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Brand Case Studies: KARA bags

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KARA takes its name from the Japanese word Karaoke, meaning ‘empty orchestra’. That piece of information isn’t immediately relevant to anything we’re about to cover in this Brand Case Study, but it gives you an insight into the inner workings of Sarah Law’s head. Sarah is KARA’s founder, and she’s fun.

She’s also a bit of a big deal. Included in Forbes' '30 under 30' list, and hot off her recent Ace Hotel collaboration on the Canvas Dry Bag, hers is name you’re likely to be hearing a lot of. We suggest you buy a KARA bag now, before you really can’t afford it.

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Located in New York City’s Tribeca neighbourhood, Sarah and her small team of bag-makers design satchels, backpacks and clutches that are full of clean lines, fuss-free, simple and striking. They contain no branding apart from a barely-there embossed label on the zip tags. You wear the bag as opposed to the bag wearing you. Yet amazingly, or perhaps unsurprisingly, this paired back branding has attracted the likes of Scarlett Johansson and Cara Delevingne, who have both been seen out and about wearing KARA products. And for such a young brand to have featured in the pages of Harper's Bazaar, The New York Times and British Vogue and to sit on shelves in some of the hottest retailers, including Opening Ceremony, Barneys New York, and Net-A-Porter, well that’s testament to Law’s talent.

Law launched KARA in 2013, just four years after graduating in fashion design from Parsons School of Design, and having already worked designing accessories for Gap for three years. What we wonder, has enabled KARA to become so successful in such a short amount of time?

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Well, one phrase you’ll hear used to describe the brand over and over again is ‘sleek modernity’. A phrase that would go some way to explain the bags’ popularity with the insta-famous and its recent collaboration with the Ace Hotel. But KARA’s designs are also deceptively fun. What may at first glance look utilitarian and conformist is, on closer inspection a marriage of unusual fabrics and playful design details.

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Image: Teen Vogue

Law based an entire limited edition range on the horoscope for example. Just because she could. Speaking to Teen Vogue at the time she said: “We wanted to make a product that felt relatable and personalised". They came in four different colours, each representing the four elements. Each bag was stamped with an individual star sign on the bottom. "The emblems are abbreviations of each individual signs' characteristics. Notes were taken from traditional signs used and updated in a simplified, playful way".

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Image: Teen Vogue

As well as this, the care instructions for the bags were orignally included on pieces of paper that described KARA’s background. Their design was based on a map commissioned by NASA, which contained instructions on how to get back to earth once inside Apollo 10. It's thoughtful quirks such as this, which people relate to and have fun with.

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KARA is a fashion heavyweight already, and Law has managed to grow her brand organically by not taking herself too seriously through her journey from graduate to high-end designer. CFDA’s prestigious 3.0 incubator program helped equip her with the tools to make it, but curiosity, creativity and a sense of humour have been the real keys to Law’s success. Incidentally, they’re also the perfect components for an evening of karaoke...

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