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Less than a year after starting Quavaro, husband-and-wife team, César and Pial Vega, have opened a tiny gem of a shop near Eastern Market. Fans of Quavaro’s hand-stitched bags are often avid international travelers, much like the Vegas themselves. “Quavaro” is a playful mashup of the Spanish word for leather (“cuero”) and singer Dave Navarro’s last name.
What made you decide to base your business in Eastern Market? We started Quavaro in February 2017 with pop-up stores at Eastern Market and Union Market. We quickly felt the support the neighborhood had for small local businesses and especially our leather goods, and we were confident it would be a great place for Quavaro to call home. We recently opened our shop in November. So far so good! Actually, neither of us have been trained in design, but we both do A LOT of research. Our first collection, the Aviation Collection, was inspired by Cesar and his father’s passion for old military planes and tanks. During his time in the Navy, Cesar saw many helmet bags and tool bags which served as the base for many of our designs. l just like and collect bags! What is the Quavaro aesthetic? Our bags are reflective of our own style and state of mind. Our bags have a minimalist and classic design, but we also try to be very practical. For example, we use water-resistant materials and pocket placements. We want our bags to be stylish and — most importantly — functional for everyday use. How did you get into the handbag design business? Our bags are mostly designed to as travel bags. For our business, we really wanted to do something that was related to traveling in some way. During our own personal travels together, we really found that our bags definitely experienced the journey with us. Every stain or tear held a special memory and took us back to that moment in our travels. We wanted to encourage people to feel the same fondness for what they travel with and have the added benefit of looking stylish while they do!
Describe your work space at Quavaro. Our shop is simple, minimal and modern. It is a blend of exposed brick and wood. It’s a small space so we had to be very efficient with storage and display. Within the shop, we built a sliding barn door to store our inventory. We have showcased several photos of our producers and the process of making the bags. We invite everyone to come by and visit us for the real experience! Which of the bags is your favorite? Hmm…picking a favorite bag is what I imagine it would be like picking a favorite child! Each one is great for different reasons! I love the Aspen and Washingtonian tote bags and also the Washingtonian tote for days I need to have a more professional look. Cesar carries the Hawk backpack most days. Our favorites are always changing because we are constantly developing new designs to fit different needs. We sell them out of our shop in SE, but we are also looking to do more wholesale within the DMV area with time. Why has Southeast DC been a good place to have a leather goods business? Washington has such a diverse group of people! We see a huge movement here towards supporting small businesses and we definitely feel that support. We take pride in the quality of our bags and with our new factory (in Leon, Mexico), we love having the ability to create an environment where all artisans we work with are celebrated, respected and paid fairly for their decades of experience. We showcase them on our product tags and throughout our shop. I think people here in DC appreciate the openness of our model and they travel a lot, both for work and for fun. Our customers tell us they are always on the lookout for stylish and functional bags to use for their trips. Do you have an ideal customer? We hope to become a household name within the area. We would like to be known as the brand which designs bags for young professionals just starting their careers and also an 80-year-old who needs an essential lightweight bag. You recently started your own factory, yes? We needed to have more flexibility with our designs and color combinations because we really listen to what our customers are looking for in a bag and try our best to create it. We’re constantly researching and creating new designs all the time! How have things changed since you opened your store? Well, we moved in with my parents to move forward with the business! I know it sounds lame, but it’s actually a pretty good deal. They are extremely excited for us and have been emotionally supportive. And they are both excellent cooks (laughs).
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