When Sarah Law launched NYC handbag label KARA in 2013, it was about more than just creating new accessories. Growing up between Hong Kong and the United States as half-Chinese and half-Caucasian American, she wanted to create a space where the complexities of individual identity could be celebrated and championed.
"As a mixed person, I have often been told that I'm not Chinese enough or not Caucasian American enough but I strongly feel that not only do I identify with each culture, I am both," Law tells PAPER. "KARA has always been a place where people are free to express their individual identity as they see it and also celebrate the full spectrum of diversity that exists."
The brand has since gained recognition for its tightly edited mix of streamlined bags and use of shimmery accents like chain mail and crystal fringe. Fit models on the brand's e-comm page — diverse in age, race and body type — reflect Law's inclusive philosophy. While images of Bong Joon-ho and Timothée Chalamet photoshopped wearing KARA accessories on the brand's Instagram page show off its fun, playful side.
One of the styles that has emerged as a best-seller is the Bike Wallet, a simple leather bag with a metal chain strap inspired by oversized bike locks worn by cyclists around New York City. After receiving a lot of requests from customers looking for longer chain lengths, she came up with a new range called the Universal Capsule which launched earlier this month and fits a wider range of body types and focuses less on gender.
To celebrate the launch, she commissioned Dutch sci-fi artist Esmay Wagemans to cast different people from her community in Amsterdam and create a series of sculptures modeled after them. (Wagemans has previously worked on projects for cool, indie brands like Gentle Monster and Alan Crocetti.) The body moldings express the variety of different body types championed by KARA and are accessorized with pieces from the Universal Capsule.
"It has been extremely interesting and meaningful to work with her over time as we both continue to develop our craft," Law said of the artist. "Esmay as an individual and also as an artist is a strong representation of a person deeply acquainted with and curious about the complexities and nuances found in identity."