always easy to distinguish when someone is wearing an Anupa piece. My clients constantly tell me they are used to receiving compliments when they go out in an Anupa piece.
A day in the life
Lucky me, I don’t have a typical day as anything can happen on any given day and we have to react fast to any changes. Normally I would start my day by visiting the boutiques. I like to arrive before the shop opens so I can have some private time to set up the display for the day. The display changes on a daily basis as I have new pieces arriving weekly and I like to be the one to display the new pieces. Once the displays are done, I will have a meeting with my sales team to discuss private client appointments or any other pending issues for the day. I then spend the rest of the day between the workshop making new pieces and meeting clients who want me to style new leather and jewellery products for them.
Like most fashion brands, my creative process is not restricted to creating collections based on the four seasons. I often create a collection based on lifestyle and need. When I purchased my very first laptop, I designed the Celine laptop bag to allow me to bring it to work daily. This became the first building block of the ‘Executive’ collection that quickly grew to include iPad meeting bags, business card holders, document holders, pen covers and other accessories that circle around work life.
In summary, my creative process starts with what is needed. Everything else branches out from that need. It can take me anywhere from one week to one year before a design is finalised. After that, I work on making the first sample in leather which can take up to 10 days. After the sample is made I will run a series of tests for at least 3-5 months to ensure it covers its purpose of design.
Materials and process
Where most designers focus on making items to fit a cost price, my main concern is ergonomics, functionality and durability. I visit all my raw material suppliers, research how everything is produced and select materials based on these values.
Sustainability goes hand in hand with good production values. When you select superior materials, the lifespan of your products will naturally be extended. I source our leather from farms, so they are by-products of the meat industry and only work with tanneries that abide by ISO-compliant processes. I often use tanning techniques developed from other industries such as footwear and furniture to develop softer and more durable leather. Some of the new types of leather that have been used in recent collections include tilapia leather, which is processed from one of the most common edible fish on the planet. The jewellery and tourmaline used in Anupa products are all ethically sourced and cut in Vietnam. The cutting of gems is kept to traditional methods, which are all done by hand. Our stones are not chemically treated, as I love maintaining the natural cut and colour of the gems.
The Vietnam factor
Being a British company that produces in Vietnam and proudly retails where it produces is so exciting. We have clients from all walks of life who find Anupa in Vietnam and they are so excited to find a great product that they have not seen elsewhere.
Thanks to all our dynamic suppliers in Vietnam who I have worked with for more than 10 years, maintaining the brand’s essence of sustainability has been a wonderful journey. What can i say, they’ve made it easy for me to carry out my vision.
I am designing for me, and others like me who look for something beyond the ordinary. You have to understand that when Anupa was conceived, I was so tired of mass production; I needed to fulfil my personal shopping needs.
Our clients choose Anupa for the reason we offer classy, sophisticated products that can be easily distinguished from the mass-market without being too ostentatious. It is not a short-lived fashion option. It is part of one’s lifestyle accent.
Whether I am at the workshop or the boutique, I am surrounded by people who love Anupa. From the artisans who are so proud of the product they make, to the retail team, they all motivate me.
Dream project or collaboration
My dream is on its way to becoming reality! I am creating the perfect accessory brand and I am also hosting designers that I love in our boutique in Vietnam to showcase my favourite designers that I have sourced from around the world.
Words of advice
Each and every designer is responsible for what customers buy, so it is vital to stay focused on the product (or service) and ensure you provide the best you can in a responsible way.
I am working on several projects, first of which is a new range of jewellery that has been inspired by the blue of the ocean. I’m also about to launch a new moss green and metallic grey soft leather that’s inspired by the qualities of cashmere. I look forward to 2016 as I hope to be back at London Fashion Week retailing my collection to the public.
9 Dong Du, District 1,
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam