When did you decide that you wanted to start your brand?
I launched Sarah’s Bag because I wanted to help underprivileged women and female prisoners rebuild their lives. 19 years ago, I was inspired while doing my graduate studies in sociology and conducting field research for my master’s thesis with a local NGO, Dar Al Amal, which teaches women at risk skills that will allow them to earn a living.
Sarah’s Bag started as a fashion label and social enterprise that allowed me to combine my passion for fashion and design with the desire to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged women in Lebanon.
What was one of the biggest challenges to get the brand where it is today?
Setting up Sarah’s Bag and taking it from a rehabilitation project to a full-fledged business was definitely a huge challenge. We put together a core team of artisans from amongst a group of female prisoners who worked with us in Baabda prison. It took time to develop a reliable group because some of the women were traumatised, brutalised or depressed. Eventually, we formed a good team and some of the women from that first group of artisans are still working with us 16 years later, producing work of exquisite quality and artistry.
Why is having an ethical and sustainable focus important to you?
I think an ethical and sustainable focus is important in my case because fashion is in our daily lives. I think there is a responsibility that falls on designers to educate, inform and innovate in a way that is sustainable and does not harm the environment. Consumers nowadays care to know where the products they are wearing came from and who made them and they appreciate companies that make a positive impact.
Where do you (or your designers) find inspiration for your designs?
Everything and anything! Our seasonal collections can be inspired by the traditions and techniques of other cultures, or by my travels. I am in love with Lebanese and Middle Eastern pop culture mixed with traditional hand-worked techniques. Sometimes inspiration can come from childhood memories, or the delicious round crackers you can buy on Corniche in Beirut or ancient Arabic poetry!
Your brand is very much pro-feminism and women empowerment, with lots of positivity. Do you think what you wear can affect your mood?
Of course! Your outfit is a canvas; it’s expressive of who you are as a person and what you’re feeling. I personally love experimenting with what I wear, and I always go for big, bold and colourful statements in my outfits. You’ll never catch me wearing black!
What do you hope for the ethical & conscious consumption global movement?
It’s very important nowadays for brands to develop sustainable production models that do not compromise the aesthetics of their products. Consumers will always care about the combination of aesthetics and quality, so brands need to adapt accordingly. This is exactly what I’ve sought to accomplish for the past 19 years; being a fashion house and social enterprise has led me to create unique, fashionable pieces worn by women of substance, along with empowering the women I work with.