Parsons graduate and KARA designer Sarah Law spent a year working from her apartment after leaving her Gap accessories design position to create the brand. Her first season was picked up by Ssense, Lane Crawford, Harvey Nichols, Opening Ceremony, Shopbop and Creatures of Comfort.
Exploring identity plus freedom of expression are key, so it’s not a surprise she views sustainability through a similar lens, ‘Sustainability means something that can last over time. It can be a physical object or a way of being. In a culture of speed and transient trends, to me sustainability means staying honest and true to yourself.’ Meet the designer making a clever union of shirts and bags.
Could you tell us a bit about your philosophy?
KARA is inspired by the way I grew up – half Chinese and half American in an international community in Hong Kong. I have always felt in between cultures, identities and stereotypes, never just one thing. The brand was created for people who can relate to this experience that identity can be complex and sometimes conflicting. I like thinking of my work as a blank canvas, an open space for personal interpretation. I love seeing people with completely different styles wear my bags.
Let’s hear more about the ingenuity behind the Shirt Bag!
Lately I’ve been very curious about the line between bags and garments. What are the qualities that give these items their labels? Sometimes in the winter, I don’t carry a bag and instead, fit all my belongings in my jacket pockets. On the other hand, I love the idea of tying the sleeves of a jacket or shirt together and wearing the garment like a bag. I am very interested in the freedom that comes from creating your own identity.
How are KARA bags made with your values in mind?
We have been manufacturing in China with primarily the same people since the beginning. Over the years, I have developed a close relationship with all of our production partners. We are in touch with them daily and I visit them in person several times a year. Of course, our relationships are based around work but we know about each other’s lives, families and interests.
The sentiment behind KARA is to look beyond the surface and create space for new identities and perspectives. My experience of manufacturing in China and personally getting to know our partners has been a true reminder of that. What’s important about production is the people and the way the operation is run. When you work in the industry you know that being made in New York or made in Europe is not inherently better. I want to work with the best people I can find for KARA – regardless of their ethnic or geographic background.
I’m most interested in working with people who know good quality and believe in a high standard of work. People really underestimate how incredible Chinese manufacturing is. If you think about the handbag industry, it’s existed in China for over 50 years. You can’t dismiss the time that’s gone into training people and their technical skill.
Many of our suppliers have been in business for over 30 years and are extremely dedicated to their craft. Because of this, I can say we proudly manufacture in China.
What do you hope for the wearers of KARA?
That is simple! Be Yourself!
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