Updated: November 10, 2020 8:33:45 pm
It’s a busy month for Mujjo, a Dutch designer label known for selling premium leather cases for the iPhone, along with accessories like MacBook sleeves and touchscreen gloves. The iPhone 12 lineup has recently hit retail shelves and Mujjo is busy fulfilling orders to meet the high demand for the cases made from fine leather.
Based in Amsterdam, Mujjo is one of the few brands that solely focuses on designing and selling upmarket accessories for Apple products. We caught up with Remy Nagelmaeker, Managing Director of Mujjo, to figure out how he and his team designs cases for the iPhone, his love for Apple, and starting a fashion brand that deals in tech accessories.
So, tell us a little bit about your background, how got started designing accessories for Apple products? When did you start Mujjo and what made you enter the accessories business?
I started out working with my buddy Tom and was soon joined by Robin, my younger brother. We did a couple of projects together but Mujjo was our first real success.
We actually started out by designing touchscreen gloves that were unlike anything else that was available at the time and actually looked pretty good. Soon after the success of the gloves, we announced our first collection of sleeves, which less climate-dependent and could be bought any time of the year.
After that we moved on to making phone cases, starting off with the iPhone 4. The reason we started making phone cases because we felt like we were being challenged by the mobile accessory market – it is lacking in terms of sustainable and characteristic fashion labels, unlike the traditional fashion industry. The mobile accessory market is missing the “smart couture factor”, so we wanted to create a fashion brand but limited to tech accessories.
You have been running Mujjo since 2011, and the brand is known for making high-end accessories. Are you an Apple fan yourself, or is it a pure business decision of selling Apple-only accessories? I can see cases for Samsung phones listed on your website, but the brand seems to focus on Apple accessories.
I am an Apple fan, I have a 12-inch MacBook and an iPhone Xs (which I’ll be upgrading to a 12 pretty soon). Not to mention our office consists solely of Macs.
I like Apple’s sleek design and ease of access. I guess liking the brand does help when creating accessories for it, as it just makes you more interested in the end goal. It is also easier to create tech for Apple as they have a smaller selection of devices in general.
We tried Samsung products too, but they didn’t sell as well, so we have decided to currently stick to Apple.
What does the case for a phone represent? A lot of people I know say they like to use the iPhone the way it is.
The case represents the person’s fashion sense while giving them protection from day-to-day life. So really, it should be practical and stylish. Even though I also think that the ‘naked’ iPhone looks great, I wouldn’t take the risk of carrying it around without it being protected. iPhones can shatter so easily (I know from past experiences). Also with our wallet cases, you get an extra pocket for credit cards, so it improves convenience when going out as well.
What is the process of designing an iPhone case? Can you explain in detail?
The creative process really starts with realising that there is a certain need for a product. That’s how the Touchscreen Gloves came to life in the early days of Mujjo. And that’s also how our Leather Wallet Cases came to life - born from our personal need to declutter. I design the cases and I always try and keep it simple yet effective. So from the concept of making the actual case, it can take at least six months.
Robin is the person who sources the leather, and he looks all over the world for the perfect leather to use for our products. It is crucial to us and our design ethics that the tanneries are the best environmentally and ethically, therefore all our leather tanneries are a member of the Leather Working Group and each year they will be audited by an external person to make sure they are still following the ethical and environmental guidelines, created by this working group.
We don’t work with Apple to make our products, we just gather the dimensions of the new phone and create a case from that. So Mujjo is 100% our creation, the only thing we get from Apple is the phone itself. We sell the cases on our own site, Mujjo.com, but we also work with Amazon as well as other retailers around the world.
Apple recently announced the iPhone 12 lineup, and Mujjo offers different cases for the iPhone 12. What’s so special about the iPhone 12? What was it like designing cases for the iPhone 12 lineup? How many times does Mujjo update the iPhone case collection in a year?
Designing cases this year was similar to designing past cases, except this year the iPhone was a little more rectangular, so the new phone’s shape had to be considered as well as the pocket placement. Also for the first time, we have included a new ridge around the gap for the camera lens on the iPhone 12 Pro Max for added protection. We tend to only update the collection when a new iPhone is released, so I would say once a year.
Is there any traction on the iPhone 12 Mini case, even though the device has not gone on sale yet. Do you think the iPhone 12 Mini will be a huge hit?
We have already sold out of our first batch of the iPhone 12 Mini cases so that is quite interesting. We will be restocking around mid-November so we will have to wait and see how quickly that batch sells as well. They say the Mini is better for people with smaller hands who don’t want a super large and expensive phone with the extra tech… we’ll have to see what happens when it is released!
Do you follow fashion trends? What is your creative process like? Where do you look for creative inspiration?
We don’t chase fashion trends. Instead, we design products that fit our own style, taste and need. In terms of inspiration, I guess I would say that I enjoy being surrounded by things that I like for the simple fact that it makes me feel good; such as nice furniture or artwork. I do think it has an influence on our work but not necessarily a crucial one. I’m quite a spontaneous person so I don’t really like planning, my creative process is more when I feel like doing something I do it.
How do you balance creativity and commerce?
Well, being creative is different for everyone and at the same time, I also think everyone can be creative at one level or another. So I make sure that there is a balance between being creative and having a more serious mindset. I do enjoy the commerce side of it, as it presents challenges to me and keeps me entertained as much as the creative side does.
How much effort goes into making a case for the iPhone?
A lot of effort goes into all the components. Perhaps our biggest challenge would be staying true to our high standards for materials and at the same time keeping our product affordable.
We use premium quality materials for everything, from our full-grain vegetable leather to the paper in our packaging. We develop the materials to our exact liking in cooperation with the supplier or tannery. We set pretty high standards and stick to them. The fact that we don’t like to make concessions can be another challenge we face. But, like everything else, it’s born from our passion for what we do.
Apple, too, sells accessories for the iPhone and MacBook, especially iPhone cases and MacBook sleeves. Does that bother you?
No, not really, it’s their phone! What we are trying to do here at Mujjo is allow for variety in terms of accessories for Apple. We give customers other options instead of Apple accessories. Moreover, our cases have frequently been referred to the Apple cases by editors!
Up until the iPhone 12, we were one of a select amount of cases that included a wallet – which is a Mujjo original – on the back of the case, and even now with Apple’s attachable MagSafe wallet, I think customers would still prefer one that is sewn on to the case and is more secure.
How big is your team and do you have plans to expand it?
Our team currently consists of Tom, Robin and I, as well as five other employees. We all have different jobs to do, and since our office is an open plan it is really easy to communicate with each other and know what is going on. Our work environment is pretty lean in that respect and we like to keep everything from our emails to our day-to-day work quite casual and relaxed.
Describe the current office atmosphere at Mujjo. With the holiday season around the corner and iPhone 12 Mini/12 Pro Max going on sale soon, are you guys working under stress?
The current atmosphere in the office is pretty upbeat! We’re happy to be working with each other in this stressful time, and it’s nice to come into work every day and have a change of environment. Naturally, we’re all excited for Christmas, however, three of our employees come from England, so I think they are just wondering what the situation will be in terms of returning home.
In terms of stress about the iPhone 12 Mini and Pro Max, we’re actually feeling pretty calm (currently). All our stress came when the whole range was first released, but because many customers and editors ordered their phone cases when they were first released on our site, we will probably get a smaller amount of purchases for when the phones are actually released.
Do you give credit to Apple for the foundation of Mujjo? What makes Apple so different from other tech companies?
We don’t necessarily give Apple credit for the foundation of Mujjo however, we do probably like to thank Apple for creating great technology which shows why they have such intense brand loyalty amongst their followers. Moreover, even though with the new 12 range they released 4 phones, Apple releases a smaller selection of phones each year than other brands such as Samsung and Huawei. This means we are able to create a case for each variant and know that each can be enjoyed by customers.
Is India your focus market? Do you have plans to sell iPhone cases and MacBook selves in India?
We are just starting to focus more attention on India. We already have a reseller Image Online which will be stocking our 12 range in the next few days. We also really enjoy working with influencers from India as their pictures can be so vibrant and give life to our products. We’re looking forward to the opportunities that India will bring for our company in the future.