“We continue our series of interviews with locals, expats, entrepreneurs and other makers & shakers who make Brussels more creative and interesting place to live. We met for a coffee & chat at Flamingo bar with Marlot Maas, the founder of ElvaBags, a Brussels-based range of unique bags & accessories. We wanted to share with you her experience of Brussels, reasons why she started with ElvaBags, places that inspire her and some other interesting stuff…
WLB: Marlot, how did you decide to start making your own bags?
Already at the age of 10 I started making the garments for my dolls. Also, my mother was usually designing the clothing for my older brother and me. She taught me the basics of sewing and stitching. Ever since then I’m a sewing enthusiast! Some time ago I got the idea to make a specific back pack. For months I was looking around in my favorite little boutiques for this particular bag and I couldn’t find it. So I thought to try and make it myself. After buying some different kind of fabrics for the first try-outs, I started sewing. The prototype made me quite happy… I got a lot of positive reactions from friends, colleagues, but also people in the street coming over to me asking where did I buy my bag ?
So I started designing and making different kinds of bags to meet the requests from people who reached out to me. Most of them were custom-made to the wishes of these folks. Quickly afterwards I created a kind of a logo to sign each of my handmade bags and stated taking pictures of different bags and posting them on my web-blog. That’s how Elvabags.com was born.
WLB: Ok, very interesting, but what makes your bags special and different from others?
My design principles are Simplicity, Uniqueness, Handmade and Sustainability. Every bag contains at least one recycled piece of fabric. Sometimes it is a leftover from the fabric store, another time it is a vintage piece of clothing or a recycled furniture fabric. The bags are all handmade by myself in my little atelier, so it is a genuine local product. During the design of each bag I make sure to keep simplicity as a main guideline. I strongly believe that ‘less is more’ – it is important to rethink every design and take away all unnecessary details which I believe mainly bring distraction and deform the strong lines of my bags. Every bag I make is unique in the sense that I never make twice the same combination of fabrics and design. Each Elva bag is different from the other one. I want to create a unique handmade product.
WLB: Sounds like a very good approach Marlot. Could you please tell us a bit more about yourself and how did you end up in Brussels? ?
I was born in Holland and moved to Belgium when I was 3. I grew up in the green surroundings of Lommel and came to Brussels some years ago. I used to be a professional firefighter and a competitive triathlete. Moving to Brussels triggered my creativity again in many aspects. The city gave me the inspiration to create the Elva bags. Without Brussels the Elva bags would have looked completely different.
WLB: Wow, we agree with you that our city is really inspiring! So what particularly do you like about Brussels, any places you would recommend?
Brussels’ richness and diversity is definitely the number one thing I love about Brussels. In Brussels you see the whole world, and I absolutely love it. I love the African food in Matonge, but also the Portugese and Brazilian atmosphere in some neighborhoods of St-Gilles, the Turkish and Moroccan products on the local markets, and the list goes on. I’m living on the cross-borders of Forest, Saint-Gilles, Uccle and Ixelles, close by the Altitude-100 place. The area is changing rapidly. Plenty of new bars, coffee houses, artists venues, start-ups and other trendy shops are bringing along a whole new dynamic and making a lot of young people and families move over here. I love the Duden park for a calm stroll and escape in nature after a busy day. The funny combination of squirrels, foxes and green parrots you find there gives a good picture about what Brussels really is.
These are some of my favorite places in my neighborhood :
– Rubis: If you love wine you love Rubis
– Prelude: for lunch with their Japanese Bento boxes
– Palo Alto: For a Gin & Food experience, they seriously have the longest quality Gin menu I’ve ever seen.
– La Buvette: If you have something to celebrate and you look for a special dinner environment, go to La Buvette and you will believe being in heaven for the longing of the evening.
WLB: For the end, we would love to know where do you find your ‘daily’ inspiration and is Brussels part of it?
Brussels is ‘the Walhalla’ of inspiration. It has so many little secrets and surprising corners to discover. Just walking around the city gives me the necessary ideas for every new design : the street-art, the different styles of architecture, the countless neighborhoods and its people having different traditions and habits. Also a night out at a concert venue or a good dance performance can give me new ideas and trigger inspiration. Nature brings me paths for creations too. I’m a lover of long walks and hiking with tent and a bag pack in the remote areas of our world. The textures and colors that I find in nature are logically a source for new ideas – also the peace and quietness make my mind cope with the inspiration overdose that I get sometimes in Brussels and purify it to the most valuable thoughts.
For me the combination of big city life and the escapes in nature are both necessary to come to great ideas. First there is the sparking idea and afterwards comes the refinement and elaboration of these ideas. Those two are completely different creative processes which usually require distinct environments.”