Sarah’s Bag handbags combine a colorful and sophisticated aesthetic with luxurious, meticulous craftsmanship. Each collection is both an exploration of new materials and techniques, as well as a revival and reinterpretation of traditional crafts such as hand beading, embroidery, sequinning, crocheting and fabric manipulation. An artisan can work up to 25 hours on a single piece to bring these designs to life. The brand’s founder and creative director, Sarah Beydoun, is on a mission to keep ancient techniques alive and fresh by using them to interpret modern designs, while empowering women.
What inspired you to create your own brand/company? Where did your story start?
Mine was a pretty unconventional route to becoming a handbag designer; my background is actually in sociology, not design! In 1999, part of my field research for my master’s thesis included a 6-month stint as a volunteer at an NGO called Dar Al Amal, which rehabilitates underprivileged women in Lebanon. It was a turning point for me; I heard stories of broken childhoods, abuse, and violence that affected me deeply. This kind of experience changes you; you can’t go back to living your life in a bubble. So after graduation, I wanted to start a business that would help the women I’d met make a better life for themselves.
Initially the plan was to make hand-beaded jewelry but the results were mediocre. So, I decided to try handcrafted handbags and to create a collection that would showcase the skills of female prisoners in Baabda Prison who were trained by Dar Al Amal in handwork techniques such as beading, embroidery, and crocheting. I used to go to the prison three times a week to work with the women on my handbag designs. I was pleased and encouraged by the first batch of results because I felt they were bags I would wear. We started small in May of 2000, launching a capsule of collection of 12 bags at arts and crafts fair in Beirut where we sold the entire collection. We’ve been in business ever since!
As your brand continues to grow, what creative endeavors do see on your horizon?
I love collaborating with other designers and I can definitely see more of that happening in the future. I am part of a small creative community here in Lebanon. In the absence of formal government support for design and the arts, we support and inspire each other. We recently invited 7 of the most exciting designers in Lebanon and the Middle East to create a line of limited edition clothes and accessories inspired by our collection, Psychedelia. The event was a great success and I look forward to a new collaboration like this one for the Discotheque collection.
Who is your muse? Describe the Sarah’s Bag woman.
My muse is a woman of style and substance; she is irreverent, loves to experiment with fashion and she doesn’t take herself too seriously. Most of all, she is a woman who supports and uplifts other women.
What are your favorite places to eat, drink, and shop in Beirut?
Oh there are so many options but current favorites are:
Eat: Meat the Fish
Drink: Bread Republic
Shop: Orient 499
In a perfect world, where do you see the hand-made, “slow-fashion” industry in the next five years?
I think slow fashion is here to stay, and will move from a niche segment in the industry to one that will steadily grow. Consumers want to buy less quantity and instead to focus on unique, quality pieces that will last. Young consumers are also interested in personalizing their fashion. What’s more they want to know about the brands they patronize, they’re interested in the ethics and values of brands, and who makes the clothes and items they’re wearing. There is also an increased reverence for handcrafted items (something I think we have to thank the hipster movement for!) Moreover, social media and sheer amount of fashion influencers and bloggers that overpopulate different platforms are taking consumers to a saturation point with all the short-lived trends of the industry. I think people will naturally turn towards slow-fashion.