Mateja Škraba and her Frachella
“As far as Frachella goes I try to follow the flow of life without setting goals. I love being surprised. It’s the same with my personal life, to which I love to add as many carefree and happy days as possible.” Mateja Škraba
Tell us a little bit about yourself – what was it that you did before creating Frachella and how did the idea for the brand come about?
I’m an average girl who’s in love with life and the people that surround her. Friendships mean a lot to me as do the moments I spend with these people, whether they’re hard or happy ones. I love to travel, explore and I love to go with the flow of life. Before I created Frachella I lived in Morocco with my friend Katarina. It was a peaceful life by the beach, exploring Morocco on the weekends but mostly finding myself and learning about who I was in an unfamiliar environment. How big a step I was willing to take in order to leave my little bubble of comfort and live. I think that everyone should try something similar to that in order to cross the borders of discomfort.
When I came back to Slovenia I was unemployed for a while and at that time I began to create, mostly for myself. My first project that came to life was Frachella street style culture. It was me and my boyfriend photographing interesting street style, mostly on the streets of Ljubljana. Later, after I’d designed my first backpack and saw the response and the big growth of the brand I decided to keep the name Frachella and to continue to create under the brand.
You say that you created the tassle backpack because at the time you couldn’t get ones like it in Slovenia. What’s the story behind these backpacks now, four years later?
When I started to design the Frachella backpacks the offer in the shops in Ljubljana was really bad. That design of backpacks was just starting to blow up around the globe. Frachella and a couple of other designers caught the perfect timing of starting a brand with uniquely designed products. Today it’s a completely different picture. There are a lot of backpack designers out there and our small market is quickly overflowing with similar products. That is exactly the reason why it is necessary to think outside the box.
The name comes from the kids puppet show Fraggle rock. The characters in the show were known for their colourful, fluffy hairstyles. But the name goes way back, into my childhood. I think the story goes a little bit like this… My cousin got a hand knit sweater from my grandmother. It was colourful, soft, fluffy… Just like the hair of the Fragglers. Because of that likeness my cousin called that sweater Fračela. When she outgrew it she gave it to me and the name stayed the same, deeply ingrained in my mind. When I look at a picture of that sweater today it looks like any other sweater but the imagination of children is truly limitless.
How does Frachella keep up with being so distinctly recognizable?
My style changes constantly. I’m constantly evolving with the events in my life, the travels I go on and current inspirations around me. It’s because of that that I find it hard to say that I keep up a very recognizable style of my brand. I think the logo is the one that really makes it easy to recognize it and is the necessary part of every product I put out. In the beginning I probably paid special attention to small details but today I just follow my wishes and visions and create products without thinking about how I have to include small details that would be typical of Frachella.
What is your process behind creating new products? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Almost every time that I get an idea I sketch it out on a piece of paper and send it to my seamstress. After we get the measurements and calculate the consumption and production I get the fabrics and the first day that we’re both free we start creating. I tried creating a whole collection but that process is just not suitable for me. I love being spontaneous. I’m inspired by travelling, music (I love the era of Janis Joplin and the Doors), the people around me, my friends, movies… I can find inspiration almost everywhere. I just wait for the moment when I’m completely taken by something or someone and then I just let myself give in… From that moment on, things just start to flow on their own.
What’s the fashion market for accessories like in Slovenia? Is it comparable to the one abroad? Where do most of your orders come from?
If I’m being completely honest I’m not on track with the market since I’ve started my own brand. I pay attention to the accessories created by Slovenian designers but nothing past that. As far as shopping’s concerned I do most of it online or abroad. Not taking into account our own designers, the market is stronger and more advanced abroad. There’s a bigger offer, they pay a lot of attention to new and interesting designers that we can shop in different concept shops. It’s clear that the offer is also dependent on the purchasing power of the buyers… In Slovenia the majority of them is still not ready to pay more money for a designer piece. They’d rather buy more pieces for the same money and I hope that that mindset changes soon.
I have a couple of friends that live abroad that helped with Frachella’s growth beyond Slovenia’s borders and make it more recognizable in other countries around the world. A big thank you also goes to other web shops that sell abroad. Currently most of my products are being shipped to France, Italy, Germany and Poland. A lot are also sent to the States and other continents.
What has been the biggest challenge you had to face with the brand?
When you start to establish a brand, creating a product, shopping for the materials and searching for different coworkers every step is a challenge. If someone that came before you couldn’t find a solution and helped you with it you have to go out and find it yourself. Maybe I had it a little bit easier because I didn’t plan everything and it all just happened really spontaneously. I solved my problems by demand you could say. A good example for that is the online shop – it was never my goal to have one and to sell through it. We created it because of the demand; our buyers beat us to the punch with their wish for one and showed support for it in advance. It’s because of factors like these that made things slightly easier for me. I never felt any pressure or burden. The thing that throws me off track completely would be bureaucracy and everything that goes hand in hand with it.
Where are the products made and where can people buy them? Do you also create unique products per request / commissions?
All of the products are made in Slovenia and in the last phase of creation they all pass through my hands. They’re available on our website and physically currently only in the Slovenska – local made shop in Maribor. As far as foreign shops are concerned they’re online as well – Asos marketplace and Showroom.
I don’t do commissions but we do take requests as far as colour is concerned. To create backpacks designed by someone else… it wouldn’t be my product anymore.
Frachella also collaborates with other creators – Giakiara, Faithfully Yours and Bohemia Design. What are these collaborations like?
Mateia Kogoj is the designer behind the brand Giakiara, Katarina Tavčar creates under the brand Faithfully Yours. They’ve both been my friends for a long time and have been with me since the very beginning, when the Frachella backpack was just an idea in my head – or even since the time of the street style blog. Our collaborations were completely natural and spontaneous – because of their qualities I’ve included them in Frachella at the very beginning. They’re the two people that I can share every idea, concern or worry with, the two people that I can ask for an opinion on every little detail. They’re an irreplaceable part of the Frachella team. Almost a year after the backpacks Mateia came up with the swimsuit idea that I instantly supported without thinking twice and the first model of the swimsuit line was one that we’d designed together. The collaboration carried on through the next year and is still lasting.
Katarina started with macramé a little later, perhaps more for her own enjoyment. But I’ve always encouraged her to sell her creations and show them to the public. And after years of support, friendship, crying and laughter came the only logical move – to include them into my online shop. I think of all these brands as something that is ours.
Bohemia was the first to pop up when I was searching for woven baskets. When I was reading their story, which is very closely entwined with Morocco, I felt that this is a brand that would nicely complete the online shop. A week later their products were in my office.
Aside from Bohemia the collaborations are like being a part of a family; not just Giakiara and Faithfully yours. There are so many people involved in Frachella’s team that I couldn’t imagine my life without… I consider myself the luckiest girl in the world. Man, I always get so emotional with these types of questions!
What’s your motto and your plan for the future?
As far as Frachella goes I try to follow the flow of life without setting goals. I love being surprised. It’s the same with my personal life, to which I love to add as many carefree and happy days as possible. Most people would probably say that my personal motto is ‘fuck it’. The majority of the moments that make us stress out aren’t worth it in the end. I work a lot on understanding negative moments, hard days and stressful situations. When I see that something isn’t worth my attention or effort I just say ‘fuck it’ and move on. Take it easy and have fun.
Answers: Mateja Škraba
Photos: Mark Kucler