Gone are the days when your choice of vegan bags were either made from coarse hemp or rigid plastic. Now the options are on par with the feel and quality you could only once find in quality leather goods made in Italy. One such brand to prove that vegan doesn’t have to be ‘crunchy’ is Hozen vegan bags, straight from LA and exclusive to CONTENT.
Hozen vegan bags are the brainchild of Rae Nicoletti, who studied hand leather work at San Francisco’s Amblard Leather Atelier under Hermes master artisan Beatrice Amblard. Rae left the leather behind and took the techniques she learned to create Hozen. We chatted with Rae about her experience in the fashion industry and the commitment to the environment at the heart of her brand.
Where did the brand name Hozen come from?
When creating the brand, I knew I didn’t want to call it by my own name. I am me and I’ve always wanted the bags to be able to have their own identity. If you’ve ever researched available business names, you will have found that everything is taken! I had to get creative. I knew I wanted one word, that sounded gender-neutral. I started seeking keywords in foreign languages and that is how HOZEN, Japanese for “conservation” came to be.
What piqued your interest in sustainable handbags?
My professional career began at the corporate office of Kate Spade in the creative department. Though I spent six years in the handbag world, I never in a million years would have guessed I’d be where I am. Most recently I was working as a photography prop stylist and interior decorator. On the side I liked to take various creative workshops including ceramics, weaving, and leatherwork. I was living in San Francisco where a former Hermés master artisan opened a hand leatherwork school focusing on handbag design. I spent a year of Saturday’s learning the craft. I quickly realized I wanted to utilize my skills and create my own line.
Upon enrolling in the program in January I was a vegetarian and by that March I went vegan. I started educating myself on the horrors of the leather industry (animal cruelty, pollution, toxic chemical exposure to works etc.) and realised that I could never work with that material in good conscious. Also, there is much more potential in the vegan accessories space so I knew that was the way to go.
How does the environment and planet influence your business decisions?
I won’t use just any product. All of my materials down to the thread (100% recycled PET) are considered. Not only do I look for vegan, but eco-friendly and from factories that have good standards of practice and ethics.
Tell us more about your affiliation with the Mercy For Animals charity.
I wanted Hozen to be the whole enchilada: cruelty-free, eco-conscious, made locally in small batches at a fair wage factory, and why stop there? The initiative of supporting an animal activist group that is standing up for the very animals we refuse to use in our products seemed to make perfect sense. The ultimate decision to align with MFA was total kismet. Early on, Milo Runkle their founder, commented on one of my posts on Instagram and I took it as a sign!
What does the future hold for Hozen?
We officially launched in the Spring of 2018 so Hozen is still a baby! For this reason we plan to continue offering our original collection, which is still unknown to so many. We will gradually add more here as we see fit. In February our SS19 collection drops. I’m very excited for these bags as they’re made with nearly 100% recycled materials, including Piñatex.