Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sarah's Bag: Keeping Women and the Middle East Empowered

While in Beirut I had the greatest pleasure of hearing Lebanese born Sarah Beydoun (pictured above) speak about her burgeoning company, Sarah's Bag. I thought the concept of the company was genius and the designs speak for themselves. Sarah's story begins at the Universite Saint Joseph where she wrote her thesis on female prostitution and women prisoners in Lebanon. Thus the idea of forming a company that would liberate encumbered women and fill her passion for fashion took form in her eponymous label, Sarah's Bag. This venture started as a rehabilitation program for women prisoners and struggling women in general whom Beydoun thought would benefit from learning a craft that would better their economic situation while teaching them valuable skills. The idea became more than a reality, but a huge success. Since Sarah started the business, it has grown exponentially and Sarah's Bag now participates in exhibitions all over the Arab world while still keeping shop in a beautiful building in Beirut's happening and cosmopolitan neighborhood of Gemmayze.

Once again we see an Arab designer that has not forgotten her roots but has mended them for today's discriminating consumer. Her bags give a reminder of old Lebanon and the Middle East while targeting a younger demographic that looks more to the West for their fashion choices. Icons such as the timeless Egyptian singer Umm Kalthoum and Lebanese superstar Sabah find their way onto beautifully made clutches and handbags while old-time bellydancers sashay along other bags. My favorites are definitely the Arabic calligraphy handbags that give just the right touch of the Orient and the Beirut street art clutches that represent Beirut's young beating heart perfectly with graffitti that looks exactly like the ones that mark the streets of Beirut.
To find out how you can snag your own bag visit her website: Sarah's Bag
One of the Arab world's most famous singers, Umm Kalthoum, makes an appearance on this clutch

Sarah Beydoun with the Lebanese Superstar Sabah and the bags dedicated to her

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Manish Arora, the Indian Versace?

On a recent trip to India, I frequently ran into a designer name that I was not aware of up until then, Manish Arora. His name was in just about every Indian fashion magazine I happened to pick up, from Vogue India to Masala Magazine. I quickly came to realize that Manish Arora symbolizes to India what Versace symbolizes to Italy, a homegrown fashion icon whose designs reach out to an international audience. I decided to see for myself just how great this designer was and I was blown out of the water by what I found. He is one of the most playful and versatile designers to come out of the Indian subcontinent and his use of color placates even the most color hungry rainbow monger. His color choice definitely comes from his Indian upbringing as this country does not shy away from bright beautiful colors that manifest themselves in rich textiles, festival and house decorations, and even food. His designs are also a very interesting mix of Indian and Western and he incorporates them into his work subtly and effortlessly. Arora is at home with both the mostly Indian cast of Lakme Fashion Week in India as well as the cutthroat international catwalks of London and Paris Fashion Week.

For his Fall 2010 Ready-to-Wear collection, Arora delved into the whimsical with brightly colored wigs, bold and colorful patterns, and science fiction-like geometric designs. The Indian inspiration came in the form of peacock feather patterns on dresses and skirts, the almost blinding use of colors, and harem pants that have taken the fashion world by storm these days. Arora kept with the socks in heels trend that has recently been a hit in fashion circles and his heels are a sci-fi aficionado's dream. As a matter of fact, the whole collection screams 2100 instead of 2010. But Arora brings everything back to reality with 1920's inspired flapper dresses, one with a silver beaded top and peacock feather patterned bottom, a perfect mix of East and West. If you haven't already heard of Manish Arora, check him out:
Here are my favorites from the collection:

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