Mark Farhat is the Design Director behind the MARK/GIUSTI brand of men's luxury accessories.
Born in Lebanon he travelled extensively as the son of a diplomat where he was "exposed to different cultures and found an appreciation for history and art" which he believes formed his vision.
The Green Pebbles Girls were delighted to have the opportunity to interview Mark and find out more about his incredibly luxurious yet functional and practical collections, as well as his inspiration and his plans for the future!
Having completed your BA in Business Administration at the University of Beirut you moved to London where you studied marketing management with a focus on Luxury Brands. Where did this passion for luxury and fashion come from?
I have always loved fashion and clothes as early as I can remember. However, when I was young, boys in Lebanon did not study fashion especially if they came from highly regarded families. So, early on, I decided to do a general business administration degree at the American University of Beirut. I then I then moved to London and completed my MA in Marketing Management specializing in Fashion and Luxury brands at the University of Westminster. In march 2009, I finally decided to pursue my long-lived dream for fashion accessories and I established Mark / Giusti and then launched my first collection “Bring Back Time” in June 2010.
You then went to work in New York and studied and worked in Milan. How different do you think the fashion is from one city to another? What are the things that inspired you the most of the two cities?
You are right; I was employed by Capelli NY, a manufacturer of fashion accessories, based in New York, where I was responsible for men’s accessories in the UK. I then decided to pursue my dream of having my own brand, which is when I moved to Milan to study fashion design at the Instituto Di Moda, Burgo.
These are two very different cities with two different views on style and fashion. New York is a remarkable city that inspires you to follow your dreams. People who live in there have no fear and a remarkable passion and energy for life.
Milan on the other hand, is very different. It’s a city that can’t wait to get turned off. You see this on weekends, summer time and holidays. The city becomes completely deserted as people escape to the mountains or sea just to enjoy their time off. Milan inspires people to examine their sense of style and not to be afraid of expressing it. I believe this is why it has always been a major fashion city of the world and where some of the most well-know fashion brands in history were born.
Italy, as a whole, inspires me. 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 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 to reflect the brand’s prime dedication to quality, luxury and the arts, which includes the art of craftsmanship.
As a son of a diplomat you travelled extensively throughout your childhood, what are the fondest memories of this experience and how do you think this has helped for you as a designer?
As a son of a diplomat, we travelled a lot throughout my childhood. I was born in Lebanon, grew up in Libya and then lived in several other countries across Africa. 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 countries, situations and cultures. I accepted early on that change is natural for the growth and evolution of everything and this always captured my imagination. All of this experience has enriched my creativity as a designer and it enables me to think of new and exciting ways to enhance my products each season.
La Dolce Vita Collection
Obviously travel is in your blood. How do you manage to stay focused and not succumb to the travel bug that so many ‘diplomat kids’ seem to have developed?
For sure, travel is in my blood and I guess I do have a bit of what you call the “Travel Bug”. I love escaping to Italy to overlook our production, sampling and visiting its cities and churches in order to re-create the original Byzantine Mosaics for our fabrics. It gives me the same sense of adventure and excitement that I had throughout my childhood.
Do you have a systematic approach to the way you work? i.e. do you sit down at you desk and draw, or do you wait to be inspired and then jot down your idea wherever you happen to be i.e. on the back of a napkin?
I always carry a small notebook and I tend to jot down ideas whenever they grasp my attention (It’s never on the back of a napkin though). I then sit at my desk and go through my notes, research the ideas a bit and then go out to look again until I find my inner vision and the story is complete. Having said this, I do slip into liking something and that can be a color, shape or even dress sense and that is what typically constitutes my inspiration for the next season.
You have split your collection up into 3 distinct collections: La Dolce Vita, Palatina and Bring Back Time, what was the rationale behind this?
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.
“Bring Back Time” was the launch collection for MARK/GIUSTI. Its name revealed my vision for reintroducing the beautiful Byzantine Mosaics into everyday life via our products. Just as the Basilica’s have beautiful Mosaics for their floors and entryways, MARK/GIUSTI products display this art via the interior of our bags and leather accessories.
The “Palatina” Collection, was a continuation in time and history from the Byzantine to the “Cosmati” Mosaic artwork. The “Palatina” Collection was inspired by the Cappella Palatina in Palermo Sicily, which is adorned with extraordinary Norman-byzantine mosaics and houses the finest examples of Arab-Norman art in Sicily.
“La Dolce Vita” was designed to transport us to the glamorous life and elegance of 1950’s and 1960’s Italy. Here it is the colours that take us away and they are more classic and tonal.
“ROMA-NZA” is continuation of time and the idea behind “La Dolce Vita”. As the name suggests it is inspired by the Romance in Roma during the 1950’s. Inspiration for the collection came just after I saw William Wyler’s Vacanze Romane on my last trip to Rome. For me, Rome is the perfect city for a Romance. There is something that makes you fall in love with it. I guess it all goes back to that glamorous Italian lifestyle and the Italian appreciation for the good things in life, whether it’s beautifully crafted bags or simply the food!
As you can see, the story is moves forward and progresses with each collection.
'Active' Weekend Bag - Roma -nza Collection
The Dolce Vita collection captures the elegance of 50s and early 60s, who or what was the main source of inspiration for this. Who could you imagine from the 50s or 60s buying a bag from this collection? What is your favorite piece from this collection?
La Dolce Vita – is largely influenced by the hit film “La Dolce Vita” as was characterized by lead actor Marcello Mastroianni. This “jet-setting” cinematic icon led me to create a beautifully crafted centerpiece for MARK/GIUSTI – the “Jet Set” cabin bag which is also available in a limited edition set of 12 pieces for www.20ltd.com online gallery. Mastroianni created a new look with a laid back, care free attitude towards life that is still inspiring men’s style today.
I love all my children (pieces) equally, each one is different and can be used in different situations, but I must say the Limited Edition “Jet Set” Cabin Bag and the white “Portofino” quite stand out from the others.
The Palatina Collection screams out Mediterranean warmth, colour, and style. You can definitely imagine your average Italian businessman travelling with these bags. Who did you have in mind when you designed them?
You are right; The “Palatina” Collection is very Mediterranean in its colors, theme, lining and indulgence. The dominant color used in the collection employs an extraordinarily deep and vivid orange contrasted by green top-stitching perfectly matching the colors of the mosaics in the Cappella Palatina in Palermo, Sicily where the inspiration for the lining came from. From this, I have created the “Jet Set” Suit carrier, the “Milano” Laptop Bag and the “Cosmati” Ipad cover – a perfect combination for business or travel.
"Jet Set Leather Suit Carrier" - Palatina Collection
What do you think is the most distinctive feature of the Palatina Collection?
I must say the most distinctive feature in the “Palatina” collection is the its vivid colors that are bright and energetic. I personally find the All Leather “Jet Set” Suit carrier to be a perfect representation of the Mark/Giusti brand and me as a designer.
Portofino Black Tote Bag - La Dolce Vita Collection
Beautifully hand crafted in a green stamped Calf Leather with a subtle yet deep orange contrast detailing represents the MARK/GIUSTI luxury pieces that are classically timeless with a modern twist. The attention to detail can be seen in the specific organized compartment for shoes, shirts and toiletries, which make travel effortless and practical. The outside laptop compartment makes it easy to get through transportation security controls and perfects this piece.
The ‘Bring Back Time’ collection seems to have been designed with your typical City of London banker in mind. The different shades of black, the smart linear look, all appear to fit that description. Would you agree with this?
When I created the “Bring Back Time” collection, I did not specifically design it with the typical City of London Banker in mind although I certainly considered businessmen who wanted something smart, elegant and beautifully crafted. When I saw the beautiful marble in the Basilica Di San Marco in Venice, I fell in love with this black and dark green combination, which I find to be my definition of elegance and I wanted the collection to be just that. I designed the collection for anyone who loves a luxurious and classic look with the practicality for meeting a busy day’s demands. I feel quite privileged that the collection has spoken clearly to a discerning business clientele; they have become some of my best customers so far.
La Dolce Vita
Portofino Tote Bag (left) & Il Postino Vintage Bag (right)
Which collection represents Mark Farhat the designer best?
It’s quite hard to pick a favorite collection. They are all my babies and I truly love them all. Every collection is a part of me and represents a stage of my life. Practically speaking, each collection has its own personality and usefulness. For example, I might use the “Bring Back Time” Collection for longer travels or formal meetings; the “Palatina” for short business trips; “La Dolce Vita” for holidays in the Amalfi Coast or Greek Islands and the “ROMA-NZA” for short weekend breaks and any holiday around Europe or the Mediterranean.
Romanza Active Weekend Bag - Roma-nza Collection
All your bags and accessories are lined with fabric prints with designs derived from the byzantine mosaics the floor mosaics called ‘cosmati,’ why did you choose these patterns in particular?
“Cosmati”, is a style of geometric decorative inlay stonework typical of Medieval Italy, and especially of Rome and its surroundings. It was used most extensively for the decoration of church floors, but was also used to decorate church walls, pulpits, and bishop’s thrones.
The name derives 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 pattern. 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.
All your bags and accessories are handmade in Italy. How important is having them made in Italy to you?
The recent trend of big brands going to the Far East for larger productions, lower costs and higher profits have left hundreds of artisanal craftsmen, with generations of experience, out of business. It is very sad that these arts are diminishing and leaving many people, who excel in their work, out of jobs.
This one of the reasons I chose Italy as the place to manufacture my bags and leather accessories. We not only manufacture our bags but also all of the components such hand carved zip pullers, dust bags and packaging boxes in Italy which further emphasis our dedication the survival of Italian craftsmanship.
Jet Set Essential Suit Carrier - Bring Back Time Collection
Have you ever been tempted to do as some of your other fashion colleagues and opt for cheaper labour in other countries? If not why not?
No, we have never been tempted to produce products or components using cheap labour available in other countries. That idea contradicts the ethos of the MARK/GIUSTI brand, which is our dedication to time honored craftsmanship, superior quality and sustainability achieved by keeping all of our production in Italy.
You have certainly gone out of your way to ensure that the MARK/GIUSTI brand is as ethically sound as possible when it comes to packaging, labour health and safety and quality and sustainability. How easy or difficult is this to manage and how important is this to you as a brand and as a designer?
MARK/GIUSTI tries to maximize efficiencies by minimizing the wastage of fabric used for the interior linings of all bags and by re-using small cuttings in the interior of the small accessories such as credit card holders and wallets. We constantly monitor our production facilities to make sure that all Health and safety regulations and all codes of conduct are being adhered to.
Attention to detail has always been my obsession of and this can be seen from the subtle contrast top stitching to the specifically designed interior compartments and the complimentary organizer bags for shirts, shoes and cables. The result is a luxurious and timeless but practical product - A multipurpose product that can be cherished forever.
For shipping, MARK/GIUSTI uses boxes from at least 75% recycled materials and aims to move to 100% recycled materials by end of 2013.
This has always been an issue that is very important for the brand and very dear to my heart. I believe that we all should do every little extra effort that we can in making the environment and earth a better place. I personally attend workshops at the London College of Fashion to keep up to date on what can we do, as a company, to make our work and products more sustainable and ethical.
Jet Set Essential Suit Carrier - Bring Back Time Collection
You support the Terence Higgins Trust – why did you choose to support this charity in particular?
The THT auction is a glamorous event for a very important cause. In 2001 the UN estimated that in worst affected areas (such as Africa), over one-third of all 15-years-olds will die of AIDS and 12 million children in sub-Saharan Africa will be orphaned by the AIDS crisis. As you know, I spent much of my youth in Africa and have been shaped by its many cultures. These statistics and the realities they represent are heartbreaking and have deeply affected me. The sad truth is that these countries simply cannot cope with the situation alone. A cure (when or if one is found) and solutions for managing the epidemic (through the development and distribution of medication) must come from more prosperous nations. THT was one of the first charities to be set up in response to the epidemic in the UK and has been at the forefront of the fight against HIV ever since. Mark/Giusti is proud to support this wonderful event and groundbreaking charity.
Where do you hope to see your brand in the next 5 years? What are your long and short term objectives as a designer and as a brand?
The brand has come such a long way in a very short period of time and I am very pleased with the way things are going. Right now, we are excited to be completing a more comprehensive line of accessories, the specifics of which will soon to be announced! As for the future, we are always looking for ways to grow as a company and develop new products that are desirable for our clients. Of course, like everyone in the world right now, we have to keep an eye on the current economic climate and the fashion marketplace, but who knows, in 5 years’ time, I could be launching a MARK/GIUSTI menswear line, women’s bags or retail stores. Anything is possible!
What should we expect to see in your next collection?
As you know, we have recently launched the “ROMA-NZA” Collection for AW 2012 – 2013 during Milan Fashion Week. The palette for the “ROMA-NZA” Collection is very colorful, powerful and romantic. It includes deep ruby (RUBINO), lush mustard (SENAPE) and blue ocean (OCEANO) colours. The primary leather for this collection is a soft Nappa leather, which feels and looks even more gorgeous as it ages.
I am already working on my next collection for SS2013 that should launch in June/July 2012 during the men’s shows. This collection will include “Trolleys” as an addition to the current luggage range and an introduction to a complete new category of accessories, which we will announce in due course.
Ipad Holder - Palatina Collection
Can we look forward to finally seeing a women’s bag collection from Mark Giusti in the future?
Our casual “Portofino”, “IL Postino” and “Milano” bags as well as the “Cosmati” iPad covers are already proving to be very successful amongst the female market and I am very happy that my designs are attracting both genders.
I am sure at some point, I will design specifically for women – who knows? A range of clutch bags may be on the horizon!
YES, YOU READ CORRECTLY....CLUTCH BAGS! START QUEUING UP BEHIND THE GREEN PEBBLES GIRLS!!
For more information please contact the MARK/GIUSTI CUSTOMER SERVICE TEAM
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