Imby Langenbach talks business, and how creating beautiful, bespoke bags keeps her calm in a crazy-busy life.
Here at Sitchu, we love a local business whose success is backed by a feel-good story, and we can’t get enough of KARMME – a bespoke leather clutch brand.
They say necessity is the mother of invention, and that’s true of KARMME. Its founder, Imby Langenbach, has always had a creative spirit, but it wasn’t until she had neck surgery that she realised she needed to toss out her huge, heavy shoulder bags.
She used her sewing skills to make a leather clutch to stash her phone, wallet and keys. The design was genius in its simplicity, and people started asking questions. Imby started working on a range of clutches – all with the same soft leather and signature clean, minimalist aesthetic.
Fast-forward to now, and the exclusively online business is thriving. The range includes tan, metallic and shibori clutches, along with totes. Imby calls her products her ‘ladies’, and they really are lovely.
We caught up with Imby to chat about the booming business, and how creating beautiful bags keeps her calm in a crazy-busy life.
What prompted you to start the business?
KARMME was born from the desire to create. I had given a clutch to my sister for her birthday, as I try to make an element of her gift every year. I’d also had neck surgery and didn’t want to carry a heavy bag on my shoulder anymore, so I made a clutch for the school pick-up essentials: phone, wallet and keys. People in Perth (my hometown) and Sydney started asking about the clutches, and social media added to the market, and the business began. It was about making something women needed, but making it beautiful. I think people liked my story and supported locally-designed and made products.
What does KARMME mean?
KARMME means ‘calm’. When I was naming the business, I was thinking about what it does to me, and how it makes me feel – and I kept coming back to ‘quiet’, ‘peaceful’, ‘free’ and ‘calm’. So KARMME is a play on words – it’s a verb, ‘calm me’, and an adjective. Creating is the only thing in my daily life that makes me feel calm. My mind wanders while my hands are busy. It grounds me, and the life stuff floats away.
You’re constantly creating unique pieces. Where do you find inspiration?
It’s more a real need to create. I love learning; I become quite obsessive with working things out and I strive to do everything to a high standard. The perfectionist in me does not get in the way of completing tasks – once I have an idea, I must see it through. I’m driven by practicality balanced with beauty in design. I like to create based on a need, and then I try to make something that is useful, beautiful and has a sense of story behind it. I don’t actively search for inspiration. I rarely follow fashion trends or watch what others are creating. Rather, I like to think about what I would like to hold and how I’d like it to make me feel, and then recreate that for other women.
Why do you think your line has had such an incredible response?
I had incredible support from family and friends at first, then the wider community. This branched out to the creative community, and then that circle grew to include their friends and families. I’ve always maintained that you need to give your customers a reason to buy your product. There are so many products to choose from, so I strive to deliver an easy ordering system, beautiful imagery, a story, exceptional customer service, and a high-quality, unique product with attention to detail right through to the hand-written note and wrapping. I’ve worked hard to build the brand to be one people can rely on, and they seem to keep coming back for more! It’s not an ‘on-trend’ brand; I hope it transcends age, stage of life and even gender.
You’ve said that the products vary to a degree. Why is that?
As leather is a natural product, there will always be variation in texture depending on the section of hide it is cut from. I aim to be as conscious as I can to not waste the leather. The Shibori range of clutches are completely unique – no two can be the same even if we tried. It’s art transformed into a practical piece to be both used and admired.