In Union City, an Intuitively Crafted Handbag Line

A vintage look and feminine lines define Crystal Kodada's thoughtful collections.

Crystal Kodada handbags

Crystal Kodada’s leather handbag collections, handcrafted in Union City, are sold at fine-art shows, pop-up shops and on her website, crystalkodada.com. View the purses on Instagram @crystalkodada and facebook.com/crystalkodada. Courtesy of Crystal Kodada

Crystal Kodada understands the intimacy of women’s handbags. “It’s an item used every single day. My bags are created to be your best friend, your sidekick, something that goes everywhere with you,” says the 34-year-old designer. “From the first bag I sketched, I knew this was my passion,” she adds.

After attending the Fashion Institute of Technology and the London College of Fashion, Kodada interned at fashion houses and worked with lines such as Donna Karan, Betsey Johnson and Jessica Simpson. “When I worked on Jessica Simpson’s collection, I got to meet with her, share my ideas and then design the bags. It was a great opportunity that gave me a chance to really learn the business,” Kodada says.  

When it came time to launch her own brand in 2014, the East Brunswick resident knew exactly what she wanted. “Functional beauty was my main objective,” she says. “I use vintage-look, upholstery-grade leathers because they are more durable and grow softer with a beautiful patina over time. The natural oils from the skin contribute to the leather’s look.” It’s also important, says Kodada, that all the bags have feminine details to balance the rugged appearance of the material.

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Ensuring that each handbag has accents like pleats, zippers and a shapely silhouette are paramount before Kodada takes her designs from sketch to production. “It is not just about pretty, it’s also being intuitive about how it will be used. Where should a pocket be located? Does it need more compartments? Is the strap long enough?” says the designer, who proudly makes all of her handbags locally. 

Eschewing the designer trend of placing her name or logo all over her bags, Kodada takes a subtler approach by embossing the brand name on the underside of each purse. “I want the bags to speak for themselves,” she says. “I want to make the customer shine.”

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