Friday, January 26, 2018

Interview With Kayu

Something I am seeing more and more of everyday and on social media are woven bags. The Bellini tote from Kayu is basically the mold of the classic woven bag. I may be biased, but it is the perfect size, shape, and color. It is even a favorited by the Instagrammer @the_salty_blonde (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

The added bonus is that all of their bags are handcrafted by women in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, using indigenous techniques that have been passed down for generations (hence the classic designs!), all while making a living wage. 

I spoke with Laura of Kayu Design and got the backstory of the brand and its creation.

What sparked the desire to start Kayu and it’s ethical practices? 

I grew up in South East Asia and experienced the richness and the poverty of the region. A lot of the region is primarily agricultural or manufacturing and many of these jobs were lost because of the invent of mass production. I wanted to create a company that not only harnessed the beautiful and sustainable materials in the region but that also provided jobs to the artisans. Our bags are made out of materials like straw, shell, and wood and are constructed using techniques that have been passed down through the generations.  

What noticeable turning points have most affected the growth of the brand?

The past year has really been a fashion moment for straw bags and has boosted our sales and exposure tremendously. We're so happy that people are discovering the versatility of straw! 

Would it ever be necessary to limit company growth in order to preserve its ethical practices?

If we wanted to we could easily manufacture with large factories which are cheaper. Instead we work with family businesses and with small batch artisans. The end product takes longer to make and is more expensive but we think its important to preserve these crafts and also provide jobs to those that need it the most.  

If Kayu could work with one company or individual on a dream collaboration, who would that be?

I grew up in Malaysia and would love to work with the indigenous artisans there. The indigenous people are nomadic and live off the land. Unfortunately due to deforestation they have been pushed out of their homes and suffer from immense poverty. My dream is to help develop their crafts into an economical viable business which preserves their culture as well as provides them with income. 

What item is the customer’s favorite from Kayu? What is your personal favorite?

Our monogram bags have always been popular with customers and make for a great gift. I personally love our Lucie tote - the bucket is such a stylish and versatile silhouette. 

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