All Photos Are Taken From Sarah’s Bag Photoshoots.
Woahh. It has almost been a month since I last posted!! I just finished finals last Thursday, but the craziness did not end there. There was prom, then I had to pack up my life into cardboard boxes for the summer, and then I had to take SAT Subject Tests (plural!!) Saturday morning. I then had 1 hour to quickly wolf down a sandwich before playing in an orchestra concert. Right after that, I drove down to NYC to catch my flight out of JFK. Phew. Landed in Hong Kong at 4am two days ago. Jet lagged, yes. I’m lying down on a sofa writing this post, with black coffee in hand.
Here is an interview that I’ve been waiting eagerly to post. You know I love interviewing interesting people in the fashion world! This one is with Sarah Beydoun of Sarah’s Bag. This project has been up in the works for weeks and now that I finally have time, I can finally post. Beydoun launched her company in 2000, combining her love for fashion design and her desire to aid the underprivileged women in Beirut. The premise of her company is noteworthy: She recruited around 200 ex-prisoners and underprivileged women to help build her business. To see the company’s beautiful collection, please click here.
Chloe: I love the story behind this company! Of the women who were recruited from Dar AL Amal, what do most of them do now?
Sarah: I didn’t actually recruit directly from Dar Al Amal, I worked with the women enrolled in their prison project. So in 2000 when I launched Sarah’s Bag, I started with a team of female prisoners who were trained in beading and embroidery and I would got to Baabda prison three times a week to work with them on my designs. These women were and still are artisans; they create all our signature handwork, all the beading, embroidery, sequinning, crocheting and fabric manipulation that adorn our bags.
C: How do you decide on themes for each of your collections?
S: Inspiration comes from many sources. I work with a design team and my sister is my partner. We draw on travels, experiences, art, architecture, and even childhood memories, Middle Eastern food and culture! All our collections are designed around the skills of the 200 artisans who works with us, and their beautiful handwork also inspires us to create playful collections that bring pop culture and handcrafted luxury together.
C: How do you choose who you collaborate with (i.e. Retail Therapy Collection)?
S: One of our missions at Sarah’s Bag is to revamp traditional artisanal techniques and to reinterpret them through modern designs. I love working with Lebanese artisans and designers who are masters in these techniques and collaborate with them on special collections. A great example is the Dama Bag. It is based on the traditional board used to play backgammon in the Middle East and is made using an intricate woodwork technique called marquetry in which tiny pieces of veneer are applied to a wood base to form decorative and geometric patterns.
C: Biggest challenges? Success stories?
Setting up the business was definitely a challenge. We had to put together a team of artisans and as I mentioned I used to go to the prison to work with them and it took time to develop a reliable group. You have to understand some of these women were traumatized, brutalized and depressed; each one had a story. Sometimes deadlines were not met, the work was not consistent but eventually, with time, we built up our team and some of our artisans are still working with us 16 years later and produce work of exquisite quality and artistry. That for me is one of our greatest successes. It’s also so gratifying and exciting to see our bags worn by women we admire, women who have style and substance, such as like Queen Rania of Jordan, Amal Clooney and Catherine Deneuve.
C: Does your brand plan on bringing brick-and- mortar stores outside of Lebanon? If so, when? If not, will you expand your online presence?
S: I am looking to open a Sarah’s Bag in Dubai, which is becoming one of the region’s creative hubs, and we recently revamped our website www.sarahsbag.com to enhance our online offering. We also have a strong online presence as Sarah’s Bag is also carried by Moda Operandi, MatchesFashion and other prominent online retailers.
C: How have you used social media as a way to further market your products?
S: We are on all the major social media channels, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram and I think it’s with the latter that we have the greatest impact. In the Middle East and the Gulf, Instagram is a powerful marketing tool and one of the best ways that people discover and get to know brands. We also have our own hashtag #tagthebag that our followers use to share how they style our bags. This kind of engagement is so rewarding because we get to know our clients and it’s wonderful to see how well they wear our bags! We really get know who the Sarah’s Bag woman truly is.