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5 Minutes With... Roque Bags

by Emma Foreman

Roque Bags is a Swiss/Argentine travel goods label founded by Isabelle and Martín in 2012. Their designs are inspired by the wonderful elegant vintage leather bags of yesteryear without missing out on modern flair or functionality. We caught up with the duo to find out what makes them tick. 

How did Roque Bags begin?

A few years ago we became increasingly enthused by the world of leather craftsmanship, which has long been a tradition in Argentina and decided that we would like to acquire that knowledge. We started taking courses, working with bag makers, attending workshops, going on shopping sprees for leather and buckles, and slowly we started to build up our knowledge.

After immersing ourselves for some time in the art of leather bag making solely for our personal pleasure, we decided one day after being increasingly unhappy with our desk jobs, to turn our passion into our profession. That was the moment when Roque Bags was born.

We both came into this from completely different fields. With a background in Economy, International Trade and a Master’s degree in Political Science we were both working at the UN and in the Export/Import Sector before we started Roque Bags. These rather unusual work experiences were extremely valuable in light of what we do now, and have been very beneficial when building up the brand. 

We acquired most of our manual and designs skills through hands on experiences, having attended various pattern making and leather sewing courses and even working in several leather bag studios ourselves. We are constantly learning new skills.

Have you always been interested in fashion?

Fashion is something playful in our lives, something we toy with and enjoy on a personal level but we don't think of what we do as ‘’fashion’’. In Argentina - where there is an old tradition in the art of leather craft- we would be called Marroquineros,  people working leather. 

What have been the highest and lowest points on your journey so far?

The highest point in our journey happened right at the beginning: a very famous Scandinavian blogger bought one of our duffle bags. She took it with her to New York Fashion Week and posted several beautiful pictures, that led to a high number of requests. The lowest point was that this item was a prototype which we didn't have in stock. By the time we did, the hype was over and nobody was interested in the bag anymore. 

What was the inspiration behind your latest collection?

We focus on a small number of different sized travel bags, and we keep perfecting them over time. So we do not have collections as such, but what changes is the types and shades of leather we use. Our source of inspiration always remains the same: what we encounter in a city of immigrants, travellers and traditional craftsmen, like Buenos Aires has always been.

Do you ever struggle to stay inspired?

No. The city we live in, Buenos Aires, is an ever changing metropolis that never fails to inspire us with its mixture of old world charm and South American character.

Where is your go-to meeting spot?

Our meeting spot is our Buenos Aires studio which we share with a young local artist. It is one of those charming old houses so typical of this city and is the former home and workshop of Mariano Pagés, a famous Argentine sculptor. 

How would you describe your customer base?

Inspired travellers.

Is there anyone you would love to see wearing your designs?

Anyone who falls in love with our bags.

What are the morals you run your brand by?

We go by the principle ‘’buy less, buy better’’. Roque Bags is proud to support the local industry. We work with a small group of traditional craftsmen. Our products are 100% sweat shop free. 

Do you have a mentor?

We wished.

What apps keep you sane?

All apps drive us crazy but we need them. Instagram has been a great platform for us. 

If you could only wear one piece from your collection, what would it be and why?

That would be the newest member of the Roque Bags family: our vintage suitcase Recoleta. Nobody makes these wonderful vintage travel items anymore which is a shame. On top of this, our version is lighter and more functional than the old originals. 

What’s the biggest style mistake you’ve ever made?

We feel we might have lost our way a bit when started incorporating a handbag line. But we have since gone back to our essence: making amazing travel bags. 

Is there another designer whose work you particularly admire?

We had the chance to take a workshop given by the amazingly talented Sergio Lara of leather tooling/embossing- the ancient art of adorning leather by cutting and stamping the surface. Lara is just unbelievable, a true master of his craft and his designs are just absolutely beautiful.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Pablo Ramirez, the Argentine fashion designer told us ; ’’Always be true to yourself. Stick with what you think is beautiful, not what the market asks from you’’. 

What drew you to Wolf & Badger?

We wanted to get our product out there, to a wider public in one of our favourite cities. 

Where do you see the brand in 5 years?

We really don't know. But what we do know is this; in 5 years we are hoping to be still doing what we love and to continue making our customers happy.