Three years ago, Dutch lady Erika started her own strap company, inspired by old-school Marine Nationale military straps – a great option for your vintage diver, your tool watches or your pilot chronograph. And while it’s « just » a strap, the Erika’s Original MN straps generated a lot of buzz becoming an instant hit and making Erika one of the big names in the strap industry. From a one-woman-show to a proper company that now manufactures its straps in-house, we talk with Erika about present and future!
Frank Geelen, MONOCHROME – How did you get started with watch straps? And what is Erika’s Originals doing today?
Erika, @ErikasOriginals – Time flies… A terrible cliche I know, but oh so true!
When I started Erika’s Originals a few years ago, I had no idea what I was in for… Back then, I was stitching all the straps myself, often outside on the terrace enjoying the Spanish sun. Today I am a company of 10 and I have dealers and distributors all around the world. I am currently on a crazy world tour to promote my new-generation MN straps (editor’s note: MN stands for Marine Nationale, the inspiration behind the brand, explained here) and meet customers, dealers and distributors face to face. Just because my business is via the internet does not mean it is not personal and I love the opportunity to match a lot of faces to the names!
You started doing everything yourself… But now you’re manufacturing your own fabrics! How, where…
When MONOCHROME first reviewed my straps, I had just introduced the first-generation MN straps. But the thing was that I received so many requests from customers saying they needed more colours because they could not wear the Vintage MN to work. Since then I kept searching for even higher quality webbing and we finally ended up buying our own loom (weaving machine). I just launched the new-generation MN straps and they are now woven in-house, which not only means the quality is even better than the first-generation MN straps but also allows us to experiment with different colours and designs.
We never set out to buy our own machine but if you want the “impossible”, sometimes you simply have to… This machine we are using to produce the new webbing is designed to produce artificial arteries and we are using it to make elastic webbing… Crazy but true!
I assume you’re not answering every email anymore, especially now you’re on a world tour. Please share some impressions of the past four weeks meeting clients, retailers and friends?
Just before the launch of the new generation MN straps, I thought it would be a nice idea to visit a few of my dealers and show them the new straps myself.
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My straps were featured in Japanese magazines recently with requests for interviews, I was also working on a special edition MN strap for Time&Tide Australia and New York was already planning to show my MN straps on the WindUp watch fair, it ended up being a world tour. I said goodbye (and Merry Christmas) to my staff and jumped on a plane on 9-11 leaving the atelier in Spain in their capable hands.
Then, I travelled to the Netherlands, Zurich, Paris (Bell&Ross) and Helsinki (Stepan Sarpaneva) and I said goodbye to Europe in London where I spent a lovely week with Alistair Gibbons from ATG watches who was kind enough to drive me through England and introduced me to a lot of nice watch fans.
In Toronto and Ottawa, I met up with the RedBarCrews and from there the journey continued to Houston, Texas. I spent a few nights there with Ariel Xavier from the Facebook group WatchWabi and enjoyed some quiet time at an alligator farm… A nice contrast because the following week I was in the hectic, but fabulous as always, New York. Another RedBarCrew evening and a very busy WindUp watch fair with a lot of familiar and new faces. Then on to Asia, a first for me…
It’s not always easy to find a balance between my work and travel, I mean, here I am in all these amazing cities stuck behind my computer for hours answering emails, posting pictures etc., while I want to see some of the city and country I am staying in, experience the culture and meet the people…. It is pretty exhausting but gives me so much energy at the same time. Like I said at the beginning: time flies.
Where is your trip taking you in the coming six weeks? And where can our readers meet you?
First, a few days in Taipei then on to Tokyo. A perfect balance between work and fun, thanks to Alex Nakayama, my distributor in Japan, who not only introduced me to several dealers and magazines (and translated everything) but also took me to the best restaurants and explained all about Japanese culture. My close friend Ingeborg from the Netherlands joined me to explore Tokyo on a more tourist level, which was particularly nice because it is nice to share and ventilate all new experiences and impressions.
After she left I spent my last day outside Tokyo in a traditional hotel with ‘onsen’ just outside Tokyo to recharge my battery for the next part of my trip: Australia! Another first and definitely not a last!
Next stops on my #erikaontour: Manila (24/11-03/12), Seoul (03/12-09/12), Singapore (09/12- 13/12, Bangkok (13/12-21/12) then I fly back to Europe through Vienna and spend Christmas with my family in Austria, then Amsterdam and New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands and finally meet up with the crew in the atelier in Spain again in early January to talk about new ideas for the new year. P.S. If anybody reading this would like to meet up during my trip, they can send me an email or DM via Instagram (@erikasoriginal) and we will make it happen!
As I am writing this, I am overlooking Darling Harbor in Sydney and feel blessed… These past four years have been crazy but so much fun, my life is an adventure!
And more importantly, where are your straps sold?
And now, to answer your question on where to buy the straps… Simply go on our webshop, erikasoriginals.com. The MN straps are available in multiple colours, with dozens of colours for the central stripe and in all possible sizes (width and length) and with options for the hardware too.