Sunny Woan’s bags are packed with ambition
By day, Sunny Woan ’03 is an attorney for a venture capital firm, facilitating mergers of high-tech startups. After hours, she taps into her creative side by designing handbags. Woan is the creator of Taryn Zhang New York, a line of handbags for professional women that, she says, is meant to project a sense of ambition, fearlessness and strength. Marketed online and in New York-area stores, the first collection of Taryn Zhang New York has sold out and Woan is working on a second.
“A lot of the other brands are too trendy for conservative corporate environments, or they are too plain vanilla,” Woan says. “I want our designs to reconcile feminism with femininity. There is clearly nothing masculine about these bags.”
Some designs, Woan says, are inspired by courthouses she has frequented. For example, the lines and curves on the bag represent a courthouse’s staircase and dome. Woan started working on Taryn Zhang New York as a law student. When preparing for the bar exam, she sketched designs, even cranking out a few during the bar exam lunch break. Some of those designs fueled the first collection.
The company’s name was a result of her parents’ and her in-laws’ constant questions about when the couple would have a baby. Taryn is a girl’s name that Woan always liked, and Zhang is her husband’s last name. While this creative “baby” has life, the would-be grand-parents aren’t satisfied.
“They still think Taryn Zhang is just a hobby, just a phase,” Woan says. “If I could make Taryn Zhang a full-time job, that would be a dream come true. Who wouldn’t want to be an entrepreneur and own her own business?”
Although Woan and her husband are the company’s sole employees, Taryn Zhang New York is hardly a hobby. One of Woan’s points of pride is having a customer who is a top-level executive for the multinational engineering firm Siemens. After seeing a friend with a Taryn Zhang New York bag, this executive was so intrigued that she contacted Woan personally.
“She had never seen anything like it before,” Woan says. “Here’s someone who represents everything that Taryn Zhang stands for, and she’s carrying our bags.”