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ahoy soozou!

nothing makes me happier than stylish and sustainable design. add a little homegrown production to help lift local women out of poverty and you have the makings of one of my favorite new companies to hit the pages of h|h for quite sometime.

the idea for soozou, a line of handcrafted bags made from recycled sails, came to honolulu designer pia kuhlemann while she was playing around with making a surfboard bag as a birthday gift for her sweetie. she hatched the idea for using sails, which are both durable and water-resistant, at the end of its life cycle after recalling the repurposed bags made from old sailcloth that had become popular in her hometown back in hamburg.

the surfboard bag never got made but prototypes for what would become soozou proved to be the opening pia was looking for to start her own business. the former art director now spends her days cutting bag patterns by hand to best reveal the unique graphics of each recycled sailcloth and bring hints of past voyages to life. the sturdy totes are then customized with silkscreened designs, decorative stitching, grommets, and rope straps befitting its nautical past.

but it's the next chapter of soozou's story that really sets it apart since pia, with the help of a friend, helped launch an economic development program at the kokua kalihi valley health center to keep sewing production of the bags in the islands. it's a win-win situation with participants in the program receiving job training while keeping it local reduces soozou's environmental footprint and adds a little economic stimulus to the community.

alas, the online shop is currently low on stock (price point ranges from $98 to $225), however you have a chance to scoop up some soozou of your own during the official launch party friday night:

or, stop by soozou hq (inside tadpole studios) to take a peek:

  • where: 1160 smith street
  • shop hours: wed to fri, 12p to 6p

p.s. pia is always on the lookout for used sails. divert yours from the landfill and onto the shoulders of the islands' style set and, in exchange for your donation, you will receive a soozou bag made from your very own sail.

{via green fashion hawaii}

{update | feb 2010: soozoo can now be found in its new studio space, etown, located at 1164 smith street in chinatown}

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