Photo by Emily Malan // Words by Jennifer Wang
Kuu Collections is an LA-based design brand and studio, born out of a collaboration between two fine artists Isabelle Chafkin (left) and Emma Safir (right) in late 2013. The story of how they met is rather serendipitous. They both attended a mutual friend's pool party and hit it off immediately. "We were both sort of having post-art school existential crises," says Isabelle of the struggle to create work after graduation. Isabelle already had many years of leather working experience and Emma had studied printmaking at RISD. The two would meet up for "awkward date lunches" to talk about ideas, which eventually developed into a design partnership, business venture and friendship.
Emma recalls the start of their relationship, "We started meeting once a week for lunch, then we’d do some drawing and then it got more serious. I was thrilled to be making prints again. I had been thinking about what’s my solution for how I want to pursue making again?" It made sense to combine their skill backgrounds; they naturally ended up in the studio together to experiment with printed elements on leather bags and haven't slowed down since.
After producing the first prototypes, they tested out and refined their first run of bags with friends and family to get the line off the ground. They're joined not only by the desire to make things but also the drive to conceptualize simple, elegant, and smartly designed products they really believe in. By applying studio practice and rigorous material explorations, the two produce finely crafted objects that are at once beautiful and functional.
Isabelle and Emma's hope is to keep working on growing their business day by day and to bring apparel into the Kuu Collections line in the near future. Their advice for fellow designers working on their own lines? "Always be respectful and generous if you’re working with someone. And hire an accountant."
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