SVEN Proves Ease and Luxury Go Together

Sven and Susan Stalman started SVEN in 1969 and have been pleasing fashionistas with their buttery-soft accessories from Berkeley ever since.


SVEN handbags

Photo by Lance Yamamoto

Who says that effortlessness and comfortability only yield something that looks like it belongs on a camping trip? Berkeley’s SVEN was built on the premise that ease and luxury are not mutually exclusive. The result is a sprawling inventory of handbags, backpacks, wallets, and cosmetic cases that merge fashion-forward styling with pragmatic functionality.

SVEN was founded in 1969 by Sven and Susan Stalman, two self-proclaimed hippies who were just looking to make some extra money from the back of their truck while road-tripping from concert to concert. Their bags quickly gained national recognition, and before long, the couple planted their business in Berkeley and never looked back. Today, the Stalmans’ Bay Area pride and dedication to their workers are part of what makes them and SVEN community gems.

“We are very much a family business,” said Liza Stalman, Sven and Susan’s daughter who will not lay claim to one particular title because of their shared hand in design, marketing, and sales. “When you work with us, you don’t come in as an employee; you come in as a family member.”

Each of the meticulously crafted SVEN bags, made with buttery-soft leather, is artfully cut and constructed right in their Berkeley studio. The energy and care they put into their work radiate from each product, reminding one what it means to shop local.

SVEN can be found in stores around the Bay Area, but customers can also shop online or in the SVEN factory store, where the craftspeople are happy to modify styles to fit to customer’s specifications. While there seems to be an infinite number of designs from which to choose—online and in the store where the bags are made—Liza Stalman recommends starting with their totes and backpacks, which hold a special place in customers’ hearts. Look to the latest line for a more rugged, back-to-basics feel.

“We use our purse so much every day, we want people to feel like, ‘I have something easy to use in my life right now.’ ” That alone is a beautiful thing.

SVEN, 2301 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-848-7836,

2016-07-07 06:28 AM

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