Best of Lei Chic 2008: If It Floats Your Tote

As we get set to ring in 2009, Lei Chic is taking a look back into our archives and bringing you some of the best stories we published during 2008. Enjoy and see you next year!
Originally published July 1, 2008

You’ve felt the guilt pangs before – like when you drop a hondo on a new bag and wonder if maybe there are more worthwhile causes than your arm candy addiction.

The new line of SooZou bags by local designer Pia Kuhlemann will take the wind out of your buyer’s remorse – they’re as socially conscious as they are chic.

www.leichic.comThe rope-handled, nautical-styled totes are made from reused sails, and are hand-sewn by Kalihi Valley Housing Project residents. Kuhlemann bought sewing machines, set up a workspace and hired the seamstresses through a women’s development program at the Kokua Kalihi Valley Community Health Center.

While searching for sailcloth to make her boyfriend a surfboard bag, Kuhlemann happened on the plentiful and sustainable supply of fabric when a local manufacturer offered her a truckful of used sails and fabric scraps. Inspired, she developed a line of shoulder bags, shopping totes and cosmetic pouches. All feature metal grommets and seaworthy stitching as well as some silk screened graphics. More styles are in the works, including a beach mat and a laptop bag.

SooZou won’t be widely available until later in July, but a preview of the line (where a few of the samples will be for sale) happens during First Friday this weekend at Tadpole Studio in Chinatown.

So you can forgive this one indulgence. It’s a conscious choice after all.

SooZou bags will be unveiled Friday July 4 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Tadpole Studio, 1160 Smith Street, Chinatown. More bag styles and full details on Friday’s show are at

Watch KGMB9's Living Lei Chic segment on SooZou Sailbags here.