Timeless Bags with a Touch of Mischief

10/22/2019 · By Agustín Velasco
mercules opening
Designs handmade in Spain with a high-end finish. © Courtesy of Mercules

On the verge of turning a decade in the market, Mercules has gone from making waves on social media as ‘the bags with the arrow’ brand to being a household name with a complex creative universe behind them.

Basque designer Mercedes Gallego created one of those firms that become an instant cult brand by word of mouth and online. Since its launch in 2010, Mercules handbags—with a golden arrow for a logo—have delighted a highly demanding clientele both in and outside Spain, with a fresh yet orthodox design. Thanks to the quality of the leather, coming from the country’s best tanneries, they soon positioned themselves among the leading Spanish brands. Today, Mercules is no longer just synonymous with handmade quality handbags made in Spain, their range also includes footwear, jewellery, belts and other accessories, as well as household items.

Now, along with partners Alejandra O’Shea, business strategist, and Gabriela Laiseca, in charge of communication, Gallego is living a great moment of consolidation and expansion of her brand, the limits of which are set only by their imagination. The golden arrow points farther than ever.

Along with your training at Central Saint Martins Design School, your stints at Loewe, Galliano and Massimo Dutti stand out on your CV. What is the essential thing you learned in these three companies?
I was lucky enough to land my first job in John Galliano’s studio. He was creative director at Dior back then, and for me it was a super creative time, with no limits—I learned that everything that crosses your mind can become something real. As for my time at Loewe, I have to say that it was my first contact with the world of accessories, and it was the place where I fell in love with crafts and leather. And finally, Massimo Dutti was like a master course in ready-made fashion, supplier searching, and non-stop product development. It was a less creative episode, but still very interesting.

Why did you decide to start working for yourself?
I missed the freedom of the creative process and creating something that was mine one hundred percent had always been on my mind.

Let’s start at the beginning. Why did you decide on handbags to start your journey with Mercules and not a different product line?
Because that was what I had specialised in. I love objects and, as far as I’m concerned, a bag is the quintessential fashion item. They are like sculptures in which you can take your stuff for a walk.

“A bag is like a sculpture in which you can take your stuff for a walk”

What is your creative and manufacturing process like?
I like to get to the workshop without having any clear ideas. I sit in front of the leather I’ve chosen beforehand and start to create volumes. My creations emerge right there, but I modify them afterwards. I try to be true to myself during the whole process. I only develop things that I would like to wear myself, without letting myself be influenced by other people’s designs, and we manufacture them in a small workshop, in a conscious and sustainable way. I feel happy doing things this way, and it also makes the project more authentic.

And from the client’s point of view, what do you think they see in your creations—specifically in your bags—that gets them hooked?
We try to be as approachable as possible, which makes our customers feel identified with the brand. We also try to offer a classic product, but with a rocker vibe that makes it more original.

Mercules is no longer just a ‘handbag firm’—over the years you have included many other product lines. What is the last one you have introduced, or the next one we will see with your signature on it?
The idea is to create a brand universe. Right now, we’re expanding the footwear line and we’ll continue with the hats. The next thing we’ll launch will be a home collection, but I can’t tell you more about that right now!

What makes you decide to introduce a new product in your universe?
We develop products as we meet suppliers that we like. The manufacturing process is very important for us.

Is it complicated to make a competitive product (on a profitability level, obviously) with products that are handmade and in Spain?
Everything has its own ins and outs, but it’s our job to try to balance everything to make it worth our while when it comes to design, price and sustainability.

“We manufacture our products in a small workshop in a conscious and sustainable way. I feel happy doing things this way, and it also makes the project more authentic”

You currently have two stores of your own, one in Getxo (Biscay) and one in Madrid.
Yes, it’s always been clear to me that a store is the best option to showcase your product. Direct contact with your clients helps you get to know them better. It’s like inviting people to your home to get to know you better.

How do you see Spanish fashion right now? Do you think it’s doing well?
I think there are wonderful brands that are doing very well nationally and internationally. As a small and growing brand, many of our efforts focus on maximising our international appeal. Of course, there are always things that can be improved, such as support for brands with less visibility or the promotion of sustainable manufacturing.