Touted as the Middle East’s first luxury handbag designer, Bahraini native Sofia Al Asfoor is quickly taking the GCC by storm. With her timeless designs combined and quality leathers, statement bright colours and a vision to help women express their individuality, it is no surprise that this 24-year-old London College of Fashion graduate will soon be taking over the whole world. We taught up with the young designer to find out the secrets to her success.
What made you decide to go into handbag design rather than clothing design?
When I first started university, I knew I had a strong interest in art and design. I then began to explore all the different areas within art and design, which of course included fashion. During my second year, I moved to Milan to discover more about womenswear and textiles. This gave me a great understanding of the fashion industry. I then spent my last university year in London, where I studied on the London College of Fashion Cordwainers Fashion Accessories programme. There they taught me everything I needed to know from how to design, contruct, stitch and finish a bag. I had never felt so committed to my work before. I dreamt, ate and slept it. This made me realise how passionate I was about it and that this was what I wanted to do as a career.
Your handbags have a very geometric, individual style. What was the inspiration behind this?
The collection started as my final year project at London College of Fashion. My inspiration came from window displays, art, arcitecture and origami.
Will this style become your signature or will you experiment more with future collections?
It is my signature; the pyramids symbolise the beholders true inner beauty, reflecting her strength of character and heroism, distinction and force towards all aspects of a womens mind, heart and soul, a shield of protection in today’s world. Each collection has a unique look to the actual construction of the pryramids with the leather, how it is created and formed.
How often do you sit down and design?
Since 2009, I have designed everyday, developing, experimenting and creating. It is constantly in my head. I am always visioning and exploring.
What do you think is the fascination with statement bags? Why do a lot of women feel they need one?
It is a very unique piece, there is a lot of work that has gone into a statement bag that I don’t think people realise. I have focused so strongly on quality in manufacturing and the most premium materials in every part of the bag. It represents luxury. The bag allows the beholder to make a statement of individulism, distinctiveness as an expression of their true sense of style and prestige status, desired by all but attainable by few.
What tips do you have for young creatives wanting to start their own fashion business?
Go with your gut instinct. If you feel so strongly about it, persistence is the key, never give up and don’t anyone ever put you down.
Are there any plans to bring your handbag collections to the Western world?
Yes, I have already had private customers from the Western world so I will hopefully enter into retailers in the near future.
Describe the fashion scene in Bahrain?
It is slowly growing with its trends. There is a lot of individulism and interest in the new art scene which I am excited about.
What’s in your sketchbook?
Sketches of designs, things I like from magazines, ideas on different areas of how I see things, a lot of scribbles and wording. Fabrics, colour swatches and textures that I collect when it catches my eye.
What are your plans for the future of your business, now that it has become so successful? Where do you see yourself in five years time?
The business exists to attract and maintain customers through ongoing and new products. When we adhere to this objective we hope to grow with time, bringing the best Bahrain has to offer to the world and beyond.
WORDS: HANNAH NEWMAN
ILLUSTRATION: CLAIRE THOMPSON