Kalkidan Gebreyohannes was tired of the void she saw for Black designers who created high-end, luxury handbags. Rather then try to work her way into another white-washed company, she simply decided to disrupt the entire industry.
The Oakland-based designer came up with the concept for her brand, KALU, which is what her friends call her. She is a self-taught entrepreneur with roots in Ethiopia, Canada, and Southern California, and a mother of three.
Get to know more about Kalkidan Gebreyohannes and her contemporary handbag collection, KALU, below for our #25DaysofBlackBiz series.
What year were you founded?
The idea for KALU was birthed in 2012. After two and a half years of perfecting designs, sourcing materials and mastering my craft, I launched my first KALU collection, “Le Reve – The Dream,” in December, 2014.
What inspired you to launch your business?
The idea of entrepreneurship has always been in my blood and passed down to me by my parents. After an honest conversation about balancing motherhood and dreams, I decided to pursue my vision by becoming a handbag designer.
Very quickly into the process, I noticed that there wasn’t much diversity and very few Black females in the handbag industry. This prompted me to be even more diligent and intentional with how I created my brand, KALU.
What makes your brand unique?
KALU is unique because each piece is designed by me, then hand-crafted with ethically-sourced leather (a by-product of the food industry) in a small leather atelier in Southern California. We do not mass produce, which is beneficial both to the environment and to our customer, who enjoys fashion exclusivity.
KALU also offers customization to any bags for that added personal self-expression.
Why should everyone #buyblack this holiday season?
Everyone should #buyblack this holiday season because our community and future generations require us to do so. Economic growth and stability for the Black community is so important, and there is no shortage of educated, talented and hard-working people in our community that are aiming to do nothing but put out quality products and services.
Understanding our spending power and how our dollars can directly impact our community is pivotal to our unity and growth. It is KALU’s priority to collaborate with and support other woman-owned and Black-owned businesses.
How do you pay it forward within your community?
KALU understands the importance of art and economic stability. Merging the two aspects and speaking to the youth, in particular young Black girls, about entrepreneurship, investment in self, and community so that the black community continues to thrive and becomes completely self-sufficient is one of the ways we pay it forward and stay connected to our community. KALU also supports and collaborates with other Black-owned businesses, specifically woman-owned businesses, as a personal commitment to the community.
What is your business mantra?
To create handbag designs that reflect what women value most: time, functionality and self-expression.