The Leather Forecast

Roanne Jacobson, founder of cherished Kiwi leather goods brand Saben, shares her vision for a more sustainable future.

Amidst all the chaos of 2020, Saben founder and designer Roanne Jacobson has found a silver lining. “Lockdown allowed us to step off the hamster wheel we’d been on for years,” she says. “That enforced pause gave me the opportunity to reassess what we want to achieve as a brand, and to reflect on our business relationships and the ecosystem we work in.”

After talking to stockists, suppliers and customers, the Saben team developed its new ‘Outward Collaborative’ approach, which Jacobson describes as “working more collaboratively, more sympathetically, and actively trying to understand people’s issues and obstacles”. One example? Rejigging colour drops “so customers can celebrate and share joy earlier, rather than wait until Christmas”.

Timeless design has always been at the core of Saben’s philosophy. For Jacobson, though, the idea of creating fewer, more thoughtful ‘legacy pieces’, designed to be passed on, is now well and truly at the forefront. Saben’s new Recycled Leather collection illustrates this commitment to sustainability and longevity. “Leather is considered an environmental choice as it’s a by-product of the food industry. Plus, it can last several generations if taken care of,” explains Jacobson. “However, there can still be unnecessary waste, and this is where we saw an opportunity.”

For the Recycled Leather collection, Saben diverts offcuts of leather from landfill and repurposes them into beautiful new leather bags. “So far we have used this recycled leather to produce two totes, ‘Kelly’ and ‘Jade’, and we hope to add more styles in the coming seasons,” says Jacobson.

Despite the challenges of the current economic climate, Jacobson is approaching new designs and collections with optimism. “Right now I’m exploring a feeling rather than any set time or place. For the coming drops I chose a colour palette that would lift the mood, and silhouettes that span the whole spectrum from nano to extra large. Minimalists and hoarders aren’t having to concede to the other,” she says. Jacobson’s personal favourite is the Liv handbag, a new piece that hints to heritage but with a 21st- century twist. “Scale-play with oversized piping, quilted panels and edgy embossed leather takes something traditional and makes it sharp and feminine,” she says.

Whether it’s for the woman wanting to impress at her new job, or the mother negotiating the juggle, Jacobson’s design principles always come back to satisfying a need. “We see it as our job to provide women with something practical to help them cope with the chaos and complexity of modern life. At the same time, we hope to enable them to embrace who they are.”

Trailblazing designer Kenzo Takada dies from COVID-19

Japanese fashion designer Kenzo Takada died on Sunday from complications linked to COVID-19, the brand that still carries his name said.

Aged 81, Takada died at the American Hospital of Paris in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a residential suburb on the western outskirts of the capital, his spokesman told French media.

The designer, who was better known as Kenzo, created his label in Paris in the 1970s.

Known for his colourful motifs and original silhouettes, which mixed inspirations from Japan, such as the kimono, with other cuts, Takada also branched into perfumes and skincare lines, helping his business boom.

He retired from his eponymous label several decades ago after selling it to LVMH, the world’s biggest luxury group, in the early 1990s.

Kenzo has since had several other creative directors, while Takada maintained close links to the world of fashion but explored other areas of design, including furniture.

Confirming his death in a statement on Instagram, the Kenzo brand paid tribute to his use of colour, and said the label was still inspired by his zest for life and optimism.

Takada, who has described how he first reached France via a long boat journey in the mid-1960s, was known as an avid traveller, and played with a mix of cultural inspirations in his designs.

A New York Times review of one of Takada’s early fashion shows in 1973 hailed an “ethnic mishmash that was joyous and full of fun”, describing him as “one of the most imaginative designers in the world”.

Takada, who has also designed opera costumes, started out with a small store in Paris before soon reaching star status, and remained in his adopted city. His contemporaries in a thriving period for Parisian fashion included Jean Paul Gaultier and Yves Saint Laurent.

“Paris is mourning one of its sons today,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said on Twitter.

LVMH’s Chairman and CEO Bernard Arnault said in a statement that Kenzo had “infused into fashion a tone of poetic lightness and sweet freedom which inspired many designers after him”.

Ralph Toledano, chairman of France’s fashion federation, credited Takada with contributing to writing “a new page in fashion, at the confluence of the East and the West”.

Takada early this year launched a new venture in Paris, a home and lifestyle brand called K3, in collaboration with other designers.