Designer Profile: Sara Sozo of Sozo United Handbags

SozoUnited1While shopping on Etsy, I discovered Sozo United Handbags, and was immediately drawn to designer Sara Sozo’s concept of repurposing items in your closet to create beautiful, one-of-a-kind bags. I can’t tell you how many times I have bought an item because I love the print, fabric or color combination but never ended up wearing it. Naturally, I was excited to learn more about the talented woman behind Sozo United and her mission to help support refugee women in the Atlanta area.
HR: When did you begin designing handbags?
SS: I started designing bags when I was 18 by cutting off the tops of jeans and embellishing them, and have been playing with repurpose concepts ever since. I didn’t turn handbag design into a business until late 2013, however. 
HR: Did you always want to become a handbag designer or did you transition from a different career path? 
SS: I always wanted to be involved with fashion and style design.  I started off by redesign and modernizing vintage pieces and moved into wardrobe design in my early 20’s. 
HR: What is the most challenging/rewarding aspect(s) of designing handbags and being in business for yourself?
SS: The most challenging thing is having an idea (or a million) and actually seeing it happen. Having a design concept in your head seems so easy until you actually face the demands of machinery, fabrics, etc.  There are so many rewarding things, including seeing the final product being a favorite of a customer’s wardrobe! But most of all, I get excited about all of the refugee women I help empower through training and employment. 
SozoUnited2HR: Choosing fabric seems like a fun part of the design process.  Where do you find inspiration when creating each bag?
SS: I love texture, color and culture. Meaning, I love prints that are inspired by different cultures – tribal, exotic skins, tusk and global inspired hardware.
HR: Describe the woman you design for.
SS: She’s consciously chic. She loves to mix and match her classic pieces with her unique pieces to express who she is with her wardrobe.  Yet, she is aware of world issues and wants to be part of positive change all while looking super chic. 
HR: Tell us more about your efforts to help support refugee women in the Atlanta area. 
SS: Sozo United partners with Peace of Thread, which is an organization that trains refugee women how to sew. We help give these women the ability to be self-sufficient through the skill. The women are contracted to make handbags and other sewing projects with Sozo United and other companies, allowing them to be able to take care of themselves and their families.
HR: Name five celebrities you would love to see rocking a Sozo United original.
SS: Nicole Richie, Solange, JLo, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kortney Kardashian (I know that’s 6!) 
HR: What five accessories should every woman invest in?
SS: Of course, a few handbags including: a clutch that can be worn with a more formal look (preferably in leather) which then could be dressed down. A larger, carry all tote, satchel or hobo. Simple jewels that can be worn alone or layered for a little more drama, a pair of pearl earrings, and a watch that you love every time you look at it.
HR: What advice can you give to aspiring handbag designers?
SS: Have a creative and business/financial strategy. Sometimes it’s difficult for creatives to focus on the business aspect, but extremely important.  Stay true to your personal taste, but also listen to your customer – what they want and need from their handbags.
HR: What’s next for Sozo United? Are there plans to expand the brand?
SS: We are starting to move into a larger production. We will still offer handmade bags, but we are also looking to move into larger boutique and stores.  We are also currently campaigning in partnership with Peace of Thread to raise funds for a new training and  production center for refugee women in the Atlanta area. If you would like to support or learn more, click {here}.
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Shop the entire Sozo United collection {here}. Bags are made to order and can be custom made upon request.