Apr 2, 2024
Kika NY: Where Craft Meets Fashion
- By
Blaire Dessent
Kika NY: Where Craft Meets Fashion
Apr 2, 2024
by
Blaire Dessent
Kika NY: Where Craft Meets Fashion
Apr 2, 2024
by
Blaire Dessent
Kika NY: Where Craft Meets Fashion
Apr 2, 2024
- By
Blaire Dessent
Kika NY: Where Craft Meets Fashion
Apr 2, 2024
- By
Blaire Dessent
Kika NY: Where Craft Meets Fashion
Apr 2, 2024
- By
Blaire Dessent
Kika Vliegenthart in the studio
“I

couldn’t live with a bag if I didn’t do everything I can to make it perfect,” says Kika Vliegenthart, founder of Kika NY, a bespoke leather studio based in Santa Catalina that produces handcrafted bags, backpacks, sandals and accessories.  Born in The Netherlands, Kika studied documentary filmmaking and was living and working in New York City in the early 2000s, when she happened by a tiny leather workshop in the East Village. It was the workshop of Barbara Shaum, a legendary leathersmith who opened her workshop in 1962, and was very well known by fashion insiders, including doing regular collaborations with leading brands including Donna Karan, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren.

It is fascinating how for many artists, a material truly speaks to them, and in Kika’s case, it was leather. After passing by the workshop several times, she went in and asked Shaum if she could do an apprenticeship. Shaum said no and Kika was quickly shown the door, but she was determined, and after sitting herself on a stool and watching for hours, Shaum relented. “It was so calm and meditative,” Kika notes of the tiny studio where people were quietly immersed in creating beautiful objects. Her apprenticeship would last for fifteen-years. It was a rigorous experience, as Shaum did not like socializing in the workshop and apprentices were meant to stay focused on the craft at hand. It changed Kika’s life.

Each bag is handmade with vegetable tanned leather
Clients send tracings of their feet for a perfectly bespoke sandal

After those fifteen-years, Kika left her work as a documentary filmmaker. She met her partner, Sabine Spanjer, who had been working as a multimedia designer and film editor in Holland. Together they launched the brand of Kika NY and began to make their own bags out of their tiny kitchen in Brooklyn. Word of mouth commissions started slowly coming in, including shops in Japan and with Brooklyn Circus, an important shop and brand that helped open the doors.

Nearly every style of bag or backpack is inspired by their travels and then adapted to fit a modern and urban lifestyle through pockets, sizing, straps and other details. Their first bag, the Harvest Backpack, which remains one of their top sellers, was inspired by trips to Asia and seeing the woven backpacks carried by fruit-pickers; the Postal Backpack takes its inspiration from classic European school bags for children, and the special edition X Backpack was inspired by the backpacks carried by Himalayan Sherpas. “We wanted to find a style [of bags] that was functional and we love the idea that something has already existed in a culture,” they explain. There is a sense of continuity, of respect and understanding of what makes something not only practical and useful, but timeless. Their bags are not about trends or fashion but something which remains with you forever.

Because “every foot is different,” each pair of sandals is designed to fit the foot of the user. Clients must send precise measurements as well as paper tracings of their feet, from which they cut out the base shape then place it in water for up to 8-hours, after which they stamp it and hand-mould the arch.

“I couldn’t live with a bag if I didn’t do everything I can to make it perfect". - Kika Vliegenthart
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