Margriet Meijer van Monsak becomes maker coach

Image: Margriet Meijer

Margriet Meijer changes course. The designer and founder of bag brand Monsak will focus on customization and on her new role as maker coach, she tells FashionUnited by telephone. Monsak’s regular bag line is reduced to one model, the backpack. The other models, including shoulder bags, crossbody bags and laptop bags, will only be available for customization on request in the future. FashionUnited talks to Meijer about this firm turn. “My work started to feel like I was on a hamster wheel.”

Factory feeling

Since 2012, Meijer has been making bags from what she calls ‘saved leather’: leather that does not pass the inspection of major fashion houses, for example due to minor damage. Initially she made tailor-made bags, especially for friends and acquaintances, who chose a model designed by Meijer and had it adapted to her liking. An extra inner pocket, longer handles… “I really liked that,” says Meijer, and her customers thought so too. Gradually, Meijer began to sell her bags through shops and markets, and with success. This is how her project grew into a label: Monsak.

This also brought Meijer into the world of retail. Wholesale, stocks, points of sale, margins – she all had to deal with it. “In the long run, some stores earned more from the bags than I did, which I found quite difficult. And certainly in the last year I got the feeling that my studio was becoming a kind of factory. ” The crowds, and the corona crisis, had a ‘muddy effect’, says Meijer. “I wasn’t really concerned with the question: ‘why am I doing this anyway?’”

The value of making

In the summer of 2020, Meijer was asked by a number of other entrepreneurs if she could help them set up a bag label. “I’ve always been talking to other entrepreneurs about their work a lot, and I thought that was really cool,” says Meijer. She accepted the offer. “It was also a way to test whether I could help other entrepreneurs and makers professionally. I’ve been an entrepreneur for eight years, but I was selling a product, not a service, that’s really something else. To suddenly call yourself a coach is a lot. I was still looking for the best way to help. ”

She also encountered some bumps in her own work. “I was no longer doing what made me happy. Being so busy keeping things going, it felt like I was in some kind of machine. I started to wonder: is this still the machine I want to work in? If you are not happy yourself, ”continues Meijer,“ you also lose your magnet. You no longer attract people. ” The designer noticed this very concretely: Monsak’s turnover began to decline. “All kinds of things came together. I thought it was time to choose what makes me happy. ”

Now she is going to support other makers in this. “Especially professional makers who already make a living from their creations. I want to help them take a step back and look at: who are you? Why do you do what you do? What do you make, and for whom? ” This can also help makers reach the right target group. “Making is something very basic,” explains Meijer. “As a maker it is crazy to ask for money for what you can do well and for what is so close to you. It’s hard to appreciate. It is important to stand back and look at what you have to offer and to find a target group that understands what you do and values ​​it. ”

That is one of the reasons that Meijer continues to make tailor-made bags. “With that you create a personal product that people appreciate much longer.” In addition, Meijer will continue to give workshops. “I do that to make the making process tangible, and to show the love and passion for bag making.” What also remains is the backpack, Meijer’s best-selling bag. “I feel so fond of that bag, I use it every day myself. And I also like to be able to offer something that people can buy immediately. But quality remains above quantity. ”

Image: Margriet Meijer

Change course

As a maker coach, Meijer hopes to be able to support makers of all kinds. “Whether you make ceramics, or graphic design, prints, jewelry, clothing, texts …” Only bag makers will not coach them so quickly. “Not because of the competition, but the difference in expectations. People sometimes assume that the formula I’ve used will work for them – but I don’t believe in that. Then it becomes a copy-paste story. In that sense it is better if it is far from my own label. ”

Last Tuesday, Meijer finally took the plunge. On Sunday she sent out a newsletter sharing her plan with the world. “I’m going to quit everything that makes me unhappy,” she writes. “I didn’t realize that some things gave me a headache. You shouldn’t want a cup that doesn’t work. From now on things will change course. ” Meijer: “On Saturday evening I still thought, do I really have to put it that way? Can I take that freedom? Am I not disappointing my fans? But I am very happy that I persisted and that the ratio has not taken over. I have only received heart-warming responses. And since I made this choice, I notice: something has been broken open. Everything flows again. ”

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