Saben: Bagging success for women

A triumph of elegant design and seamless practicality, Saben has been creating quality handbags and accessories for almost 20 years, attracting a loyal following of women who love its focus on functionality and timeless design. Owner and designer Roanne Jacobson’s philosophy of helping women to keep their busy lives both organised and stylish has ensured Saben’s ongoing success worldwide, with the opening of the first flagship store on Ponsonby Road in 2016 to showcase her high-quality, versatile products in their own space.  Verve reporter Beth Owen chats to Roanne.


Your brand has been producing luxurious leather goods and accessories since 1998. What was it that led you into designing handbags?
Purely desire! I was living in New York and to get to work I walked through a luxury shopping district. Unable to afford one of the beautiful bags, and being a fine arts graduate I decided it wouldn’t be too hard to make one. So I then spent most of my free time in the garment district picking materials and finishings to stitch up my designs at home. It was a bit of a flop, but I was not deterred, so I decided to come home and find a manufacturer.


You named the brand after your late grandmother, Sarah Saben. Is she a big inspiration for your design philosophy?
I come from a long line of stylish and fiercely independent women who relish in the art of dressing.  I have memories watching my grandmother artfully edit her ensemble to reflect the demands of the day. When designing I often think of my her; the bags need to work for their wearer, but also be exceptionally beautiful and importantly, also be a joy to wear. And now I am inspired by all the women who wear them.


What is your usual starting point when designing a new collection?
When it comes to design, I am obsessive, so I usually zone in on an idea or a story, a trend, macro or micro – and I will fixate on that until I feel it is resolved or answered. Sometimes it is an ongoing journey throughout a few collections, other times it is loud and bold within a capsule in one collection. Of course, taking into account what styles and colours our customers are most responsive too, but also pushing boundaries to inspire them to be playful with their accessories. Usually the latter is when the real magic happens.


Where do you source the materials from for Saben products?
I spend a lot of time sourcing raw materials, finishings and hardware. I attend leather fairs and leather markets, although now that the brand has enough of a presence, leather suppliers send me samples to look at so I get to see new innovations straight from the tannery floor. Every season requires something new, so I always have my eyes open when travelling.


Do you think that the handbag has an important psychological significance for women, especially working women?
The juggle is so real for many women out there. Three businesses, three kids or somewhere in between, being ‘armed’ with a great bag can make a huge difference. Often our wallet and handbags become the linchpin to keeping our lives in order. With Saben, your haul can be stylish and for the most part, well organised — even if your day is not.


What do you think is the perfect staple handbag for women to invest in?
Frankie handbags and Tilly wallets are the perfect place to start. A multifunctional work-to-weekend handbag with two compartments to arrange your life: me/him work/personal mine/kids. Frankie is all efficiency on the inside, yet beautifully modern and minimal on the outside.  Tilly is an overachieving wallet wonder, more than a money mule, she has room to hold keys, sunnies, and all the extras, with a little wristlet she makes a stunning clutch. This really is a piece you don’t know how you could ever live without.


Do you have a personal favourite in the collection?
Perks of the job – I don’t usually have to pick one. But, Gita has stayed on my shoulder since her very first sample, safe to say it’s love. And the new Kara backpack has caught my attention for my weekends watching my kids on the basketball court and the rugby field.


How would you describe Saben in three words?
Playful, thoughtful, craftsmanship… or four words? You Lucky Lucky Thing!


Browse more Saben products at: saben.co.nz