No one knew the day after Christmas, 2004 that a horrible disaster would soon strike, killing 285,000 people of Indonesia. Of the dead, 185,000 came from the province of Aceh, Sumatra where homes and residents were pushed into the swirling wild waters that led to the death of tens of thousands of Aceh residents.
Who could know that this disaster would give rise to beautiful, useful, and economically empowering handbags and accessories?
What Led to The Birth of Laga Handbags?
Roy van Broekhuizen is a relief worker who had visited the distraught region twice to help recovery efforts in Aceh. On his third trip in early 2005, his wife Louise went with him. During her visit, she discovered a shop that used manual sewing machines to make handbags and then they are hand embroidered using traditional Acehnese patterns that went back for generations.
After coming home, Louise held a gathering for 20 friends and introduced them to the Laga handbag phenomena. The positive response and money earned allowed Louise and Roy to make several trips to Aceh to buy more handbags and sell them in the United States. Louise held more “parties” and kept selling out of handbags. The couple knew they could use the handbags to help the residents of Aceh. It was at this time that Laga Handbags was formed.
In April of 2010, Oprah Winfrey featured the story and the handbags on her show. Laga Handbags were introduced by Malaak Compton-Rock, wife of Chris Rock (comedian, producer etc.). Malaak featured the Rajin bag on Oprah which quickly became the highest requested bag. The crushing demand that followed led to more hiring and economic growth of Aceh.
How the Laga Handbag is Made
Before we can talk about how the Laga handbags are crafted, it is important that you take a brief course in the Acehnese language.
- Laga = beautiful
- Harapan = hope
- Damai = peace
- Selalu = Always
- Ria = cheerful
- Sehat = healthy
- Percaya = believe
Laga is the name of the handbag line, and the rest of the list refers to the names of the purse models.
Frequently, purses are made to order. First, Laga headquarters provides a “team” with enough materials for a particular type of purse. The whole team is involved in creating a purse. First, a team member cuts the materials for the body, lining, and interface. Another person does the embroidery while another makes handles. An additional person sews the zipper in and the last person is responsible for assembly.
Each purse is handmade by skilled and experienced artisans. The workflow is from women to another until the purse is completed. The same skills and methodology used in making purses are also found in our entire product line of wallets, travel bags, and accessories.
The first step in making a purse is done by an artisan using a treadle sewing machine (non-electric). The bag is stitched with patterns guided by hand. Each purse is lined with a rich synthetic silk-satin fabric and decorated with intricate metal details. Each purse made by Laga has tiny feet that protect the gorgeous baroque stitching on the bottom of the purse.
Each purse is a unique work of art made with materials selected for their durability and beauty. Laga purses show the world that you are a fashionista and know how to stay in style while helping tsunami victims provide their families with the necessities and niceties of life.
Perhaps Oprah said it best when she said on that day in April of 2010:
“If you’re going to give a gift, why not give one that gives back?”