Studio Visit: ARA Handbags

Amber Arambul had over to her lovely SE Portland home studio to learn more about her and her crush worthy handbags. We first spotted ARA handbags at West End Select Shop and couldn’t get enough. Her unique braided handles are what makes her bags truly stand out. A technique she first saw while vacationing in Mexico with her husband. Amber and her resourceful energetic ways mastered the craft and soon after launched Ara. She was a blast to hang out with and consistently impressed us with her one woman operation she has efficiently running out of her dining room. Amber grew up sewing and once she set her mind to making bags she self taught herself and through trial and error mastered her wonderfully minimal and functional line of accessories. Her smaller pieces in the collection came from having scrap from hides leftover that she makes pouches out of. Her other scraps go into making the braided leather handles or experimenting for potential other products. She showed us some amazing new necklaces that she has been working on as well. She has managed to make a bag for every woman, a large tote that can fit all you need and more, a backpack thats just about the most beautiful thing we have ever seen, and a smaller over the shoulder bag that goes with anything. Enjoy are fun visit with the always lovely Amber Arambul and her fantastic bags!              

1. Why Portland? What was it that drew you to Portland or has kept you here?

I grew up across the river and spent a good amount of time over here as a kid, so Portland was a natural transition.

2. What are your favorite things happening in Portland (design or otherwise)?

I am so out of the loop it's almost embarrassing.

3. How did your brand start?

I'm not big into visible branding when it comes to clothing and accessories, I think the item should speak for itself.  I had an idea of something I wanted, but couldn't find it without a giant logo attached, so I made it. ARA continues to grow in that way as well. I'll think "I need a clutch that's X size" and then make it. Or when I decided to start riding my bike to work last spring I needed a backpack, so I made it. When it came to naming my brand, I wanted something simple. I always admired Giavana's Una and Heather's Olo and liked the idea of a 3 letter name. ARA is my maiden name, Amber Rose Arambul. I said it out loud and it stuck.

4. What has been your biggest obstacle?

I am my biggest obstacle. Getting my brand out there and hustling is hard for me. To be honest, I'm a little on the lazy side, I just want to lay on the sofa and watch cheese ball movies while knitting ill-fitting stocking caps all night.

5. What or who inspires your design?

The person who inspires me is not any one person in particular, but soooo many people at the same time. "She's" the girl I strive to be -- simple with an effortless style. She always looks amazing wether she's headed to an event or running to the store in her sweetheart's sweatshirt. She only buys things that will last. Always on trend, but never trendy. I want to make a bag for her. One that she'll carry and love until she MUST have a change, and then re-finds a couple years later and falls in love with all over again, stoked that she didn't get rid of it.

6.What are your favorite things about Portland?

I love how small, yet well connected Portland is. The geographic location is pretty rad. We are close to the mountains and the ocean and we really do have a great climate here. All around it's a pretty fantastic city.

7. What is your favorite part of your studio?

My sewing machine.

8. Your favorite thing about your workspace?

That my bed is a few steps away. If I get super motivated and want to work all night, I don't have to go far when I'm ready to get my cuddle on.

9. Tell us two truths and a lie!

1. When I was a kid I wanted to be a rodeo clown.

2. For the majority of my life I have been a roller operator on a paving crew, paving mostly freeways.

3. I am known as the family electrician. So far no homes have burnt down.

10. 5 things you can’t live without.

1. My siblings + parents

2. Daydreaming

3. My husband and his old 501's

4. A sun filled vacation, more often than not 

5 .A nail file, because all of the hot sauce in the world couldn't stop me from biting my nails