Baggu’s Cool-Girl Founder Shows Us Her Studio

Since the inception of its signature, reusable nylon tote, Baggu has taken clean designs and fused them into a playful line that offers the gamut — think irresistible leather pouches, canvas backpacks, and even colorblocked beanies. Seriously, it’s hard to imagine a time when our grocery runs weren’t accompanied by one of Baggu's colorful sacks, injecting even the most mundane trip down the cereal aisle with just the right jolt of fun.
So, when we heard half of the team decamped to California, we couldn't wait to get a peek at the action. We met up with cool girl Emily Sugihara, founder of the now bi-coastal accessories line, in her Dogpatch studio to get some scoop, some fashionable snaps, and even a bit of skateboarding in! This chick has got style in the...ahem, bag.

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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
Tell us about what you do.
"I'm the CEO at Baggu, so I do a little of everything. I'm really involved in the product design, and I love working on that with our team. My biggest role is to oversee everything. I think about all of our processes and systems as we grow and how our business evolves. We have grown a lot in the last six years, so my job keeps changing — it keeps me on my toes and makes my work really interesting."

Emily proves she's got Cali's casual style down in an Acne sweater, Tiendo Ho dress, No.6 shoes, and a Baggu drawstring purse.
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
We love your gorgeous studio in Dogpatch – was it tough to find?
"Yes and no. We started out looking for something else, which we never found. Then, this place appeared, three blocks from my house and it seemed like a sign. The New York Times called this building a skyscraper on its side, and it really is."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
How did the idea for Baggu come to fruition?
"We really wanted to make something attractive and functional to bring home groceries, so we started there. Our design was really inspired by the plastic bag. We just made it bigger and picked a really functional fabric. With all of our designs, we just try to make them as simple as possible, then choose great colors."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
You just recently moved to S.F. from NYC – what are some of the major differences of each city you can speak to?
"Oh wow, where to begin. The aesthetics are really different — and the speed. New York still feels faster-paced than S.F., and a little more frantic. I think NYC is more ambitious, and S.F. is way more concerned with quality of life."

Which do you prefer?
"That's hard! I think each city was perfect for me for the period of time I spent there. I am definitely loving living in S.F. — life here is so much easier than NYC. We have cars and outdoor space and we can surf before work. The weather is better. But, we are back to NYC every few months, so I still do most of my shopping there, and most of our friends are there, so I'm still getting my dose of that crazy New York energy. I kind of feel like I'm getting the best of both worlds."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
You’re originally from San Diego – how did growing up in California impact your design aesthetic?
"Well, I love neon. California is a bit more casual, and I think that definitely comes across in my aesthetic."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
This seems like a pretty fun place to work — what are funny moments you can share?
"Everyone skateboards to and from the bathroom. Sometimes, in design meetings, Kabir and I will talk through a problem while skating in circles around the big table — movement helps us think!"

Emily's look is "wheel"-done. Here, she wears a Tienda Ho shirt, No. 6 dress, and Vans sneakers.
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
We love all the bright colors and designs Baggu uses. What are some other fun prints and patterns you guys have planned?
"Always more animals — get ready for a dog. Ellen, our creative director, does most of the prints. She is a total genius."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
What sites do you always have bookmarked?
"Amazon! We are deeply into Amazon Prime."

What are some of your favorite stores in the city?
"I love General Store in the Outer Sunset. Rainbow Grocery is reason enough to live in San Francisco. Also, in Oakland, Hida Tool and Hardware Co. and Cactus Jungle."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
What’s been your biggest wardrobe splurge?
"Always shoes."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
What was the most exciting part about bringing a Baggu office out here?
"The space! Our office here is so much bigger than the NYC one. We actually have space for a proper photo studio and to design. I feel like it's easier to be creative when you have room to spread out."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
What’s your favorite thing in your studio and why?
"Most definitely my mega-cutting table. I have always dreamed of having a huge table to sew on. The tenants in the space before us ran a little factory that made window coverings, I bought the table from them, so it never had to move. It was amazing!"
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
What is your philosophy on accessorizing?
"Carry a bag."

How would you describe your personal style?
"Baggy!"

Emily's ensemble is perfect for this block party! She wears a Perfect 69 dress, No. 6 shoes, Mociun and vintage rings and necklace, All Knitwear X Baggu beanie, and carries a Baggu bag.
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
How would you describe Baggu’s aesthetic?
"Baggu."

Do you feel the two are influenced by each other or vice versa?
"Definitely! I'm pretty minimalist and so is Baggu. But, the Baggu aesthetic is a mix of a few different people's vision and style — not just mine. So, I get really influenced by the other designers at Baggu. Also, half of my clothes are leftovers from photo shoots so the company literally dresses me."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
Tell us about these fun beanies. They are too adorable!
"They're by Annie Larson! She has this amazing company All Knitwear, and makes color-blocked pieces that are so completely original. We had long been fans of each other's work, so when we finally met in person we became friends. Of course, friendship leads to collaboration."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
What is your interior design philosophy?
"Make things functional and easy to clean. The less stuff, the better. To be honest, my husband is in charge here...he made all the furniture in our house."

Emily shows off her green thumb in vintage Levi's jeans, Tienda Ho poncho, Beatrice Valenzuela shoes, and the Baggu Medium Pouch bag.
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
"Use your eyes when you are cleaning. Like, when you are washing dishes, don't just cover the glass in soap — really look at it to be sure it's clean. I think that is the essence of being fully present and aware, and you'll have really clean dishes."

When you’re not working where can we find you?
"In the ocean."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
You recently got married. Tell us about it!
"I love being married! Our wedding was awesome. Galen and I got married at my parent's house. It was intimate and really beautiful. I made my wedding dress."
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Photographed by Maria del Rio.
What are some of the goals for Baggu over the next few years?
"We'd like to try to do in San Francisco what we did in New York, which was really to become a household name. Also, we want to make more bags. We still have a long list of stuff we want to design!"
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