A timeless story: We walk through the seasons with London’s favorite accessories brand – Mark/Giusti
Mark Farhat, the walking reflection of the handcrafted accessories brand Mark/Giusti, elaborates on his journey with the luxuriously chic London favorite.
Mark/Giusti, nominee of the ‘Accessories Designer of The Year 2013’ Award at the Drapers Footwear and Accessories Annual Awards 2013 and nominee of the ‘Accessories Business of The Year 2013’, was founded in 2009 with the “aim to create a luxury product that combines a perfect union between function, design and historic art”. Mark tells me that he “wanted to recreate the meaning of true luxury, beauty and craftsmanship and so has set standards for the Mark/Giusti brand, which he absolutely sticks with, no matter the cost. “To me, luxury is about superior quality, craftsmanship, attention to detail, functionality and discretion at its best,” he says.
He had initially started to create bespoke designs and collections for his private VIP customers who requested beautifully crafted pieces that are not available in the mainstream market. Due to the increased demand he later started the international expansion of the brand in 2012 by participating in international showcases and fashion weeks.
Mark describes the beginnings of Mark/Giusti as probably being one of the most important periods of the brand. “Creating and running a business is like having a child. You need to nurture it and dedicate all your time to it but as it grows you have to learn to let it progress whilst watching over it closely. It is also important to learn all aspects of the business as this will help to delegate the right tasks to the right person when your team grows. Like every designer, I started on my own and learned to manage the business as whole from design to accounting. I am still learning new things every day and trying to make the best decision I can. So far it has paid off,” he explains.
He describes the most important elements which make Mark/Giusti’s work style different from any other luxury brand. Mark is greatly influenced by his father’s art collections and interests in mosaics. “I grew up following him to antique fairs and auctions, watching him examine beautiful pieces of history as he explained to me the origin of each one of them,”he says.
Mark goes on to tell me about his travels and the influences those experiences had and still have on his designs. “The more I travel around Italy, the more I wanted to see the mosaic wall decorations, paintings and marble floors that I used to see in my father’s books when I was a child. I fell in love with the designs all over again – especially those beautiful geometric patterns that seemed to have been forgotten,” he says.
“As a son of a diplomat, we travelled a lot. I was born in Lebanon, grew up in Libya and then lived in several other countries across Africa, followed by Lebanon, London and NYC. The whole experience has been one great adventure that helped shape the person I am today. I loved every single moment, from getting to know the history of a new country to exploring it. It has helped me adapt to different situations and cultures. I accepted early on that change is natural, even important, for the growth and evolution of everything. All of this experience has enriched my creativity as a designer and it enables me to think of new and exciting ways to enhance brand each season.”
Italy, the heart of luxury crafts and authentic innovation, is where Mark studied Accessories Design and trained in Costume National. “Italy, as a whole, inspires me.” he says. “I admire their art, fashion and craftsmanship. Italian artisanal craftsmen have historically been world renowned for their superior workmanship especially within the leather industry. This is one of the main reasons why I chose to source and produce all Mark/Giusti products, including leather, zips and hand carved metallic fittings, locally and by Italian Artisans because I wanted the brand to reflect our dedication to quality, luxury and the arts, which includes the art of craftsmanship.”
He tells me of his time in New York City, concrete jungle where dreams are made of, where he had managed all UK product development for Capelli NYC, designing the men’s accessories range for each season, and liaised with the factories, production team in New York and sales team in the UK. In addition to this, he was also responsible for the men’s showroom in the UK and liaised with retail buyers and the press. “Handling so many different areas of the business from the beginning strengthened my capabilities and widened my design skills giving me very practical tools from which to launch Mark/Giusti,” Mark says.
He also emphasizes his time in the Lebanon as having been an inspiration on its own, and has many traces of a Byzantine heritage. The Lebanese heritage is diversified, in it’s material and cultural aspects in fields like mythology, society, economy, philosophy, literature, art, science, politics and folklore. “My Arab origins certainly affect my design and choices to a certain degree even though if it were sometimes unintentionally,” he tells me. One of the earliest examples of mosaics were found in Abra, Mesopotamia – a region between Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran – dated to the 3rd millennium B.C. This art is still used up to current days in different formats to decorate beautiful buildings, mosques and houses.
Mark continues: “When I decided to establish Mark/Giusti, I wanted to give the brand an identity, not only to differentiate it from other brands in the market, but to establish a spirit of masculinity, artistic craftsmanship and timeless beauty. Bringing these designs back to life through our accessories infuses each and every Mark/Giusti product with an opulent history and faithful character. It is a perfect union: my love of Byzantine mosaics and my love of fashion.”
The chicly raw Mark/Giusti brand represents understated luxury to the highest degree and this can be seen from the superior craftsmanship to the detailed designs in the interior of all products, which bring beautiful historic mosaics back to life. It is a brand that combines design, function and craftsmanship into perfect harmony.
This is something that is not seen in mainstream brands which are much more ‘logo’ driven. “Our bags are for someone who is looking for quality and practicality at the same time. Finally, I try to create products that are timeless, elegant and well crafted but yet full of character and history. You can easily notice the style in all pieces that combines clean lines and contrast subtle topstitching,” he explains to me.
He further elaborates on the creation executed through the combination of craftsmanship and modern innovation. “Every product I design is individually handmade by the finest artisans who have decades of experience passed on from one generation onto another. A perfectly executed product does not only consist of beautiful aesthetics and craftsmanship but also must include smart innovation and functionality. Attention to detail has always been my passion and this can be seen from the specifically designed interior compartments and the complimentary organizer bags for shirts, shoes and cables. The result is a luxurious, modern and timeless but practical product that meets the demands of the modern person.”
He highlights the importance of the details in the design. “I am attentive to every detail that helps make the product more functional. For example: all interior pockets of the bags are made of leather and are measured to fit important items like iPhone or Blackberry. Gym bags have separate compartments to fit shoes and wet clothes separately. Weekend travel bags have a separate laptop compartment on the outside for easy security control at the airport. They also come with a complimentary shoe bag, shirt bag and cable bag. All of these are small details that make the product more practical and functional and therefore more unique and special.
“From a print perspective, I mainly use a specific style of mosaic called ‘Cosmati’, which is a style of geometric decorative inlay stonework typical of Medieval Italy, and especially of Rome and its surroundings. The name is derived from the Cosmati, the leading family workshop of marble craftsmen in Rome who created the geometrical decorations, which flourished in Rome during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and practiced the art of mosaic. The Cosmati work has a peculiarity, in that it is a glass mosaic used in combination with marble. Which essentially means that it requires more perseverance, attention to detail and craftsmanship in order to create the final print. The result is more refined. Every piece has passion, dedication, and fragments of history in it and this is fundamentally what I try to instill in all Mark/Giusti products.”
This is evident in all of Mark/Giusti’s beautiful handcrafted products. He comments: “Technology and technical gadgets have shaped our lives in recent years and forced us to continuously create specific accessories for them to protect them and help us carry them around.”
Having already marked ground in Dubai, he says: “Our Middle Eastern customers always want something special and unique and this is why is why Mark/Giusti has been quite successful in the region and especially in Bloomingdales Dubai, which are expanding the range for next season to include the full collection.”
Mark goes on to telling me about Mark/Giusti’s future endeavors. “We definitely have plans of having a Mark/Giusti shop in the Middle East in the future. We have also been featured in several publications that love our products and concept the like Conde Nast Traveller, Aishti Magazine, Plastik, and many others.”
Very soon Mark/Giusti will be a global luxury phenomenon. Mark finishes off by saying: “Every collection I create compliments the one before it. To me there is a story, a timeline and a mood to each collection, but there is also a continuation, a progression and a step closer to my idea of perfection.”