When best buds Ilona Gerasimov and Lena Vasilenko decided to launch their own line of leather accessories, crunching the numbers on their new biz was second nature—after all, they were both accountants by day. The Portland, Oregon-based pals originally got to chatting about their need for a creative outlet on a 2013 road trip to Big Sur. “We were both so interested in architecture and design, so our idea was to do handmade shoes,” Ilona recalls. Immediately after, they got their hands on a sewing machine and started dabbling...but they quickly realized that making various sizes was hugely time-consuming, especially considering they were still CPA-ing at the time.
Their solution was to focus on futuristic, shiny leather bags—which had the added bonus of being both unisex and one-size-fits all—but that switch still didn’t mean their side hustle was a breeze. As Lena says, “We worked on the line from 8:30 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. every single day. We did that for a whole year.” Those late nights paid off—they officially launched the aptly named label, Kozha Numbers, in December 2015, and their first collection of about 900 bags completely sold out in four months. Now, Lena and Ilona only have to do their own business’s accounting (and they get to sleep through the night!), but some things haven’t changed, like the fact that they still make every single metal-handled tote and slick crossbody in their studio. It all adds up to statement bags you can feel great about.