Meet Issara – the fashion brand on a mission to make luxury-quality leather goods accessible, while engaging in socially conscious business practices.
The startup, dreamt up by avid traveller and corporate escapee Rosh Govindaraj, produces stylish functional pieces for travel and work such as bagpacks, purses, clutches, briefcases, sleeves and wallets. To do so, Issara mixes minimalist designs and premium materials.
Social responsibility is a key part of the startup’s business ethos. The brand works closely with artisans in India and Indonesia to produce beautiful, long-lasting leather accessories that benefit the communities making them. And the leather? It’s free from AZO and disperse dyes (water insoluble dyes that escape conventional wastewater treatment processes), while Issara’s accessories are nickle free too.
We sat down with Rosh to chat about Issara’s new connected collection, the rise of the conscious consumer and why sustainability makes good business sense.
Tell me a bit about your background.
I started working full time after high school as I was accepted into a competitive cadetship program at KPMG. I worked full time while completing university. Then I moved to PwC and before I knew it 8 years had passed in a corporate career! While I’ve enjoyed my various roles (consulting, technology risk, tax) and the money was good, it wasn’t the fulfilling career I’d imagined. I desired more freedom and flexibility. I love to travel, far more than the average 4 weeks of annual leave will allow and really wanted to feel like the work I did was meaningful. I wanted to be proud of what I did for a living, run life on my terms and help people along the way. I took the plunge into Issara in 2014.
How did you come up with the idea of Issara?
I got the idea when I was on a dive boat in Indonesia (June 2014) and spotted a bag on a guy sitting next to me. It was beautiful, and looked like it could withstand anything. So I asked where he got it and ended up accompanying him on a trip to a leather workshop where I had my own sketches made into a gorgeous bag for daily use. I was hooked – it was so much more special than just picking up something from the nearest store. I figured that I could use the power of the internet to bring that joy to people from my part of the world too. That was my bingo moment. I quit my job 3 weeks after that.
Who is your ideal customer?
Discerning women and men who seek quality over brand names, and consider ethics and sustainability in their purchasing decisions. Our range is optimised for work and travel and is largely unisex. It is intelligently designed to complement a busy lifestyle and features minimal branding to let the premium materials speak for themselves.
You recently launched a tech-enabled collection. Tell me more about the products in it and their functionalities.
The Smart, Luxury Collection is a curated selection designed for a lifestyle involving lots of travel – both the daily commute and long distance travel. It consists of a Weekender, Structured Tote, Backpack, Portfolio, Clutch, Zip Wallet and Bifold Wallet all designed with a minimalist aesthetic and handcrafted from full grain leather (sourced from the same tanneries as luxury Italian fashion houses) and premium lining and fittings. Technology has positively impacted so many aspects of our lives that it simply made sense to combine it with the items we carry every day.
We partnered with tech company Trackr to embed small bluetooth & crowd GPS powered tracking devices in this collection. You’ll be alerted before leaving things behind and can use the mobile app to find your bag/wallet if it is lost or stolen. I particularly like the reverse tracking feature that lets you locate your phone using your Issara bag/wallet even if the phone is on silent. The Bluetooth range is 100ft, after which it switches to worldwide crowd GPS. The family share feature allows you to grant friends or family access to your Trackr so if you lose both your phone and bag, you’ll still be able to track them using your partner’s phone.
Why did you decide to create such collection?
I had my work laptop stolen by an ojek driver (motorcycle taxi) in Jakarta once – I still remember chasing after him in heels for a whole kilometre (it didn’t work, he got away). I also recall several lost/stolen bag and wallet scenarios from my travels. And who can’t relate to running out of the house then realizing (a little too late) that they’ve left their wallet behind at home? Our new collection makes all of those scenarios play out in a much stressful way.
How do you see technology impacting the future of fashion?
Wearables are already hitting the market, and high tech fabrics and materials are also changing the industry. I particularly see tech impacting the shipping experience – virtual shopping assistants, the ability to “try” things on yourself without physically having to put it on, and improved efficiency in logistics and stock management.
You just closed your crowdfunding campaign successfully. Congrats! What’s next for Issara?
Thank you! We’re going to continue delivering luxury products and exemplary customer service, and expanding into new lifestyle goods that can be made better – both from a quality and ethical standpoint.
We have teamed up with Issara to offer a complimentary monogram to our readers (normally $10) with code INTERLACED at checkout. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
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