DeLaney Aarhaus Interview: Sustainable Superwomen Series
This week on The Sustainable Superwomen Series, we speak to DeLaney Aarhaus, founder of Melior - a luxury brand specialising in handbags made from pineapple leaves. In her interview, she tells us of the challenges she faces as an entrepreneur and her hopes and dreams for her growing brand.
Hey DeLaney! Tell us about your brand and how it was founded
Melior Handbags is a handbag line made entirely from sustainable materials. The interior is made from 100% post-consumer recycled material. The exterior is made from pineapple leaf fibers called Piñatex! The metals are sourced from Portugal where our handbags are made, so our carbon footprint is as low as possible. The dustbag that every bag is delivered in is made from TENCEL, a biodegradable fabricade from wood pulp! Even the box the handbag arrives in is made from cardboard (biodegradable) and our shipping envelopes are biodegradable as well.
I started the company because of my love (maybe obsession is the right word 😋) for handbags. I had overheard a conversation while at lunch with a friend of mine in Australia about how leather tanning is wrecking havoc on the environment and communities around tanneries. I started doing my own research, and the horrors I discovered lit a fire inside me. I had to do something to offer women fashionable handbags that didn't poison water sources, ruin eco-systems, and devastate thousands of people, like leather tanning does.
I did more research into design and materials and TA-DA Melior's first handbag, The Pinya Bag, was born. I decided to make a versatile bag. It can be worn as a backpack, a crossbody, or a top-handle bag. And it comes in two color options!
What makes your handbags unique?
Their most unique feature is being made from a fruit plant! How cool is that?! And they're all ethically made by hand in Porto, Portugal.
Why was it so important for your brand to be sustainable?
I love people. I love human ingenuity. I'm grateful for all of the advancements we've made over the last few centuries. But human innovation will never come to a stand-still. I believe that the best way forward is to take what we've built and improve upon them for the betterment of our planet. We need to start ensuring that the people already here and those who are to come have a clean and prosperous environment to live in.
What do you love most about owning a sustainable brand?
The feedback I get from my customers is the most rewarding feeling. I love that I get to give people somewhere to shop that fits their sharp and sophisticated style, while still being eco-friendly.
What challenges do you face as an entrepreneur?
Honestly... raising capital! I launched on Kickstarter last summer and nearly doubled my fundraising goal. But there are so many unexpected expenses that I put on myself by being a rookie. I've messed up contracts with shipping companies which cost me and ran unprofitable ad campaigns. Finding a way to raise money for inventory and marketing has been the biggest challenge.
What does the future hold for Melior?
I envision a curated label. I want to create The Pinya Bag in a variety of colors, designs, and even include other sustainable materials! I imagine that after I build The Pinya Bag as our iconic handbag, I'll start to Branch out a bit and introduce other designs, like a tote bag or clutch.
My biggest dream for the brand is to become large enough that Melior can actually buy polluting leather tanneries in under privileged communities, clean them up, and turn them into job-providing studios making Melior bags.
What is your relationship like with fashion?
I have a deep respect for fashion. It's one of the largest industries in the world, so there's an opportunity to really push for global change. I love seeing people express themselves openly through what they wear. I love getting dressed up myself and putting together different looks!
I've really dedicated my personal online platform, @ms.melior, to showing people that second-hand, ethically-made, and biodegradable clothing can be stylish!
Tell us the story behind your favourite item of clothing
My favourite top is a cropped blue and white mock-neck...
Growing up, I was always accused of being a "clothing klepto" because I would borrow EVERYONE'S clothes (guilty!)
No one was safe because I love to style men's pieces too.
This top was one that I borrowed from my mom and just forgot to give back. I wear it all the time. But what's so special about it is the fact that she got it before I was even born! There's a really sweet photo of her wearing it in the Cayman Islands with my dad on their honeymoon.
Second-hand clothing is so sentimental. Every pieces has a story.
Shop the Pinya bag at www.meliorhandbags.com