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Winning designs for family life

Published on Friday, 12 Nov 2010
Fiona Kotur
Handbag designer
Fiona Kotur with Karl Lagerfeld and friends

Fiona Kotur has four energetic young sons, a successful handbag design business - and a tired but happy smile.

Kotur, an American designer who worked in management at Gap before coming to Hong Kong, launched her business five years ago after identifying a niche market. She found that most high-end evening bags in the United States cost more than US$1,000.

After coming across fine old brocades in a Hong Kong warehouse, she decided she could offer well designed and skilfully crafted bags at lower prices. 

"I made a one-item bag, and I donated all the proceeds to Operation Smile," she says.

"It was to breathe life into these beautiful materials again. It was a way to raise money, but productively, and I thought it was good for everybody.

"It was good for me because it opened doors for retailers and they sold very well."

She worked from home and found a way to make her two eldest children, both in nursery school at the time, feel part of the business.

"I set up little desks in my office, so they could 'work' with me, doing collages or whatever."

Kotur moved to an office after one year to accommodate her business, which has since grown exponentially. Her bags are now sold in more than 200 shops around the world.

Her biggest clients include Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue in the US, that stock her entire collection.

Kotur's family has also expanded - she now has four sons, aged 10, nine and three-year-old twins. She works hard to ensure she gets quality time with her sons.

The two youngest attend a Montessori school next to her office and join her for lunch regularly.

She wakes up at 6am and tries to be home by 6pm for dinner.

"After they're asleep, I have a little time with my husband, and then I start calling New York. That's my night job," she says.

Family takes priority at the end of the week.

"On the weekends, the six of us are like glue - we do everything together."

Much of their time is spent on outdoor activities, such as running and hiking. All four sons love sports, as does her husband. Kotur was a tougher sell.

"I was never athletic until I had four sons," she says.

Her husband, Todd, encouraged her to be clear about how she wants to spend her time.

"He's the one who said, 'just be really focused'," she says.

With that encouragement, Kotur feels no pressure to try to be a superwoman.

"I don't think you can do everything. There's a lot that I don't do, because I made other choices. I don't cook dinner - ever. If I do anything, it's baking, and then I'll do it with the kids," she says. "You've got to be honest with yourself about what works.

"You have to prioritise what works with your personality and what works for your family. My family comes first."


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