Fabulous and for Goodwill, What More Do You Want from a Bag?

By Fatmé Fahda – Spring 2015 Lebanese designer Sarah Beydoun founded Sarah’s Bag in 2000. Sarah, among other Lebanese designers who came of age during the country’s seventeen-year civil war and are now rebuilding their country’s cultural life through their work in fashion, design, art and music is what inspired Sarah’s Bag to come to life.

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Image Courtesy of businessoffashion.com – Sarah’s Bag Showroom in Lebanon

During her studies, Sarah worked with a local NGO, House of Hope, which helps rehabilitate former prostitutes and ex-prisoners. Sarah was then moved to combine her work with underprivileged women with her love of fashion. Sarah’s Bag employs over 200 female prisoners and ex-prisoners in Lebanon and trains them as skilled artisans – its aesthetic gets more intricate and stronger with each collection. The women loved the plan, especially the upfront payment they received regardless of whether Beydoun sold the item. But everything sold.

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Image Courtesy of thebrander.com

 “The trick Sarah’s Bag pulled off was evolving from cause to legitimate fashion brand, and that was only ultimately possible by putting the story second and the fashion first.” – Business of Fashion

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Image Courtesy of thebrander.com – Iconic Sarah’s Bag clutch

Sarah’s bag proved that social entrepreneurship can be stylish and women across the Arab world acquired a taste for accessories that are unique, handmade and a celebration of Arab culture. The company’s success has reached Dubai, Kuwait, Amman, Jeddah, Cairo, and Riyadh. Through the long reach of Lebanese Diaspora, every year new points of sale for Sarah’s Bag sprung up in cities such as Los Angeles, London, Paris, and Marrakech.

Image Courtesy of: @Sarahsbag Instagram

Image Courtesy of @SarahsBag Instagram – Amal Clooney

As a brand renowned for its unique structure, every season, Sarah’s Bag seems to outdo itself. The spring designs feature vibrantly colored clutches and leather bags made with exquisite beadwork and woodwork, some of them adorned with tropical birds, fruits, and landscapes.

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Image Courtesy of @SarahsBag Instagram – Spring Summer 2015 Collection

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Image Courtesy of @SarahsBag Instagram – Spring Summer 2015 Collection

Sarah’s Bag is available online at http://shop.sarahsbag.com. Prices range from $15 to $950, though most items are between $100 and $300.

The Next Big (Small?) Thing: VALD Agency

Stephanie Christofferson

In a world increasingly dominated by major brand names (Gucci, Prada, Chanel, anyone?) how does a new designer catch a break? More and more it seems that the most talented designers are lured away from their own brands and into positions working for global powerhouses with the hopes of clawing their way to the coveted creative director position.

But the tides may be changing for smaller designers; the past decade has seen a tidalwave of new technologies influencing cultural restructuring like never seen before. Physical borders have given way to digital ones, community transcends geography, and information flows in a fraction of a second. The digital age is upon us, and with it the emergence of nearly endless niche markets. The ability to access almost anything from anywhere has allowed smaller designers to reach audiences across the globe previously inaccessible to them, building communities and loyal followers online. Shopping online has revolutionized the fashion industry, making a digital presence quintessential to a successful brand. All of these changes have created an environment ripe for smaller designers, and VALD Agency understands this perhaps better than anyone else.

Anne Sofie Madsen

Anne Sofie Madsen is one of seven womenswear designers VALD represents – this look is from her recent debut at Paris Fashion Week for RTW FW15 (NowFashion.com)

 

A boutique marketing and sales agency, VALD works intimately with a curated group of designers. Their overall goal is the bottom line – with 350 contacts in the retail world, they have the manpower to revolutionize global sales for their designers. But beyond this they act as consultants to designers on everything from branding to pricing to fabric choice. Founder Jacob Valdemar describes the relationship as “growing a brand…we help designers curate out from an idea, encourage originality that reflects their own generation, subculture, tribe, or time…everything is possible.”

The emergence of this kind of global network management is something made possible only by the digital age, and VALD has perfected the transition from digital community to physical sales. Permanent showrooms in Paris and Copenhagen are complemented by pop-up locations in New York, Milan, and Tokyo, allowing VALD to act beyond the role of strategic advisor and become a physical connection between brand and retailer. In a world where mainstream is becoming blasé, the niche or boutique designers are fulfilling consumer desire for quality, individuality, and unique personality. VALD’s strategic relationship is perhaps a new form of marketing, a way for the digital and the physical can unite in a lasting way that goes beyond a fleet of Instagram followers.

VALD Paris Showroom

VALD Paris Showroom

A close-up of one of the racks in the VALD Paris Showroom

A close-up of one of the racks in the VALD Paris Showroom

VALD uses an apartment to create an intimate, personalized, boutique experience for buyers

VALD uses an apartment to create an intimate, personalized, boutique experience for buyers

Fashion week is a time when the giants rule the headlines (and the internet). But it is also a time for Vald to build its empire, to make the physical global connections the digital world sorely lacks. The future of fashion may be online, but a click can only get you so far. Vald’s fusion of marketing, sales, and strategy transcends the digital trend into a lasting network of relationships that may ultimately serve as the model for keeping small designers alive in today’s fashion jungle.

Going Bald for Climate Change: Vivienne Westwood

Although I was not able to attend any of the fashion shows for the Fall 2014 Ready-to-Wear this season due to my trip to Morocco, I was exited to come home and watch some of my favorite designers online. One … Continue reading