Lotfi is a line of playful and sophisticated bags designed and made in San Francisco by Sharareh Lotfi. By exclusively using simple materials, like canvas and cotton rope, Lotfi bags are created for daily use with an eye for details that elevate everyday staples into cherished objects. The impetus for Sharareh's expansion into bags was when she noticed the glaring lack of functional and attractive baby bags for busy moms. Whether or not you're toting a tot, these bags are made for the gal on the go. Something to which we all can relate. Today Lisa Says Gah visits Sharareh in her Mission District home. Enjoy!
LSG: Your home is beautiful! How long have you been here?! Where do you primarily source decor?
Thank you! We’ve been in this apartment for about five years. Our furniture is a mix of lucky thrift and Craigslist finds, things we’ve built ourselves (like the big wooden table in the living room), and, of course, Ikea. And we’ll never lack for incredible artwork since my husband is an illustrator and, aside from his work, has built up an amazing collection of drawings and paintings from his circle of friends.
LSG: Can you walk us through your path? What kind of stops were on the way to where you are now?
I studied literature in college, and I assumed my work would always be related to writing or editing in some way. I had also studied art all through school, and a few years ago, while working as a grant writer, I started daydreaming about designing textiles and clothes. Learning to make clothes was something I had always wanted to do from a very young age, so I signed up for some sewing and pattern drafting classes and went for it.
LSG: Your primary workspace is in your home. What is is like navigating the domestic and professional in the same space?
I’m very grateful we have space for a small studio in our home. It makes it very easy to slip back there and do some work while Ayla is napping or at night after she goes to bed. I just take the baby monitor with me. But it also means I spend a lot of time here, which can lead to cabin fever. I also find I always feel slightly guilty if I’m in the studio working versus cooking my daughter’s meals or taking care of that pile of dishes.
LSG: What were you working on before launching Lotfi? How do you see that intersecting with what you do now?
Before launching the Lotfi bag line, I was designing clothing under the same name. My husband and I created all the prints for that line ourselves and had them printed on cotton and silk. Before that, I was working full-time as a grant writer for a nonprofit. Telling the story of an organization is not all that different from telling the story of your brand, although I would love to figure out how to include more writing in my work in general. I admire brands like Apiece Apart, and Lisa Says Gah, who incorporate interviews and storytelling as part of their sites.
LSG: You’re a mom. Can you tell us about how this role informs your work?
In so many ways! Starting with my decision to focus on bags, rather than trying to continue my clothing line. My time is so much more limited, I have to be more conscious of what projects or ideas I decide to pursue, and even just what I wear and what I have in my home have undergone an editing process. I don’t have the time to sift through a bunch of things as my daughter is tugging at my sleeve and ready to leave the house for the day. So in a way having less time and finding that I want fewer things around me has helped my design process. I’m trying to make each bag super practical and comfortable but still with some stand out element to it. At least, that’s the goal! Particularly in those first few months after my daughter was born, I might have been going out with dirty hair, wearing the same elastic waist pants and a sweatshirt every day, but hopefully, I was also carrying a not-boring bag around, which could sort of pull things together.
LSG: Who do you envision rocking a Lotfi bag? Do you have a lifestyle in mind?
I can’t help but have moms with small children on the brain, but there are so many creative women in San Francisco these days doing their own thing that I admire.
LSG: You are making your mark with the unique use of canvas, and it’s amazing! Out of curiosity, are you planning to expand the line into other materials?
One of the main reasons for choosing to make canvas bags was I was thinking how easy it would be just to toss your bag into the wash. I don’t worry about setting my bag down on the floor wherever I am because I know it’s pretty easy to clean. But I am working with some new materials for Fall 16. For further down the road, the durability of leather appeals to me, but I’m also thinking a lot about vegan leathers; we’ll see!
LSG: Starting a business and working for yourself is scary, a lot of people talk about going independent but never do. What do you think holds people back?
Honestly, I can think of a lot of reasons. It’s stressful to go from a steady paycheck to an uncertain income, and if you’re doing anything in a creative field, it can be hard to distance yourself emotionally from your work. It can also be an uncomfortable feeling to realize that you’re the only person who is going to be accountable if anything goes wrong. But it’s such an incredibly satisfying feeling when things go well to know that you’re responsible for that, too.
LSG: As a business owner, what advice would you share with someone interested in starting a company?
Learn as much as you can about your chosen field as possible, from as many different sources as you can. When you feel ready; just go for it. There will always be more things you can learn, but at some point, you have to try. Still, you should feel 100% confident about any product or project you’re putting out there. You will know if it’s not ready.
SG: What would you do differently at the beginning based on what you have learned so far?
It’s so hard to say because I think one of the best ways to get better at something is to keep doing it over and over. Just the act of repetition helps you improve and over time you get better at honing in on your voice and your style.
LSG: What should we check out while in your neighborhood!??!
For excellent coffee: Spin City Coffee (a tiny coffee shop in a laundromat!) or Bom Dia Market. Two of my favorite stores are within a few blocks of each other: Tug Tug for beautifully made children’s clothes and Anaïse for beautiful everything.
LSG: Do you get downtime? What does your ideal day off consist of? Real or imagined.
An ideal day would involve a fun outing with my daughter, maybe hopping on the Muni and checking out a new neighborhood, time to sit with a magazine and a cup of coffee, and time to have an uninterrupted conversation with my husband.
Interview: Olivia La Roche
Photography: Anna-Alexia Basile
Design: Alaia Manley