KAESA, a luxury brand with an eco-friendly twist, is preparing to release its VLLR Collection for the Winter 2020/2021 season, providing sustainable and ethical handbags and accessories that balance beautiful aesthetics with function and utilize vegan leather sourced in Korea
This eye-catching startup, headquartered in Korea, was founded by Amy Chu to disrupt the fashion industry and create a movement to eliminate animal cruelty and promote sustainability.
"The vegan leather market has been growing steadily and there is more demand for products made from vegan leather globally," Chu told The Korea Times.
Though the market is led by American and European consumers, Koreans are starting to embrace the trend.
"Many Koreans still prefer products made from animal leather, due to a misconception that products made from vegan leather are cheap and unattractive," Chu said. "We want to change this perception and educate consumers that products made from vegan leather are just as stylish and beautiful as those made from animal leather."
Chu was born in Korea but grew up in Rochester, New York, and attended university in Cincinnati, Ohio. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design and worked as an architectural designer in New York City, which is where she made the shift from interior design to handbag design.
"From a very young age, I had an avid love for drawing. In high school, I experimented with art and painting and drew models from fashion magazines. But it was while studying interior design in university that I fell in love with beautiful textiles. And so I wanted to do something really special with it," she said.
"It was in New York City that I developed my passion for design, fashion and sustainability. One of the problems I noticed was the enormous amount of plastic bags being used by New Yorkers during lunch time. I found this to be wasteful and harmful to the environment," she said.
Wanting to solve that problem, she was inspired to develop a line of eco-friendly foldable bags made from luxury textiles such as cotton, silk and linen. After selling her first 50 prototypes with ease, she enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Technology, where a professor encouraged her to enter an international competition called the Independent Designer Handbag Awards. She designed and submitted her very first luxury handbag, which featured geometric Swarovski crystal motifs, becoming a top five finalist.
"From this moment on, I knew I had to design handbags," she said.
To pursue her dream, she moved to Seoul in 2016 to establish her company.
"I moved to Korea because I wanted to find skilled artisans who could create and execute my designs beautifully," she said. "Korea has a long history of skilled craftsmanship, so I wanted to utilize these skills for my business as well as support the Korean economy."
An additional benefit that she found in Korea was the support the government provides to foreign startups.
She is currently part of the Seoul Global Startup Center incubation program and has found it immensely beneficial. "They provide free office space, financial support, mentorship programs, networking opportunities and even free coffee," Chu said. "The many benefits of this program have allowed me to grow and develop my business much faster than if I had developed it solely on my own."
KAESA products are thoughtfully designed with high-quality and ethically sourced materials with rich textures that are structured in classic shapes with contemporary accents. The inside of each bag design is carefully considered so as to allow for organizational utilization. It's a combination of Chu's architectural background and her passionate goal of practical functionality with sustainability in mind.
The new VLLR collection features a multi-functional box bag, a sleek velvet clutch with metallic chain, and a glam vegan leather pouch.
VLLR comes from KAESA's creative take on the word "velour."
The VLLR products emphasize bold, edgy geometric shapes balanced with elegant hues and textures ― soft, shimmery vegan leather and lush, deep velvet.
For consumers in Korea, KAESA products can be purchased in person at 55Brand, a boutique shop in Itaewon, one of Seoul's tourist districts. Collections and products can also be found by visiting kaesa.co or smartstore.naver.com/kaesa.
Follow KAESA on Instagram at @kaesa.co.
Hallie Bradley is a writer based in Seoul and runs the popular site thesoulofseoul.net.
Original Korea Times article posted 2020-12-20:
By Hallie Bradley