Interview with Daniela Sá Silva
Najha – Portuguese cork bags with an Indian name
Najha, a word of Indian origin that means a kind of snake, is the brand name of Daniela Sá Silva’s company dedicated to creating cork bags and accessories.
This company was born in 2009, fulfilling the dream of a manager who acquired a liking for design and fashion in the footwear industry. The first collections were not based on cork, but leather. “I’m a vegetarian and I have a philosophy of life that makes me a friend of the environment and of natural things, and I soon felt the need to find other materials that could be used in my collections,” says Daniela. And cork arose.
The businesswoman reveals that at the beginning she was “intrigued and resistant” to the material. “I didn’t know its potential. I didn’t know how to use cork, but the models began to appear and, now, I won’t move away from cork”, she confesses.
The first Najha collection was launched in the market in 2010. This collection was supplemented with more articles each season and the new 2013 spring/summer collection is now out. We can find a little of everything: bags, hats, wallets, belts, for woman or man, of various colours and sizes. The smallest article is a lady’s clutch bag which is around EUR 80, and the nécessaire – a woman’s handbag that looks like a toiletry bag – can be as much as EUR 300. These prices are justified by the manual work involved with producing the articles. The designer explains: “I usually buy the cork as a roll and I begin by making samples and experimenting; then I do the moulds and I have seamstresses that make the articles for me. All the work is by hand.”
The idea has already charmed the Portuguese, and also Italians, and Daniela Sá Silva is already in contact with other markets that want to sell the products.
The designer says she likes working with cork, but she would like to see the industry investing a little in product quality. “I note that there is some cork that has lost quality and we can’t let that happen because we’re creating a market and trying to make customers loyal and if we don’t give them the quality required we won’t be able to have the promising future I hope for. Cork has a future, but we can’t neglect the quality,” warns Daniela Sá Silva. This task is Portugal’s because, as the business woman explains, it is a “country-of-origin effect”, also called “Made In”. Moreover, “cork is seen as an integral part of our country and, therefore, we need to associate this raw material to the brand of the country itself,” she advises.
She states the recipe for guaranteed success: Cork plus design plus quality. Everything encompasses the future project.
Daniela Sá Silva
Graduated in Management and achieved a Master’s Degree in Marketing from Portugal’s Lusíada University. She entered the world of fashion and accessories through the footwear industry. She worked for seven years in the commercial area of the industry, which allowed her to come into contact with the creative and design areas of the company. She soon realised that she would like to see her own ideas gain life. To better develop this passion she completed a training course in designing leather goods, at the footwear industry’s vocational training centre. After that she left for Italy where she learned more about the design and styling of leather goods and accessories, in association with the fashion magazine Ars Sutoria. She soon put her know-how into practice with the creation of her own collections. First in leather and later in cork: as she advocated a more environmentally friendly life philosophy. She was born in Fiães, and she wants to take cork as far as she can.