There’s something innately cool about Kao Pao Shu bags. Even the name has a really quirky feel. A phone interview with the designer and her manager in Los Angeles told me why. These are two very cool women.
The designer is Naida Begeta and she is originally from Sarajevo. In 1995,a s a teenager, she left Sarajevo to escape the war, attending high school in Washington state. In 1997 she returned to Sarajevo to study and received a degree in fine art from the Academy of Fine Arts, with a major in product design.
Like so many talented designers, Naida came to design handbags simply because she couldn’t find a bag she liked and had to make one out of the materials at hand. With Sarajevo at war, industrial automotive webbing was among the few fibers she could get her hands on, along with bits of ribbon. So she fashioned a bag out of the webbing and embellished it with ribbons, organically sewing in a spiral, a continuum.
Kao Pao Shu’s manager is Luciana Brancorsina, who is originally from Italy. She explained where the unexpected name came from.
Apparently Naida was watching a kung fu film from the ’50s or ’60s that she found engaging. When the credits came up, she saw the name Kao Pao Shu. She was immediately intrigued and got hold of the director to ask him how to contact the actress. Permission was granted to use her name for a line of L.A. bags!
Naida and Luciana insist on doing all their manufacturing in L.A. “It must be made where I am so that in the production I can always control the application and be sure the ribbons are done in the right way,” Naida said. “I teach them how to sew the layers. We put together meters and meters of webbing and ribbons to construct the bags.”
The webbing is an automotive material and the layers are created with a variety of fibers such as organza and taffeta in the spring/summer and velvet and grosgrain in the fall/winter. A splash of metallic ribbons help many of the bags go from day to evening.
One of the unique features of a Kao Pao Shu bag is that it molds to the body. Naida understands the ergonomics of the body and creates a deliberate wrapping effect. Many can be worn in various ways: cross body, on the back, over the shoulder, in the hand.
Naida and her husband, Marcos Schillaci, who is from Sicily, Italy, love to ride motorcycles, so many of the bags are appropriate for biking. Marcos inspires the men’s line, which is also really cool.
Naida and Marcos spend their free time sailing. They have sailed the Mediterranean and even crossed the Atlantic. “Our boat broke down and we had to leave it,” Naida explained matter-of-factly. They now have a boat in Puerto Vallarta which they escape to every chance they get.
In Honolulu, Kao Pao Shu bags are sold exclusively at Riches Kahala in Kahala Mall. Prices range from $173 to $265. For more information, call 737-3303.
– Paula Rath