Marla Singh Walton made her mark on the international fashion industry early on when she graced the pages of Italian Vogue, Marie Claire, Elle and Donna Magazine as well as becoming one of the first Indian models to land a lucrative campaign for Revlon. She has since gone on to establish her own accessories brand Marla Fiji. Now running into its fourth year Marla takes some time out of her busy schedule to chat to JoJo Iles about her brand and her working day…
JoJo: What made you decide to launch your own bag range?
Marla: I have always had this thirst for beautiful handbags, even more than shoes, so it seemed like a no brainer when I decided to launch my own brand of handbags.
JoJo: How influential is your modelling career to your brand?
Marla: It is very influential, after modelling for some of the world’s top fashion designers and always being surrounded beautiful clothes and accessories it does tend to rub-off on you and I began to develop my own sense of style. Mixing and matching became my great hobby so I guess it was inevitable that I would end up in some way remaining in fashion and designing handbags.
Marla’s initial career as a fashion model
JoJo: For those new to Marla Fiji what’s the ethos of the brand?
Marla: Beautiful designs, fine quality and affordability are the core elements of the brand. I grew up in beautiful Fiji hence the brand name.
JoJo: What key skills/attributes do you think are essential to start your own business in fashion?
“You have to have a lot of discipline and you can't waver on this, it’s like a baby especially in the beginning it requires 24hr attention and you have to make sure you’re on board to always be there for it.”
Marla: I always call it the three D's. You have to be disciplined, determined and direction. Direction in knowing what you want and not diverting from where you’re going see there another D! You have to have a lot of discipline and you can't waver on this, it’s like a baby especially in the beginning it requires 24hr attention and you have to make sure you’re on board to always be there for it. Lots of early mornings and late nights! However, by saying all this I really feel it’s worth it. Above all you have to LOVE what you do as the old saying goes.
JoJo: Tell us a bit about your latest designs?
Marla: I always like to stick with my initial thoughts when it comes to design that is... classic with a contemporary twist to make it a bit edgy so I give myself have room to play.
A selection of bags from the current season
JoJo: Do you have a personal favourite?
Marla: Yes, I do about every other week! God, does that mean I'm fickle? I constantly fall in love with my latest creation its wonderful when you have been working on a bag and to finally see the finished product it is a very warm feeling…mind you there have been a few disasters, luckily only a few. So to answer your question, no I don't have one favourite I have a hundred!
JoJo: Can customers in the UK / Europe buy Marla Fiji?
Marla: Because we are an online business as well anyone around the world can buy. http://marlafiji.com/
JoJo: Are you planning to develop into other leather goods / accessories?
Marla: I'm always am think of venturing into other areas of leather. When I was living in Europe I actually had a leather clothing company, who knows maybe one day... at the present I like to give full attention to my bags as it gets quite hectic coming up with a new range every couple of months.
JoJo: What is a typical working day like for you?
Marla: Well 8.30am I have toast and coffee in bed followed by a massage then Cornelius gets...No only joking! I'm up at 6am I live near a park which is on the harbour so I love to start the day off with a long walk. I'm usually in the office about 8am I check my emails and any attend to any queries my assistant has collated for me.
We then go over any designs that have been left unfinished. I then scream at my husband as he works in the business too, he likes to have his input into how the designs look, he has a brilliant eye for....architecture so we tell him to butt-out a lot of the time and concentrate on what he is supposed to be doing.
Then depending if I have a show on that day or not we check or orders coming through the website or other arenas that we might have a promotion on. If new designs have come in I meet with my photographer to shoot the bags for our website. We have just launched in Asia so we need to keep updated with the stock there.
Often we have a delivery from Italy so the warehouse informs us once they have passed the quality check on each bag and is ready to be shipped out for a delivery. By 6pm we are back on the phone liaising with our craftsman in Italy to see when the next range is ready and they have the right colour leather for the Diana, Clara, or the Mona, is the handle silver etc, etc. By 7pm we call it a day and do it all over again the next day! What ever happened to holidays?!
JoJo: Future plans / events you would like to share?
Marla: We are working on building Marla Fiji into a global brand. I know it sounds cliché however we want to become more involved in certain charities and to give back a whole lot - you don't have to look too far to see that someone might need your help.