Sarah Law, Designer, KARA

Sarah Law, the New York-based founder of accessories label, KARA, sees open space as a perfect beginning. She encourages you to take yourself less seriously and when faced with an opportunity, she recommends you "go ahead and just do it". These deceptively basic bags have quickly risen to the top of our wish list and we think you're going to feel the same. Taking inspiration from varied and opposing sources, Sarah connects fun and functionality with a sensible and innovative trademark. Today, Lisa Says Gah chats with this cosmopolitan lady about Kate Moss, communication skills and grabbing your bag and getting on with your day! Enjoy!

LSG: Hi, Sarah! Can you tell us a little bit about how you got to where you are today? 
I went to Parsons School of Design and was hired by Patrick Robinson to design women’s accessories for Gap after graduating. I worked there for 3 years, then left to start my own company. It took me about a year and a half to work on the concept, develop the product and set up the business. We officially launched in stores in August 2013. I have always dreamt of making things and being able to make a living from making things, so it has been a real privilege to realize that dream.

LSG:  KARA is such a unique and catchy name for a company. How did you come up with it? 
The name KARA comes from the Japanese word ‘karaoke’, which means 'empty orchestra'.  I chose this name because it represents the idea of open space to express yourself and be creative - without taking life too seriously.  Also, coming from an international background, I wanted a name that was easy to pronounce in different languages.

LSG:  Where do you find inspiration? 
My environment and community have a huge influence on my process. A lot of my inspiration comes from the women around me. They tend to be other business owners, women who make things or work in a creative industry. I like people with a clear point of view on the world around them, their role and how they live in it. As someone who has always lived in cosmopolitan cities, being in an urban environment has a big effect on the design process and the product - it shapes the lifestyle of the brand. The products are simple, modern, and versatile.

LSG: Bags are such an essential part of everyday life. Who do you design for? 

The KARA woman has a strong sense of personal style and enjoys the process of curation, finding new brands, and unique items. Her interest lies in beautiful design and independent labels rather than heavily branded luxury products or ‘it bags’. I would like my customer to experience a feeling of ease. When designing my bags, a large focus is placed on functionality. So as she goes about her day, I don’t think her bag should be on her mind. But rather, just a feeling that she is able to comfortably fit whatever it is she needs and, therefore, focus on other more important aspects of her day.

LSG: How do the materials you use inform your work?
Our signature material is pebble leather, with enterfino lambskin leather being our secondary material. Each season we develop a novelty material such as rubberized mesh or shearling to name a few. When exploring new materials we start by folding, molding and crushing it to see how it reacts and holds shape. Depending on the weight of the material,  we will decide which part of the bag it works best in and if it needs extra support or can hold its own.  Novelty and narrative are beginning to play a bigger role in my work. These days we are spending more time to source materials that replicate a certain feeling or sensation.

LSG: Can you tell us about your process of designing a collection?

The process starts from a central theme or inspiration, which can come from almost anywhere - artwork, friends, or just life in general. We then build a color palette and research different material options. We use the properties of the materials to decide which silhouettes and parts of the bags they will go into.

LSG:  As an independent business owner, what advice would you share with someone interested in starting a fashion company?

The best way to learn is to go ahead and just do it. Of course going to school and learning your craft is of utmost importance, however, there are countless things you just can't learn until you have to do them on your own.


LSG: What skills would you recommend mastering before becoming your own boss?

One thing I didn't anticipate, or rather didn't think about at all, was the fact that even though I am a fashion designer, I spend a large amount of my time managing the company. I have a team of seven lovely women that work for me and I would say that the most important skill, thus far, has been learning how to articulately communicate my vision. Practicing your communication skills will be invaluable. 

LSG: Can you give us a brief overview of your bucket list? What are some “musts”?       
- Camping in Patagonia
- Surfing in Costa Rica
- Have a child with Issey Miyake
- Make a replica of the famous sheer dress that Kate Moss wore (with Naomi Campbell) in that one picture from the 1990's - and wear it in public! 

Interview by Olivia La Roche