Annapolis, Maryland-based Hobo, the handbag company emanating all the boho vibes, recently set up a temporary pop-up shop at Studio Roeper, in The City’s Design District.
Designed to test the waters on the West Coast, it was the first of several planned fashion events in the region. We recently spoke with co-founder Koren Ray about her inspiration, views on San Francisco fashion, and what’s next for the brand.
BC: How did HOBO get started? What is your background in fashion?
There was never any question for me that working with leather would be my organic path. I was raised by a single mom in her iconic leather shop in the ‘70s, called Georgetown Leather. The store smelled like leather and was filled with nostalgic ‘70s brands, along with true artisans at a craft bench cutting, stitching and tooling custom leather bags. I grew up under that bench, playing with scraps of leather that the craftsman would give me to keep me busy and out of their way. I didn’t realize it then, but I was being taught the craft of leather, how to design beautiful things that are made to last, and about the dedication and hard work needed in running your own business.
I was waiting tables after college and working at my mother’s store when I met my husband, David. A kitchen table conversation turned into the inception of our own brand – we fell in love with the idea of taking what we had learned, and applying it to leather goods that have timeless style, expressed in exquisite hand-picked leathers with the function that women need. With that idea, we traveled to Mexico and found factories, training the local artisans there in the art of dying leathers. From there, HOBO was born.
BC: What inspired you to set up a temporary space in San Francisco? The Design District?
David and I both work incredibly hard to stay true to our enduring design philosophy – we strongly believe in first-hand experience with our boutique partners and the women we make these bags for. Direct, unfiltered dialogue is how we check ourselves, learn and improve. We’re never fully satisfied, and no matter how big our business grows, this hands-on approach will continuously be a part of who we are. And, of course, a little road trip is something we are always up for!
BC: What are your views on San Francisco style?
San Francisco is near and dear to my heart. As the city that was the home to the Summer Of Love in the late ‘60s, and an authentic part of the Hippie movement where singers, poets and romantics gathered, it had a profound impact on the fashion and style that I grew up with, and am still inspired by today. I view San Francisco as an inspiring mash-up of cultures in the different districts, which creates a truly eclectic and original style. Women here know how to mix things up in a very personal way, finding a way to avoid the ‘trendy uniforms’ that you see in other cities. They keep functionality and smart design in mind for city life, all while keeping it effortlessly cool with a casual undercurrent. It’s no wonder that San Francisco is one of HOBO’s largest markets, and why we so enjoy spending time here!
BC: What icons do you think of when designing these ‘70s-inspired bags?
For me, it was always the women that possessed a vibe of effortless nonchalance that inspired my designs, with the ultimate destination being a timelessly cool style that lasts. Boho and rock, tinged with the perfect balance of grit and grace--Jane Birkin and her perfectly undone shirt; Ali MacGraw in all her glory; Carly Simon's slouchy bags and big hats; Joni Mitchell, the original free spirit; and, of course, the quintessential gypsy, Stevie Nicks.
BC: Can you tell me a little about the process of sourcing and making the bags, from start to finish?
We always focus on equal parts beauty and function when designing and creating HOBO bags – ageless designs, hand-picked leathers, and flawless functionality. There’s also a nostalgic tribute to the methods and soul of the 70s in creating bags that only get better with use and wear. We strive to achieve this in every bag we make, because it’s the earmark of HOBO! At HOBO, we are original designers with collections of true vintage bags from around the world; we don't follow the trends as much as we follow our instincts. We also have two signature leathers that we have worked years to perfect – Vintage Hide and Velvet Hide. We love that no two bags are alike with these leathers, because the beauty is in the imperfections with our unique hand dyeing techniques.
BC: Who is the HOBO girl?
HOBO is about a lifestyle. The brand was created for those of us that embrace a casual undercurrent to our style; those who believe that our well-loved jeans and perfectly worn-in boots are better than brand new. There’s a rock ’n’ roll energy, a tinge of boho, and a respect for vintage finds in the classic HOBO girl. They share an underlying belief in quality over quantity, personal style over chasing trends, and in discovering more niche, intimate brands that have actual people behind them.
BC: What's next for HOBO?
We work in a free-form way, never planning too far ahead. So many of our products are seasonless, which is entirely intentional. We move to our own schedule, introducing new shapes and materials that we discover in our travels. That being said, we do have an incredible new slouchy HOBO shape called ‘Eclipse,’ that is just launching in the Fall of 2017, and we are bringing back some quintessential men’s bags as well. We have an exciting year ahead of us!
// Hobo Bags, hobobags.com
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