I began KAYU in 2008 while visiting family in Malaysia. While searching for gifts to bring back to friends in the US, I realized that all the beautiful handicrafts I grew up with as a child had disappeared and were replaced with cheap, synthetic alternatives.
I started working with artisans in South East Asia on a line of accessories that were made using traditional techniques but infused with a modern Californian sensibility. After an overwhelming response from the media and stores I quit my corporate job and dedicated myself full time to making handcrafted accessories. I called my company KAYU which means “wood” in Malay; an ode to my cultural heritage as well as a reflection of our commitment to using natural materials like straw, wood and shell.
Our bags are carefully handcrafted by women in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, preserving their indigenous crafts as well as providing them with a living wage. Since the beginning a portion of our profits has been donated towards charity. We currently work with new immigrant women in San Francisco through our custom monogram program, providing them with practical training and an alternative source of income.
Kayu was inspired by my childhood memories – the batik kaftans my mother use to wear, the rattan chairs in our dining room and the vibrant textures and colors of South East Asia. We hope that when you carry your KAYU it too will awake the adventurer in you.