Lebanese designer Sarah Beydoun is the founder and creator of Sarah’s bag.
Sarah’s bag, as most women now know, is part of a rehabilitation program Sarah started to help woman at risk from economic deprivation, especially those who have served in prison. The aim is to help these women learn new skills that they can turn into a reliable income source.
Sarah’s bag is basically an original idea for women to help other women; there are those who wear it, those who make it and those who support it.
Sarah’s designs were carried by many celebrities including, Queen Rania of Jordan, Catherine Deneuve, Nadine Labaki and Zaha Hadid.
We were lucky to ask Sarah a few questions and here is what she had to say:
- Tell us more about your start, how did you get into the fashion design business?
After studying sociology at the American University of Beirut, I earned my master’s degree from the Universite Saint Joseph, where I wrote my thesis on female prostitution and women prisoners in Lebanon.
During my visits to the Baabda prison, I felt that I had a lot to offer to these women prisoners, giving them an opportunity to be productive and do something that gives them a sense of pride and achievement behind the walls.
Today, I feel that I have more than a business; I have a duty towards these women. I feel that my contribution plays a major role in helping them maintain their dignity and self-esteem and to help them integrate back in society.
"I received a pass to Baabda prison…
a pass that changed my life and the lives of many of these talented women..."
- Can you tell us a bit more about the social program behind Sarah’s Bag?
With the help of Dar al Amal, an NGO that takes care of underprivileged women and provides vocational training to women in Prison in Lebanon, I received a pass to Baabda prison…a pass that changed my life and the lives of many of these talented women.
I started in 2000 with 4 ladies who accepted willingly to execute my design in return for money. Slowly, their enthusiasm became contagious and the ladies started training each other. In 2001, we reached a team of 40 women working from Baabda prison and then as demand grew, we started recruiting the girls once they finish their sentences, encouraging them to form and supervise small groups of women living in their neighborhoods.
We also grant the women who get out of prison, certificates that allow them to have a fresh new career with us or with any designer they want to work for.
- Where do you get your inspiration for your handbag designs from?
Everything and anything can be an inspiration for a handbag! It's a statement piece that should stand out.
Our seasonal collections can be inspired by traditions and techniques of other cultures, but we also work a lot with Lebanese and Middle Eastern pop culture, mixing it up with traditional hand-worked techniques.
Sometimes, inspiration can come from childhood memories, such the bags and accessories inspired by Sabah, the Bonjus bottles (a fruit juice we used to drink as kids that came in a triangular bottle), the delicious round kaak you can buy on the Corniche in Beirut or the poetry of Nizar Qabbani.
"In every collection, we try to meet all tastes and styles"
- What elements do you use in most of your pieces?
Handwork is the most important element in all our pieces, it is the common denominator. We believe that handicraft should never be forgotten, that’s why we relay on reviving old Middle Eastern craft and we make sure that every collection includes embroidery, crocheting, beading, sewing, etc
- Some brides like to carry simple and elegant clutches or pouches on their big day. Do you have anything bridal in your collections, or have you ever thought of creating something similar?
In every collection, we try to meet all tastes and styles. Few pieces from our collectible ‘Champagne’ collection are designed with real white pearls for brides; others are made out of the intricate ‘Makouk’ work of craftswomen. We also think that the delicate beauty of the Mediterranean ‘orange blossom’ flower could be great for a bridal bag.
- Can women collaborate with you to design their own wedding bags?
Sure! The handmade aspect behind our bags makes it very easy for our clients to choose the colors, the materials and the technics they want. We are very proud to have clients wearing our bags on their special day.
- What are your latest favorite fashion trends?
Our Spring Summer 14 collection “Brad Darling!” inspired by the iconic pop art, the collection is intricately threaded, beaded and hand stitched, dot by dot, by the craftswomen that form the backbone of our handbag and accessories line. In homage to pop art melodramas of the 1950s, the pieces are as brightly colored as they are beautifully made.
- Who are some of your favorite fashion designers?
Martin Margiela for his conceptualism, Dries Van Noten for his handwork and avant-garde designs and Rabih Kayrouz for his elegant cuts and minimalism.