“Initially, every bag is for me” – Mihaela Crisan, the creator of NUD Atelier

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“Initially, every bag is for me” – says Mihaela Crisan, the creator of NUD Atelier from Alba Iulia. I was lucky to meet her and see her atelier for creating leather purses – as soon as you enter the space you feel the creativity, quality and perfection being present in the air. It was great to learn from Mihaela on how she started this business of hers, what are the pitfalls of the working process and what is the moving force for this field for her.

Mihaela, please tell us a little about your background. Have you always been involved in creative field?

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Actually, I have never been involved in a creative field, but I always had a creative side and liked everything that involves design and art. I graduated a Technical University (Civil engineering)and I co-own a cafe in Alba Iulia, so when I entered this field it kind of took even me by surprise.

Mihaela, so as you said you are a co-owner of the Framm’scafe in Alba Iulia. How did you decide to start this business and what is so special about it among other places in Alba Iulia? I have to mention that this is a really well-designed place and it is inspiring to see how business owners dedicatetheir efforts and ideas to create such space which can become a “hub”with a special atmosphere and even a place that can represent a city, be its significant part.

Well, me and my partner (who is an UNARTE graduate) decided to find a space in which we could host temporary art exhibitions. On the way of doing so, we thought that maybe selling a coffee or a tea would be a good idea since we have to pay rent for the space. I was still working as a civil engineer back then. The road was a bumpy one but also a very personal one. We had practically no resources, so we had to build up the place slowly. I soon found out that I loved this journey and itmade me quit my job and get involved more in the story of Framm’s. At first, we built our own tables, decorations and more from scrap. We thought that byleaving our mark on the place we would appeal people like us. We grew each year and we constantly tried to improve the quality of our services.Now we call it home and I guess that people feel that.

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So, since you already had your project realized in real life, how did you come up with the idea of making purses? Did you always have a passion for purses? Was it this together with sewing skills which brought you to this decision to make your own brand?

It was kind of an accident. I came across some leather and I really wanted to make a cool simple bag for myself. I turned to a friend of mine who is in this field and asked if he could help me do it. He did, and by doing so, I began to realize that I could learn more, I was attracted to the idea that I could make my own bag one day. So, I bought a leather sewing machine and started to play with it. Up until 2016 I had no idea how to use a sewing machine. Surprisingly, my technical formation helped a lot. I had the proper thinking and skills for making a pattern. I soon found out that technical stuff is equally as important as the creative part. One does not go without the other. Imade my first bag soon after and when someone asked me to reproduce it for her, I was stunned. I guess I thought that I was just playing, yet people took me seriously. So, when more friends asked for a bag of their own,I decided to start a small business. A business of one.

How was the brand’s name created?

I did not really have anything in mind except that I loved (and still do) products that look and feel simple but deep inside they are kind of complicated and have their own personality. Much like a person. We are all the same and yet so different. NUD means “naked” in Romanian. My thoughts were towards representing the complexity of something apparently very simple, like a human body. To which my bags would become an extension…It is also an acronym for Neutral Urban Design.

Was it hard to start a new business running in a different field or the experience in restaurant sphere still helped a little?

It was not hard – I was doing this in my spare time and I considered it more like a hobby. I have my workshop at Framm’s, so it is easy to navigate between them. I guess I am still not considering it a business. Although it is, a small one.

Why did you start making bags but not clothes or accessories, like wallets?

I make wallets from time to time, but I prefer to make bags. The time spent working on a wallet is sometimes equal to the time necessary for making a bag. It involves a lot of detailing and special machines.Makingclothing, on the other hand, is an entirely different thing, it requires special skills and different sewing machines. It would be something entirely new, and as much as I would like to learn that too, my time does not allow it.

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Can you please tell us how the process of making one bag usually looks like? How is it organised from the beginning to an end? Do you spend quite some time on a sketch, then select the material and so on?

Well, at first it is an inspiration, a shape I like or a bag that I think would look good or be practical and so on. Then I think if it is doable. I start making a pattern, I choose the right leather for it and I start making it. If I like it at the end, then I make a definitive pattern and I post it on social media and then it is ready to order. If not, I decide if adjustments have to be done and start from the beginning. Sometimes if I do not really like it, or if it does not match what I envisioned – I let it go and move to the next one.

As I have seen in your Instagram account, you are using quality leather as a material for the purses. What are the hardships in working with leather?

As they say, not all leather is created equal. Through the process of finishing the leather, it can become very soft or very rigid. It can be naturally tanned or chemically tanned. It is thin or thick. So, I have to figure out how to use it properly. Some bags require soft thin leather, others something else. For sewing the leather, it needs to be thinned sometimes, so you need special machines. I would say that the main hardship for me is sometimes not having the right machines for a specific model I think of, like big leather factories do.

What is the most difficult task for you in the process of working with bags?

I would not say that one process is more difficult than the other, they all require attention, precision and patience in equal amounts. I would say the hardest part is in envisioning what I want to do. Finding the sparkle, the idea. Then it is just work.

I am pretty sure all your purses are sort of your “babies” in one way and yes, we should not usually choose a “favorite” but still – which item is your favorite and why?

My favorite bag is the one that I have not yet made.

Where do you find inspiration for your new items?

I find it everywhere, in nature, in all sort of spaces and things that I see. It can start from a simple shape or from a specific detail that I like and want to reproduce.

Who are your clients?What kind of people usually purchase your purses?

My clients come from all sorts of backgrounds or domains. They are usually attracted to simplicity, function and good handcrafting. They are the ones who like the idea of a small and mindful business that creates a limited number of quality bags.

Do you sell purses in Romania or there are the clients also from abroad?

I can ship everywhere, I have some clients abroad, but I mainly sell in Romania.

Do you wear your bags? Do you create them from a point of view where you, yourself, would want to wear it?

As I said in the beginning, I started with the desire of making a bag for myself. Now they are all created like that, as something that I would wear. Initially, every bag is for me. I always wear the first bag of a model in order to notice its practicality or its flaws.

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Another piece of art that I have to mention for our readers, is your creative space. What happened first – you created the space for work or during the process of sewing the purses you decided you need a comfortable zone where you will be in peace and full of the creative vibe?

My workshop was initially inside Framm’s, in a separate room, but then I decided I need a space which is quieter and more private, so I built my new workshop right next door, so to say. Since then, that small room inside the cafe turned into a small kitchen, so everything worked out perfect in the end. Both me and Framm’s grew.

Did you design it yourself? Do you feel like you are in peace when you work there?

I spend most of my time here, so it is as cosy and as practical as possible. I designed it so that it is both– an office and a home away from home.

Do you believe your purses are fashionable items? If yes, how do you personally understand fashion and why do you think people should purchase your fashion items?

I think they can be considered “fashionable”, but I do not really believe in this term. I think personal style is much more important and it is something that we all have to continually grow and nourish. I wish my bags would blend and find themselves in each client’s style.

From the perspective of creator, what would be your advice for people starting out their own business in a creative field?

I do not have any advices, but if a civil engineer can turn out to hold art exhibitions in their own cafe and handcraft bags all at the same time, then believe me that everything is possible if you dare to step towards your goal.

Author: Anastasia Zhmankova

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