Hippi Grace ‘on Location’ in Portugal
In May 2015, Toril Opsal Thorp the designer and owner of Hippi Grace (Norway) was considering her next collection. Inspired by wild beaches and black Lusitanos she choose Portugal for her catalog photo shoot.
A couple of weeks ago it happened – Carlos and Rita Melo Ribeiro hosted her fashion photo shoot at their stunning home Quinta do Rol. Lean Saugen was the photographer, models Filipa Sáragga and Alamo a black Lusitano Stallion. Pedro Teixeiro Farto added plenty amusing moments to the days ……..even standing up on Alamo.
There is no doubt she picked a perfect setting, a terrific weekend was had by all – work should be fun and this was! Inspired, I thought it would be super to learn about Toril’s journey and her fabulous business …..which is excelling !
EVEN PRINCESSES CHOOSE HER BAGS!
Toril tell us how you how did you start designing hand bags?
having worked many years for exciting Norwegian companies such as food production, retail business and banking & finance, I was really curious about the new economy and the fresh opportunities it represented for entrepreneurs to build their own businesses.
It all started with a family holiday in Spain, sightseeing in one of the beautiful mountain villages in Andalusia. I was eight-months pregnant and very hot so I was desperately searching for a shop with air conditioning. Before I knew it I was inside a handicraft shop with gorgeous leather bags. Needless to say I bought a handmade leather bag. The quality of the leather, making and styling was beautiful, what’s more it didn’t cost a fortune. I was totally captivated and so I searched and found the Spanish family who made it. From that day on for several years I followed them on internet, my imagination was running riot.
The idea never left my mind, in fact it matured, finally I decided to explore it further. I made up my mind that I could not pass through life, looking over my shoulder and saying, I should have tried…. So I grabbed the opportunity, left my career as a marketing director and took the leapt of faith to give my dream a try.
The market for designer leather bags was becoming more and more popular. My business idea was based on making designer bags in high quality leather the way my customers like them, made by true artisans. Made within Europe, through an efficient business model, and they should not cost a fortune.
First I began as an agent establishing a cooperation with the Spanish family, who had made the wonderful handbag that inspired me so. Then I gradually developed my design skills as I built my market knowledge about the Scandinavian women what she truly likes. Then when ready I established my own brand Hippi Grace, which was launched in autumn 2013 and I am proud to say is made by the same Spanish family.
I source the leather for Hippi Grace in Portugal – the journey has been such an adventure, which hasn’t ended but continues to grow always evolving, always exciting. Today we have a really special leather produced for Hippi Grace at one of the biggest tanneries in Portugal, that has become so popular – even Princesses choose my bags!
The quality of the leather is vital to my business. I now also source leather from Italy.
Where do your bags sell?
Hippi Grace is currently sold through shops in Norway and through my own web shop for
markets such as Norway, Sweden and Finland. I also have a few other European countries that buy my products. After the Crown Princess of Sweden, Victoria was pictured with the first Hippi Grace in April this year, the social media has helped me a lot to get the brand established and sales have developed really well.
I am so delighted with the feedback I receive from my customers – it’s very positive and exciting. Owners of the bags say they are delighted with the design and the quality. This makes me so proud and even more determined to continue building my business, I have great hopes for the future of Hippi Grace.
You have a really original name, how did it come about?
When I made the decision to build my own brand, I first tried various alternatives, but none of them gave me the feeling, this is one. Then one morning in the shower, Hippi Grace was ´born´. You know the right feeling when you are suddenly are struck by the answer. It had to be about the Scandinavian way of living. Scandinavian women love to dress with a touch of ‘Hippi’, a bit bohemian, relaxed and comfortable. At the same time the majority of the Scandinavian women work, then she has to dress a bit more formal – with the touch of Grace´, more classic and continental. She is very practical so functionality is always important to her. The design is always built upon a Hippi look and a Grace look – Hippi Grace.
How many collections a year do you create?
I develop two major collections through the year – Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter. Since new ideas continuously arise, we may have some new designs in the middle of the major seasons. It is important to be responsive to the market. Either for corrections or new ideas.
Lena Saugen has worked for you several times and I know you love her work as much as we do, how did you meet?
I met Lena through internet. She bought a Hippi Grace bag through the web shop, and sent me an e-mail telling me how happy she was with her new Hippi Grace bag and it would suit perfectly for her camera lenses…. Then I had to ask here if she was interested in photography. We started chatting. I was in the market looking for someone to help me with photo shoot, since my good friend and photographer Line Moen, had moved to Abu Dhabi to become a trainer of Arabian Dressage horses, at the Emirates Heritage Club. Lena showed me her website with her great pictures of the Lusitano horses. Wow – fantastic pictures, their feel and touch, being so good and powerful. She has a wonderful touch in her work.
We discovered we both love horses and have been riding since we were young girls. On top we have been studying in the the same city, Glasgow in Scotland.
It was such a good match! Lena is a great photographer and person to work with.
You have just completed a photo shoot at Quinta do Rol in Portugal and wanted to include a black Lusitano what inspired you to come to Portugal and involve Lusitanos in your next catalog and marketing campaign.
It was Lena´s idea to go to Portugal. We are both fan of horses, I started riding when I was 7 years old. The horses are a natural part of the Hippi Grace universe. For the summer collection I had this idea of having a black horse, at the beach with parts of the new collection for summer 2016, that is colourful. The Lusitano horses are so beautiful, cool in their mind and looking fabulous. The coastline of Portugal would be a perfect setting with its waves and rocks at the beach, what could be better than the Baleal Surf Beach.
Lena knew Rita Melo Ribeiro, at Quinta do Rol. Their estate, horses, and location was so perfect. It just had it all for a photo shoot that perfectly represented both the Hippi look and the Grace look.
What were the highlights of the weekend?
The weekend has exceeded all my expectations, it was just magic in every way. Meeting Carlos and Rita Melo Ribeiro. Their enthusiasm and generosity made it an event I’ll always remember. We where such a great team, Lena, Filipa, Rita, Pedro and the Black Lusitano Stallion, Alamo. He was so calm with the big waves and so beautiful, it was like he was enjoying being in the photo shoot. The photographs speak for themselves they are magical and stunning.
Quinta do Rol is a marvelous place with so many opportunities; wine tasting, the stable, the house, the swimming pool the location.
It all was topped with Filipa Sáragga as our the model, having her as a representative for Hippi Grace, is more than I could have dreamt of. Not only is she a fantastic model she is a fantastic artist too she paints and writes. With her modelling experience – this will, without a doubt take Hippi Grace to greater heights in presenting a new spring & summer collection. How could it not with such a team and in a perfect Portugal setting!
The collection will be presented to the press, and we are also planning a big event in January, together with another Norwegian textile brand.
After returning from our fantastic Portugal photo shoot, we’ve started the work with all the beautiful pictures for our catalogue that will be published in English and Norwegian. This in addition to the launch of the marketing campaign. It will be a great story to present together with the Hippi Grace collection.
Toril thank you so much for taking the time to tell me more about your super business, I have no doubt you will continue to excel. We are all delighted you chose Portugal as the setting for you Spring/Summer 16 collection I think it is going to be spectacular.
We will definitely promote your new collection when it arrives
Wishing you every success
Here is a sneak preview to one of her delicious bags!
Visit the Hippi Grace Webshop
Images by Lena Saugen Photography
Learn more about Quinta do Rol for Equestrian holidays