The secrets of Saben

Kiwi handbag and accessories label Saben is best-known for its consumer-facing designer collections, but it also creates custom goods for many of New Zealand’s largest corporate retailers. We went behind the scenes with founder Roanne Jacobson to find out more.

Saben has been on the scene since 1998. It offers a wide range of leather and PU handbags, plus jewellery and accessories. The label is fully available for online shopping and now offers a clever tax-free option allowing online shoppers to pick up their purchases on the way through Auckland International Airport’s departures to buy at a lower price point.

Jacobson says Saben has been manufacturing for corporates almost from the beginning of the label 16 years ago. The first big job was to help Nokia introduce its “fashion phone” to the fashion world. Saben produced a bag with a pocket for the phone and promoted it through both brands’ channels.

“That kind of opened my eyes to the corporate world,” Jacobson says.

It has produced items for Snowberry; Kérastase; L’Oreal; Telecom; Spark; Westpac; Nespreso; Cavalier Bremworth and, notably, for Air New Zealand’s 75th birthday.

To fulfil Air New Zealand’s order, Jacobson copied its covetable flight bags, searching high and low to source the right kind of PU in the correct teal colour. She even found an exact match for the microfibre inside.

“It was an awesome challenge, and one that was really successful.”

Air New Zealand’s history with Saben goes back to the first time it sponsored New Zealand Fashion Week. On this occasion, Saben created bespoke Air New Zealand-themed luggage for VIP guests. The luggage featured tiny planes arranged in a starburst pattern.

Air New Zealand has incorporated other New Zealand designers into its corporate identity before, getting Trelise Cooper to design the flamboyant uniforms it launched in 2011. Prior to this, Zambesi handled the uniforms.

The advantage Saben offers local and international companies seeking corporate items, Jacobson says, is that it’s local but with scale. It has the manufacturing capability to make all sorts of items out of all sorts of materials, in minimum quantities from 50 to 500, and is currently producing a number of leather-bound journals.

“Where they’ve got a need, we can fill it,” says Jacobson. “Because we’ve been around for so many years, whether the factory’s in New Zealand, Indonesia or China, any need, we can pretty much deliver on.”

This service is mainly promoted through word of mouth.

This story originally appeared on The Register