That fashion is a trade is often downplayed. Most designers of clothing and accessories choose to emphasize the artistry of their work, the conception, creation and display of their wares. That’s understandable and interesting, but so much of the industry involves measuring and cutting, skilled workers, factory floors, machinery and supply chains—not so sexy but absolutely essential.
Art and trade are on full display at the 1,000-square-foot studio of design darlings Marcela Velez and Melissa Losada of M2Malletier. The duo launched their well-received and coveted collection of clearly sexy handbags in Barcelona, where they made a home for themselves in a pre-World War I cement factory that was renovated by Spanish starchitect Ricardo Bofill. The building, called La Fábrica, resembles a brutalist Gothic castle—in other words, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
“Melissa is now based in London and I’m based in our office in Barcelona, but we talk all day long,” said Velez, when we connected with her. “I’m more focused on the business side and Melissa on all the design matters.” The two hail from Colombia, but met at a party when they both were attending Parsons School of Design in New York City. Along with their nationality, their shared love of sleek luggage construction, history and architecture attracted them to each other, inspiring them to launch a line of handbags in 2012. “M2Malletier combines influences from the world of architecture with the world of history,” said Velez. “The brand pays homage to iconic, pioneering women, such as one of the 20th century’s most daring and influential patrons of the arts, Vicomtesse Marie-Laure de Noailles.”
M2Malletier bags are immediately identifiable by their graceful metal handle that the designers call ‘the needle.’ “We wanted something different, something that would stand out from the rest,” said Velez. This eye-catching element has won the adoration of fashion fans, who carry the elegant bag with its gilt hilt day and night. The signature hardware was influenced by medieval armor and period medical tools. “Medieval medical instruments inspired us,” Velez said.
“This handle is a hallmark of M2Malletier and perfectly articulates the brand’s unforgettable glamour and avant-garde spontaneity.”
Situating their studio in La Fábrica was a clear choice for Losada and Velez; Bofill is Losada’s father-in-law, after all, and they cite him as one of their influences. “Our brand philosophy recalls the works from French interior designer Jean-Michel Frank and Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill,” said Velez. To the designers, these artists exemplify the unification of minimalism and surrealism, the resolution of an artistic tension of new and old worlds.
“Our corner of La Fábrica is modest, under 1,000 square feet including the airy attached pied-à-terre with a bedroom that looks out on the olive garden,” Velez said. “It has a Rapunzel-like charm of its own. Billowing ivory floor-to-ceiling curtains create ethereal contrast with the classical arches, and there are pops of unexpected color.” La Fábrica houses Bofill’s office and home, too.
“The vibe and eclectic energy that this space exudes inspires us to create and design new styles every season to keep our clients satisfied,” she continued, “yet always be true to our brand image.”
In addition to La Fábrica, here are some of Marcela Velez’s favorite Barcelona spots: