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Picture this: You’ve just gotten off from your 9-to-5 corporate job, just like you do every day. Instead of heading straight home to binge-watch re-runs of your favorite show or meeting up with friends for dinner and drinks, you meet up with your business partner for your side project and work until 1 or 2 in the morning. No weekends off, no vacations for two years.
That was the exact hustle behind those sleek, simple black bags embossed with gold lettering by Portland, Oregon-based accessories line Kozha Numbers — you’ve probably seen them on Instagram — leading up to its launch in 2015.
All the hard work seems to be paying off because these bags are slowly but surely getting everyone’s attention. The brand’s signature style can now be found in some of the best and biggest indie retailers, including Need Supply and The Frankie Shop; they’re also spreading across social media at record speed.
But the success definitely didn’t happen overnight. In 2013, Ilona Gerasimov and Lena Vasilenko were just two friends working similar jobs in accounting. “We were just always talking about how hard it is to work in a position when you’re not loving it,” says Vasilenko. On a spur-of-the-moment trip to Big Sur, California, the two felt inspired enough to really make something happen. They bought an industrial sewing machine immediately upon returning to Portland.
“Once we just set our minds, it was kind of like no looking back,” Gerasimov says. “Nothing else really mattered but making this brand that we really believed in.” With no prior experience in design or production, the former corporate professionals spent the next two years in an actual library, studying and researching different techniques and sourcing strategies until they got to where they needed to be.
If you check out the brand’s e-commerce shop today, you’ll find four core bags — including both large and mini versions of both the metal, top-ring-handled Safe style; the large, knotted Ket bag; and the smaller Utility bag with two-way-hold straps — along with a couple accessories, like The Cash-let ($72) and The Cardlet ($34).
From the glossy shine of the leather to the choice of distinct hardware and rubber straps to the fairly accessible price point, there’s more than one reason to pick a Kozha bag over the rest of the “minimal” leather bags out there, and a lot of people seem to agree.
“I think people always over-complicate accessories, and that’s a fun thing,” says Vasilenko. “But for us, we always wanted to make something you can grab almost anywhere you go and it’ll just really tie your outfit together.”
The brand is currently spending a lot of time finding the perfect leather to introduce a couple new colors into the mix (one is a “really beautiful nude color,” hints Gerasimov). Keep your eyes open for those, because if we know anything about Kozha Numbers and new colors, it’s that they sell out fast. The brand will also be branching out of just accessories by working on a handful of top-secret collaborations involving actual clothing — because why stop when you’re on a roll?