updated 12 May 2014, 14:47
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Fri, May 09, 2014
The Nation/Asia Nets Network
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Great satchels for students
by Jintana Panyaarvudh

With a fresh school semester just around the corner, the new Thai brand Sofos has bags for the students that will make them feel just as fresh - if not downright fashionable.

Jantakarn Kanellis has lived in Manchester, England, for the past 10 years, but when she decided late last year to start her own business, she tapped into memories of her Thai childhood.

"When we went to school - a long time ago," she laughs, "we all used the classic school bag. Today the market is developing and kids have more choices, but that same classic bag remains the first choice."

Backed by a sister living in Japan as well as friends in Thailand, Jantakarn, who previously worked in marketing, offers a mix of British and Japanese styles in her Sofos schoolbags, which are sold online only.

The typical school satchel seen in Britain tends to come in more colour choices, letting youngsters make more of a fashion statement, she says. In Japan, meanwhile, more attention is paid to the design so that the bags fit the student's movement and body.

"We wanted to create a high-quality, practical bag that can be used to carry books but also be modern and fashionable to use anytime and anywhere," Jantakarn says.

The bag is made from genuine leather that's durable and has its own charm: As the leather ages, it improves in beauty and character, she adds.

Sofos has two designs, based on a survey of Thai kids' preferences and what changes they wanted to see in their usual school bags.

The Sofos Satchel in high-quality black leather has three compartments inside for documents and a laptop and a front pocket for smaller items. It closes with two hidden push-locks that are convenient to use. The fabric strap is adjustable and detachable.

The Sofos Backpack is great for using anytime, not just at school but also the office and even trendy public occasions. It comes in Classic Black, Baby Pink, Deep Red and Soft Brown. Again there are three interior compartments, the front pocket, the push-locks and the adjustable straps.

Every Sofos bag also comes with a "dog tag" of stainless steel on which the owner's name is engraved. Jantakarn likes to think this encourages the owners to "bond with" their Sofos bag for life. Adult life does indeed rest on fond memories of youth.

While she continues to live abroad, the production is all done here in Thailand. Jantakarn insisted on supporting her compatriots by promoting Thai craftsmanship and at the same time creating jobs.

A leather factory that's been in business for more than 30 years takes care of the manufacture. Craftsmen in Nakhon Ratchasima who otherwise earn their income making fabric bags produce the basic bag itself. Thais elsewhere handle the outer packaging, graphic design and printing.

Jantakarn sells her wares via her "Sofos Sobags" page on Facebook. She supervises her suppliers and deals with clients around the world via Facebook, Line and email, and orders are coming in from Japan and Britain, but for now she's focusing on the Thai market.

Interestingly, some of her English customers are mothers who buy bags for their children - and then another one for themselves. That's how stylish these bags are!

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