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Down under style moving on up

By Rebecca Lo | China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-27 14:07

Down under style moving on up

Sam Wagner's designs are targeted at casual yet extremely stylish women. Photos provided to China Daily

Sydney-based Sambag's effortlessly chic collection of shoes, handbags and apparel can be spotted on celebrities Nicole Kidman and Naomi Watts. Founder Sam Wagner tells Rebecca Lo the story behind the brand and why her first overseas shop is in Hong Kong.

Australian Sam Wagner understands fashion. She has worked in the industry since she was 15 years old: First in retail, then in design, marketing and public relations. She studied at the London College of Fashion after spending her childhood in Singapore, where she grew up surrounded by the different cultures and styles of the city's diverse ethnicities. At the age of 26 and a young mother of two girls, she came upon an idea that provided the inspiration for her now 16-year-old company Sambag.

"I began to sell a small range of bags at Sydney's Paddington markets after I visited New York City and was impressed with how New York women mixed and matched colors," she recalls. "The business started to gain a following mainly because of its fine quality and affordable price point. My brand quickly became a must-have for stylish women in Sydney."

Wagner found the right balance between simple silhouettes offered in exotic materials in blasts of fun colors with price tags that made women do double takes. A portmanteau of her name and her products, Sambag gained a reputation among young mothers such as herself who didn't want to give up their flair for looking fabulous but were practical about delving into their wallets.

"The market I saw the brand succeeding in was with yummy mummies - ladies who are very relaxed, however extremely stylish," she says. "After a while, I decided to produce ballet flats. I was passionate about shoes and love designing them. I believe that was the best business decision I ever made. Sambag ballet flats have become one of the most desirable brands in Australia."

Her ballet flats may take on traditional forms, but what makes them special are unusual materials such as gold foil, snakeskin, stingray and fish scales in colors including indigo blue, nude and fuchsia.

Heidi is a strappy flat sandal with a black and white version finished in sparkly rhinestones to give long legs additional flashes of brilliance as they walk by.

There is also Erika, an open toe sandal with cork wedge heels and the breezy appeal of fair weather footwear. All of Sambag's footwear bears the names of women who have inspired and influenced Wagner over the years.

Wagner further expanded to apparel when she opened her first retail shop in 2005. Like the shoes and handbags, the clothing Wagner designs are casual and easy to wear, made from materials that feel like second skins.

They are imbued with the outdoor lifestyle of Australia's coastal cities, with brightly colored swimwear and tops that can be thrown on for a relaxed evening dining al fresco.

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