After 15 years of battling the wastefulness of seasonal fashion, Sara Naghedi decided to take a new approach with cruelty-free handbags that are built to last
Sara Naghedi launched her eponymous brand in 2016 with a collection of cruelty-free neoprene totes, woven entirely by hand. Since then, each Naghedi bag has been meticulously designed to suit all seasons and purposes as a means of combatting the waste produced by fast fashion. We spoke to the New York-based designer about what drives her brand and why it is necessary to slow fashion down, for the sake of our planet.
What inspired you to start Naghedi?
Fifteen years into my career, I found that seasonal and fast fashion was increasingly coming into conflict with what I believe fashion should be. I wanted to create something that was classic, something that would not tire after a single season - a bag that one could return to time and again. That was the impetus for Naghedi.
Can you tell us a bit about your background in accessories?
I started off in the industry in 2005 and ran an accessories company for 12 years. In that time I designed everything from handbags to backpacks to small goods, and even launched bridal and athletic collections. All the while, I fought hard against the wasteful current of seasonal fashion. With all I had learned, I decided to start over and create a new line built around my dedication to sustainability and slowing down fashion.
Why is sustainability so important to you as a brand?
The fashion industry in its current state causes major pollution. Throughout my career I have taken mindful steps towards sustainability. At my previous company, we transitioned over time to an entirely animal-friendly product. While establishing Naghedi, I became a mother and my work’s potential impact on the future environment became even more of a focus.
My view is that we can all make incremental changes that can collectively make an impact. At Naghedi, we aim to slow down fashion with timeless designs and durable, sustainable manufacturing. We use only animal-friendly materials and processes and we continue to think of ways to reduce our environmental footprint.
Can you talk us through your creative process?
My process is charged with thoughtfulness and iteration. The original woven tote - the St Barths - took over a year to develop and perfect. I went through a multitude of prototypes until my vision for the design was achieved. This tote became the foundation for the brand. We add new colours seasonally to our repertoire and, while we occasionally stray from our standard woven neoprene, constant newness is not a feature of our catalogue. When adding new items to the collection it goes through the same slow and thoughtful process as our very first Naghedi bag.
I wanted to create something that was classic, something that would not tire after a single season - a bag that one could return to time and again.
Where do you look for inspiration?
I am obsessed with colour and texture. Anything from the lines on the face of a skyscraper to the colours of vintage French bistro chairs can inspire a design or a colour palette for me.
How does being based in NYC influence your designs?
Walking the streets of New York City is better than any mood board out there. Most New Yorkers do not conform to any one look or style. They take risks and have fun with fashion which is so inspiring as a designer. But as New Yorkers who spend much of our time on foot, we often carry multiple bags - totes for groceries, duffels for the gym, messengers for work or school, diaper bags for children - the list goes on. The Naghedi collection was also born out of the need for a classic yet durable tote bag for all seasons and purposes.
What made you choose neoprene as your core material?
I tested several materials before the idea for neoprene materialised. I was looking for something unique, animal-friendly, and also durable. Athleticwear was the big trend at the time and while taking a look at some neoprene swatches, the idea struck me. Neoprene can withstand the elements which is why it is used in wetsuits. It is also easily cleaned with soap and water and, when used as the core material, it elevates the classic woven tote to something a bit more modern.
How did you establish a working relationship with your weavers?
The weaving of the bags is an intricate process that requires special skills. Each Naghedi bag is woven by hand, so they cannot be mass-produced or done with machines. We work with our local counterparts in China to seek out and train people in the countryside who have little access to metropolitan areas. This allows them to work from their homes while earning a premium wage. Each weaver can only produce one or two bags per day and we receive the unfinished woven totes in our office for the final touches. This is truly a handmade process from start to finish.
Anything from the lines on the face of a skyscraper to the colours of vintage French bistro chairs can inspire a design or a colour palette for me.
What worries you most about the fashion industry today?
The speed at which we consume fashion is concerning. As we all know, fast fashion is harming our environment with the waste and pollution that is created. I remember as a young girl, my mother would take me shopping for clothes twice a year. My clothes were well-made and could even be handed down in my family. I am not suggesting a return to that, but simply that we each give more thought to the process behind our wardrobes - what did it take to manufacture that shirt you are wearing and how long should it live in your closet?
Why did you choose to stock your designs at Liberty?
Having my bags at Liberty is a dream come true. I never went to London without making a stop at Liberty for its beautifully-curated collections and the gorgeous building it was all housed in. I could not think of a better place for Naghedi to make its introduction to the UK.
What’s next for the brand?
We are actively looking for ways to make our bags even more sustainable and looking to reduce our carbon footprint even more. Our search for reused, recycled or up-cycled materials is a daily process and a major focus.