MONTREAL, Canada — Matt and Nat simply radiates positive energy. The Montreal-based vegan and sustainability brand produces colourful minimalist handbags and wallets that benefit the world. Since their inception in 1995, they constantly breathe new life into their products with recycled materials and organic fabrics. CEO, Manny Kohli possesses an infectious enthusiasm for his work and has been a self-proclaimed vegan since 2003. He strives to do everything in his power to benefit mother earth and to help others through his passion for design.
The Spring and Autumn collections are at once technical and refined. Crisp edges and clean designs are seen throughout. Manny Kohli’s vision for these collections is derived from modern Japanese architecture. Geometric shapes vary among the different styles despite the various fabrics that are used. In fact, he constantly searches for innovative recyclable and green fabrics for new collections. This season, Matt and Nat added cork and loom to their burgeoning styles. These fabrics can be restrictive at times, but Kohli ensures that the quality and sophistication are there each time.
“It has always been a challenge, but we manage to find the cork…for the first time. It was so beautiful. When we got a sample, it was very challenging to produce and the production costs were higher than normal, but we managed to get the design to work in the way that we wanted,” comments Kohli.
Reuse and Renew
Matt and Nat constantly uses recyclable fabrics whether it’s plastic bottles, rubber or environmentally sound fabrics such as polyurethane and polyvinylchloride. Sustainability, durability and quality have always been key components to every handbag that they produce. Their process is meticulous and requires constant experimentation. The company’s head designers test new fabrics for three to four months before they decide to implement it into any collection. In addition, they value ethics and only work with factories that qualify for SA8000 standard certification. They even use recycled boxes to ship products and carry their goods in poly bags to maintain sustainability practices throughout the company.
“Even though it wasn’t leather, the quality of the PCPU was amazing. For us, quality has always been our priority. We don’t sacrifice anything for quality. 98% of stores and consumers buy the product because it’s a great looking product for a good price.”
Back to Basics
Vegan fashion was an innovative concept and made up a small niche market when Matt and Nat first appeared on the scene. Manny Kohli recalls only two to three stores in Montreal that carried vegan products in the early 2000s. Therefore, it’s incredible to think that Matt and Nat simply emerged from the fray solely through word of mouth. They mainly promoted their line at trade shows where they relied on their product’s quality to speak for them. Kohli believes that it’s best to keep it simple when you don’t have an extensive budget for advertising.
However, social media has become an integral part of Matt and Nat’s marketing strategy today. The brand has become a favourite among Paul McCartney, Natalie Portman and Ellen DeGeneres, among others. Moreover, the brand has expanded beyond its borders and their products can be found in over 400 stores worldwide with distributors in Germany, the Czech Republic, Japan and New Zealand.
“Every day we get so many compliments. We get told that we did a great job and that our product is great. It feels great when we hear that because for us, this person is trying our vegan product. That really means a lot to us. Again, it’s not about the money for us, it’s about the compliments,” adds Kohli.
Personal and Brand Evolution
Manny Kohli has been integral to the brand since he joined in 2001. His role began as a corporate one, but he has since taken over the design and marketing aspects since former CEO, Inder Bedi’s resignation. Right now he’s in charge of every part of the company, yet he sees his team as his partners rather than his employees. After all Matt and Nat would not be at its current state without their passion and dedication.
Besides that, Kohli has recently expanded Matt and Nat to include a women’s vegan footwear collection that will launch in January 2016. It will include seven to eight styles and he plans to expand the collection to men, once it proves to be a success. The brand’s growth is important to him and he has even enlisted agents in Hong Kong and Taiwan to source new fabrics for the upcoming 2016 collections.
The most important thing is that we’re known for quality, innovation, sustainability, and durability.
Kohli continues: “We want to recognise that Matt and Nat is a company that people are proud of. We don’t care if the company makes $30 or $40 million. We care more about the quality and we want to stand for quality.”
Generous and Charitable
Manny Kohli always finds a way to give back to his community. Matt and Nat recently launched the Hope Charity Bag which can be found exclusively on their website. 100% of the profits goes to one of the five charities they have partnered with. When consumers buy the bag, they can decide where the money goes when they check out. He even hopes that he can donate schoolbags to children in developing countries in the future and has made it his goal to do so in person.
“I don’t work for very high margins. I’m comfortable about making enough to take care of the expenses here and my partners. They get their bonuses every year and if we’re making enough to take care of my partners and all that, I’m very happy. I have no desire to be a 100 person company or to make $50 million a day. I don’t want to lose the passion.”