7 July 2023
There is a good reason why the world’s biggest luxury businesses are so focused on designer bags and leather goods — over the years, they have been consistently big contributors to bottom lines. But the market is now fiercely competitive, demanding greater innovation and a deep understanding of fast-evolving consumer expectations in this $72 billion industry. Let’s hear from three Featured Designer Brands that took centre stage at APLF 2023 in Dubai, to display their iconic pieces, and tell-tale of their journey to becoming successful leather goods designers.
While each of them had their own unique experience, and story to share, they all understood that leather outperforms and challenges its specificities, playing on the senses through surprising contrasts between visual appearance and behaviour.
NUNIZ, CAIRO: 100% Locally Grown
“It’s a privilege to work with leather, as it is a material that breathes, has character and moulds,” said Nadia Zarkani, Creative Director at Nuniz alongside her Managing Partner, Carole Nathan. It gives the designer a lot of opportunities to work from a creative point of view. Inspired by her rich heritage and her love for the craft, Nadia weaves the beauty she sees in her surroundings into her creative pieces.
Well, Nadia’s love affair with bags started at the young age of 16, when she started collecting bags, and subsequently deconstructing them to satisfy her fascination with the world of bag-making. It was in 2009 that she founded the brand following her commitment to detail and quality, allowing her to guarantee the outcome of every bespoke piece she designed within the space of her workshop.
Nadia worked hard to ensure that Nuniz products were unique, 100% Egyptian handmade products born of passion. “We have very good quality leather in Egypt and a Nuniz bag is the result of our natural raw material and the handiwork of its best craftsmen and women, made in our dedicated Cairo-based workshop.”
Throughout the company’s 12-year journey, Nadia made it her mission to learn every step of the bag-making process from her team. In the meantime, she opened their eyes to the infinite possibilities of the international fashion world and to the innovative ways of using local resources from Egypt.
Her brand’s narrative is organic. Capitalizing on the post-revolutionary heightened sense of pride taking over Egypt – Nadia debuted her first collection. The time to buy high-quality Egyptian-made products was unprecedented. With that, Nuniz grew out of a need to provide the local market with high-quality finished leather bags. “With our workshop, we were able to handcraft high-quality products that met international standards locally.” She continued, “We have very good tanneries that celebrate leather’s intrinsic qualities, seeking to render it even more luxurious and the colours that are made available to us are stunning.”
She explained that Egyptian symbols and architecture were two of the most prominent aspects of their heritage, instilling a sense of pride in past, and providing inspiration for the present. With this belief providing the foundation for her brand DNA, she explored these aspects and utilized them in a way that brought the past alive in today’s modern world while instilling life into their new brand image.
Nadia, inarguably, believes that leather is a resource to stay. “Yes, there will be alternatives to it, but it’s a material that will survive the ages of time.”
THALIE, PARIS: Taking Recycling to Art
In a world that is more conscientious, the impetus for the fashion industry to set ambitious targets regarding sustainability, a massive shift is required on a global scale to critically examine every stage of the value chain from raw materials to finished products. Thalie Paris by Nathalie Dionne, is a brand that chose to act responsibly with the use of sustainable materials.
“The ethical use of natural resources needed to make our products is a responsibility we have embraced at Thalie Paris and a necessity that continues to drive us as a constant source of innovation, value creation and creativity,” said the founder. We ensured our raw materials were sourced in eco-friendly ways either by using environmentally certified suppliers, recycling noble materials, or using plant-based textile innovations.
Sharing the inspiration of her brand DNA Nathalie believed, it was essential to choose products made from sustainable, upcycled, or plant-based materials, along with biodegradable materials and compostable packaging, and reusable alternatives to single-use items. “Opting for these environmentally responsible options not only benefits the consumer but also helps reduce the ecological impact on the planet.”
Thalie Paris fostered the creation of a more sustainable luxury by ensuring that their raw materials are sourced in eco-friendly ways. “We can be an agent of change and do so in an eco-responsible way thanks to new recycled or upcycled materials,” emphasized Nathalie.
Nathalie imagined couture ruching or weaving on up-cycled sustainable leathers from dormant stocks of the luxury industry. These fine leather handbags are crafted into beautiful and effortless silhouettes. She created daring handbags for those who did not want to compromise on styling and functionality, but understood the importance of not over-consuming while using available resources.
The brand designed each bag to sublimate women, privileging ergonomics and movements, and sensual and durable materials. With great pride, Nathalie said, “Sustainability is an opportunity, not a constraint to creativity and at Thalie, we take recycling to art.” For instance, Thalie’s sushi collection offered bags produced from salmon skin industrial recycling from sushi restaurants in France entirely made in France reducing the carbon footprint.
No wonder then that Thalie was conceived as a brand strongly oriented towards sustainability in all its phases – from concept to distribution.
WARP, PAKISTAN: Non-conformist Aesthetics
With the idea of producing a Pakistani label, in 2017, Hirra Babar wanted a home-grown label that mobilizes local resources to create an international leather accessories brand; and was born Warp.
As the founder and creative director, over the last six years, Hirra has built the brand as a contemporary fashion brand aiming to distort the fabric of fashion by making high-quality abstract forms and minimalist everyday fashion accessories. She infused innovative design methods with traditional craftsmanship to make smart wearable accessories for women with a cutting-edge style and not follow the usual design rules that govern the fashion industry.
She detailed, “Our collections are designed and made with special attention and systematic processes and focus on reinventing leather stitching techniques while only using finest materials such as top grain goat skin leather and plated accessories.”
Noting, that a part of Warp’s mission was to enhance and promote high-end leather accessories manufacturing in Pakistan. Her bags are handcrafted in the finest quality materials in Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan.
Hirra’s love for leather was evident from the way she described her interaction with it. “Leather is a wonderful material to work with. It’s dynamic, alive and the way it breathes and behaves when designing and creating a product with it inspires creativity and challenge to design something anew.”
She believes that with advancement in technology that helps create amazing textures, the future looks promising and bright for leather-made handbags in times to come.
Designers will remain a focus of APLF ASEAN 2023
Bangkok, a thriving hub for leather goods and accessories brands, will again serve as the host city of the 2nd edition of APLF ASEAN. The organizer is inviting designer brands from across ASEAN to showcase their iconic collections and share their brand stories with a professional audience. If you run a leather goods brand in ASEAN and want to be one of the featured designers at APLF, please do not hesitate to drop us an email at [email protected], with your company profile and social media handles.