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“They always say leather gets better with age and we could not agree more,” say Maral and Arden, the second generation leading ARMA and current managers of the brand that revolutionised the way of understanding and working with this material since the mid-eighties. And it is that like leather, this project has not stopped growing and maturing over time, making experience and the ability to adapt to time its best allies. From the launch of their webshop to horizontal and honest communication, their way of understanding fashion is based on progressive and natural evolution. And their new Autumn/Winter 2021 and Spring/Summer 2022 collections are good examples of this.

“We believe in a future that puts longevity above fast fashion trends,” explains the creative duo at the helm of ARMA, a project that since it was established in 1985 has not stopped evolving, becoming a brand sold at more than two hundred retailers located in more than eleven countries. A family story that does not respond to an instant success or a media boom, but to a way of seeing fashion and personal relationships based on respect for work teams, sharing opinions and the belief that timeless and singular pieces are true treasures that have no competition. And is that they manage two-thirds of the entire production process and their global family of employees continues to grow, having opened new production factories in Turkey in 2018 and trading offices in Hong Kong and Istanbul.

Combining the classics of ARMA with a tribute to the excess of the seventies and the working girl era, the brand goes one step further in its Fall/Winter 2021 collection and reflects on the obsession that today's society has for pretending to be always perfect. “The setting represents the urge to always be camera-ready,” they explain on a campaign that perfectly reflects the current collective lifestyle.

Meanwhile, in their proposal for Spring/Summer 2022, they show that leather is not only valid for the winter season, experimenting with new textures and colours that we do not usually see associated with this material, such as electric blue and baby pink. A chapter that will lead to an exciting project of which they give us a sneak peek. “We are working on a very exciting upcycle collection where we will reconstruct existing pieces and turning them into coveted luxury pieces”.

Maral, Arden, you are the second generation leading ARMA, a brand with more than 35 years of history that has not stopped reinventing itself while maintaining its essence, and the third generation working with your grandfather’s insights. And there are many paradigm shifts that we have experienced since then, the last of them being the Covid-19 pandemic. At what phase is the brand currently in?
As the whole world came to a full stop during Covid, it gave us the opportunity and time to think about our digital presence and online experience. The feeling of touching the leather fabrics, trying on a piece of clothing to the sound of our playlist – it's the physical experience we will always desire. But different times mean different approaches. We are currently adjusting our sales and marketing strategy to maintain stronger online brand visibility. Launching ARMA’s webshop has contributed to the shift of focus, from traditional to digital marketing.
Established in 1985, ARMA made the designing and manufacturing of leather, suede and shearling garments one of its great strengths. And the pieces that you now present maintain the personal stamp that raised the project internationally while being reinvented according to a contemporary vision. What remains and what has changed compared to the early years of the brand?
Designing and manufacturing leather, suede and shearling garments while maintaining a favourable quality/performance-price ratio, will always be at the core of our brand. While defining a multifaceted and contemporary luxury taste we’ve adjusted our vision to match our new identity. Placing great importance on creating investment pieces produced from durable materials which are meant to last a lifetime.
We have been expanding our product range and innovated our processes and techniques, enabling us to create finely crafted statement designs. We hope to balance a product range that retains our loyal customers as well as speaks to a new fashion-forward audience.

As important as the quality of the materials or the aesthetic are the values that a brand defends. In your case, mutual respect or the value of family is constant in your career. On what values is Arma built on and how do you spread them through your clothing?
At Arma, we’ve always believed that we are better together. Operating with a shared purpose to constantly improve and grow as individuals, as teams and as a company provide the dedication and commitment our customers expect. As of today, the third generation of the Arma family is leading the brand, even so, the value of family is inextricably intertwined within all levels of our organisation.
Fueled by mutual respect, we value everyone for who they are and what they bring to the table. Thinking carefully about the needs of our organisation as a whole and the people within it, we have earned the dedication of our employees to produce the best result.
Our relationships within our company reflect how we treat our suppliers and retailers. We practise and encourage open and honest communication with all stakeholders. We are very grateful for our people, members and our greater community. Managing two-thirds of our production process gives us the adaptability we strive for in our relationship with our retailers and customers.
Adaptability enables us to make changes in design and fabrics quickly and easily to satisfy our retailers but mostly learning new methods and techniques rapidly to keep our customers inspired.
You are now presenting the campaign for your Fall/Winter 2021 collection, in which you acknowledge having been inspired by reinvention. A proposal that brings back ARMA‘s DNA incorporating new features, striking a perfect balance in terms of colour and textures. How would you define this collection? Is this a turning point in the brand’s history?
For Autumn/Winter 2021 we have dived into the working girl era, creating playful supersize silhouettes that provide a delightful echo ⁠of ‘70s excess. Next to ARMA’s classic all-season essentials, the collection includes statement designs curly shearlings. Iconic Matrix-like leather-on-leather looks are presented in a balanced colour palette. We do not consider this as a spectacular turning point for our brand. We rather integrate our new styles gradually, reliably and consciously. By carefully adjusting our existing silhouettes and introducing new designs, we are continuously working our way towards a new direction.

Maral, you highlighted the Gemma coat as one of the star garments. A design whose manufacture was possible thanks to new techniques. What can you tell us about this piece? What were the main challenges and how did you overcome them?
The manufacturing of our Gemma coat has challenged us primarily during the dyeing process. Sourcing the right materials and creating a balanced tie-dye pattern, just as we had envisioned during our designing process, was quite a challenge. Trying different techniques has finally brought us the final result we had visualised. Innovating our production processes and techniques enabled us to let our creativity run free, resulting in experimental constructions that really stand out.
Arden, bringing back the past to reimagine it in a new context like the current one is not an easy task. How was the process from when you started working on the Fall/Winter 2021 collection until you made it real?
Our inspiration for this collection started with being drawn to the ‘70s. This decade functioned as a starting point for the process, followed by translating this era into the colours, materials, shapes and silhouettes we choose. Being receptive to new ideas during the process and not being afraid to cancel styles is necessary to tell a cohesive story spread through our collection. A lot of time and effort went into sourcing the right materials and colours for our vintage shearlings to match our theme. Creating a concept and making it a reality by working together with the best team is what makes my job rewarding.

Video cameras and televisions are the backdrops for the campaign images. Why have you opted for these elements?
We opted for vintage video cameras and televisions as backdrops for the Fall/Winter 2021 campaign images to convey that retro feeling, while still making a relevant link to the present. The setting represents the urge to always be camera-ready. Today’s society puts a ton of pressure on us to be perfect. In the midst of all that pressure, it’s easy to forget to live in the moment and dare to be imperfect. By duplicating this phenomenon, we hope to create awareness and inspire a new movement
Your Spring/Summer 2022 collection let us discover another facet of ARMA, in which vibrant colours such as electric blue or baby pink are combined with much more neutral tones. What would you highlight from this collection?
Leather is known for its rigid and sturdy shape, often imprinted in customers’ minds as being primarily worn during the winter season. For our upcoming Spring/Summer 2022 collection we have used flexible, yet durable fabrics, conveying that real summer feeling. The collection varies from kimono constructions, oversized volumes and drawstring cords to deliver chic-utility choices. Vibrant colours such as electric blue and baby pink coexist with natural shades, such as leaf and lemonade tones. Colour block combinations, contrasting stitching, snake printed surfaces and preppy crop tops were added to create uplifting designs.

And if you had to choose a single garment from the Spring/Summer 2022 collection, what would it be? Why?
Experimenting with different textures has led to new creations such as knitted net leather resulting in light and breezy garments. This design beautifully showcases the craftsmanship and innovative processing techniques that went into the creation.
I guess that a brand as historic as yours requires perfect structure when it comes to spreading the tasks in the team. How do you split the functions within the brand?
We spread tasks and responsibilities based on a horizontal organisational structure; we encourage our employees to share their opinions and creative input, even outside their areas of expertise. We do not see the division of tasks separated by sharp dividing lines – we rather blur those boundaries and encourage collaboration to work towards the best result. Our goal is to make our employees feel empowered and appreciated, as we believe this naturally increases their connection to the Arma family and our goals.

And where can we buy your clothes?
Arma is available on our online website and at two hundred exclusive retailers in Europe. Germany is currently our biggest market, followed by Italy.
It is difficult to imagine what the world will be like in a few months since the pandemic seems to have revolutionised everything. But what future do you foresee for the fashion industry?
Predicting the ever-changing landscape of the fashion industry is even more difficult nowadays – things that were industry standard before the pandemic don’t make sense anymore. We believe in a future that puts longevity above fast fashion trends. Investing in durable pieces rather than splurging on fast fashion. This shift is closely related to the need for more personal items. The desire to dress, stand out and be listened to grows. Using the uniqueness of our fabrics as our strength rather than our weakness by highlighting the fabric’s imperfections, enables us to anticipate this need and create one-of-a-kind items. They always say leather gets better with age and we could not agree more.
And what can you tell us about your next projects?
Our goal is to expand in new markets such as Asia and the United States. With our global reach via our online store, expanding to other continents besides Europe feels like the best next step. In addition, we are working on a very exciting upcycle collection where we will reconstruct existing pieces and turning them into coveted luxury pieces.

Fall/Winter 2021 Collection

Spring/Summer 2022 Collection

David Alarcón

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