Small Business

Woman puts passion into fashion with handbag line

Growing up in Bangladesh, Tarzia Nabi was discouraged by her family from pursuing creative ambitions.

“I wanted to go to art school more than anything else,” she said. “My parents always said, ‘Vincent Van Gogh never sold a painting in his life.’”

So Nabi took a more conventional career path, earning an MBA, then working for a pharmaceutical company, in real estate and for a bank.

This year, she decided to see if she could turn her creativity into a business, designing and selling handbags under her maiden name, Tarzia Kahn.

Nabi, who’d never stopped sketching and painting, said she made the move after a bag she had designed fetched $480 at a fundraising auction for CityArts scholarships.

“People who attended the gala, they started ordering the purse even before I made production runs on it,” she said.

Nabi describes her creations as “luxury, high-end purses, but priced at a more affordable price that people don’t feel bad about buying.”

Currently, her bags are priced at $349.99, with $50 off through the holidays.

Nabi’s bags come in two designs. The Isabella Tote is made of cow leather and snakeskin and is available in colors ranging from “Morning Latte” to “Midnight in Paris” black. The Kate Tote is made of lamb leather and comes in a more whimsical palette, including “London Red” and “Citrus Burst.”

The Kate Tote is named for the Duchess of Cambridge and fashion setter Kate Middleton, whom Nabi admires.

Nabi grew up in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh and a former part of the British empire that she calls “one of the poorest” regions in the world.

Her parents moved the family to Virginia when she was 4 years old. She and her husband, also a native of Bangladesh, moved to Wichita in 2000.

Nabi said she started sketching bags and thinking about starting a business last year, while recovering from a serious car accident. She searched online for someone who could turn her designs into reality and found Maker’s Row, an online marketplace that connects manufacturers with small businesses.

She said her bags are now made in New York and New Jersey. She sends the manufacturers sketches with exact dimensions. She said she also works directly with the suppliers of leather and other components for the bags.

Nabi said she will devote a “significant” part of any profits to groups that help women and children in war-torn and at-risk parts of the world. And eventually, she hopes to have some of her products made here.

“We absolutely love this town,” she said.

As for her family’s advice, Nabi said: “I went in a different direction. I’ve always had this artist inside. It’s just important to be passionate about what you do.”

Now you know

Tarzia Kahn

Phone: 316-201-1031

Owner: Tarzia Nabi