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Threads of hope

Luxury handbag house Sarah’s Bag transcends its sought-after creations, with the maison serving as a catalyst of community betterment by empowering the women behind each handcrafted piece, one stitch at a time

While most fashion brands embrace Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives after establishing themselves, few are founded upon its very principles. Sarah’s Bag, a trailblazer in the Middle Eastern fashion landscape, embodies this rare breed, placing women's empowerment at its core. 

When Sarah Beydoun, the Lebanese designer behind the brand, embarked on her entrepreneurial journey over two decades ago, her vision extended far beyond crafting exquisite products. She aimed to ignite meaningful and enduring societal change through her venture. Despite achieving rapid international acclaim over the years and attracting notable patrons, such as Queen Rania of Jordan, Beyoncé, Catherine Deneuve, Amal Clooney and Zaha Hadid, Sarah’s Bag surpasses the label of a mere premium Lebanese fashion house. It remains a social enterprise at its core, producing distinctive, handcrafted luxury bags and accessories that empower both the artisans who craft them and the women who wear them.

Humble beginnings

Sarah’s unconventional journey in fashion began during her final year at Université Saint Joseph while pursuing a graduate degree in sociology. Engaged in research at Dar Al Amal, an NGO specialising in the rehabilitation of at-risk women and female ex-prisoners, Sarah felt compelled to aid these women in societal reintegration and financial independence. Finding an avenue in handicrafts, Sarah embarked on a mission, training these women to sew beads onto fabric. This endeavour evolved as Sarah began drawing her own patterns on pieces of fabric, with the women mastering the art of beadwork. Proud of the completed creations, Sarah brought these pieces to a professional handbag manufacturer, who subsequently transformed the beaded material into handbags. It was a pioneering initiative yielding some of the first bags crafted under her yet-to-be-established label.

To gauge market interest, Sarah rented a stand at a crafts market in Beirut and showcased her creations to the public for the very first time. By the end of the day, every handbag had found a buyer, validating her vision. This early triumph propelled her to expand the project further, establishing an entire label founded on the principle of employing female ex-prisoners and current inmates, offering them renewed hope and purpose. 

Success in the making

This initial taste of success, coupled with Sarah’s creative collaboration with disadvantaged women and the development of new designs, sparked her realisation of her true passion in life. Partnering with her friend Sarah Nahouli, the duo embarked on a four-year journey to build up the brand with their unconventional approach of working with prison inmates. Their second collection, which also proved to be a resounding success, not only bolstered their presence in the market but also expanded their clientele, thanks to the trendy and stylish products. Subsequently, in 2004, Sarah’s Bag found its permanent home in the urban neighbourhood of Achrafieh, where its flagship boutique continues to showcase the brand’s creations even today.

Through the decade, Sarah meticulously developed stunning creations with her team, each bag serving as a testament to her unique vision and inspiration rooted in her Lebanese and Arab heritage. Infused with elements of poetry, culinary delights and architecture, alongside nods to pop culture icons and cinematic legends, every design told a captivating story. Handbags shaped like the popular street snack ‘kaak’ particularly caught attention, as they perfectly captured the local spirit inherent in her designs. Some pieces also mirrored Sarah’s travels, moods and passions, adding an extra layer of authenticity and depth that resonated with the Middle East’s fashion enthusiasts. 

Moreover, her striking design approach – blending modernity with ancestral techniques such as knitting, beading, embroidery, hand stitching and crocheting – resulted in one-of-a-kind statement pieces. From retro-chic motifs to eclectic combinations of folkloric patterns, Arabic calligraphy, punk-rock elements, graffiti and photo prints, Sarah’s designs embraced eclecticism in its most exquisite form, celebrating cultural richness and individuality. It comes as no surprise that her collections quickly became highly sought after in the region.

Global acclaim

Expanding upon her regional triumphs, Sarah set her sights on global acclaim for the label. In 2014, her sister Malak, a seasoned professional in advertising and fashion publishing, joined the company as a partner, bringing her valuable industry experience to the brand. These efforts bore fruit when Sarah’s Bag took centre stage in 2015 as Queen Rania of Jordan was spotted carrying the Arabesque Silver Big Box clutch – an exquisite creation adorned with intricate silver threads. The bag continued to captivate in 2023, gracing the arm of the queen’s daughter, Princess Iman, at her brother's royal wedding. 

In 2018, Beyoncé made a splash at the Global Citizen Festival in South Africa, donning the Chili Marquetry bag from the brand’s Love Inked collection. Crafted using the centuries-old Levantine technique of wood marquetry, the bag featured mesmerising geometric patterns. Instantly, it sold out across all international platforms, solidifying the brand's status as a global fashion powerhouse.

Over time, Sarah’s Bag has garnered a global fanbase, with her recent collaboration with French luxury fashion house Chloe serving as a testament to her success. This partnership, bringing together two brands championing women's empowerment, began with the launch of the first Sarah’s Bag for Chloe in July 2022. The collaboration breathed new life into Chloe’s popular Woody tote, transforming it into a handcrafted, visually striking accessory. Reinterpreted in a smaller size and entirely crocheted – a traditional craft widely embraced in the Mediterranean and chosen for its timeless appeal in the region – the beige and brown tote exudes a boho-chic aesthetic, evoking visions of long summer days by the beach and leisurely afternoon strolls.

Today, Sarah’s Bag boasts more than 30 points of sale worldwide in addition to an online store. Her creations have expanded to include a diverse range of products, from beach totes and evening bags to clutches, satchels, shoes, scarves, sashes, belts, bangles and beaded necklaces. Yet, despite her soaring fame, Sarah remains grounded in her roots. She continues to lead the label’s creative direction and personally designs each bag, while a team of underprivileged women contributes their skilled handwork. Close to 200 artisans work tirelessly to produce each one-of-a-kind item. Production can take up to three weeks, depending on the intricacy of the design, with approximately 800 pieces manufactured per month.

Many of these dedicated female artisans have been with the company since its early days, using their expertise to meticulously create the materials used to produce the handbags. Beyond providing employment, this valuable opportunity has empowered these women to reclaim their lives and become financially independent, while some have even used the income to successfully overturn wrongful convictions. Upon their release from prison, these artisans have become mentors, training other women in their communities and catalysing economic growth in Lebanon’s villages. In doing so, they play a vital role in preserving centuries-old traditions of artisanry in the Middle East, cementing their status as active contributors to their society's fabric.


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