Handbags reminiscent of Beirut’s heritage

BEIRUT: La Rose de Sim is a Lebanese handmade handbag and jewelry brand that embraces a special mission: keeping heritage alive.

“We want to encourage people to stick to their roots and hope to raise awareness of our beautiful heritage that it is unfortunately getting destroyed,” said Rajaa Habache, concept creator at La Rose de Sim.

“We aim to do that through designs that represent our heritage featuring prints from traditional Lebanese houses, sceneries of old Beirut and Lebanon, the Lebanese passport ... and flag.”

In business for almost three years, La Rose de Sim was first launched during the Afkart Exhibition of 2013, and operated from a boutique in Zalka, before relocating to a 110-year-old renovated traditional Lebanese house on Monnot Street in Ashrafieh.

The new shop was inaugurated during Beirut Design Week 2015, in the first week of June.

La Rose de Sim has also launched just their latest collection entitled “Lebanese Tiles,” which features “bags with traditional Lebanese arabesque designs found in our homes,” Habache explained.

La Rose de Sim’s first collection, “Lebanese Heritage,” was well-received, and Habbache said, “we will always keep producing it.”

“Pop Art” was launched two years ago, featuring arabesque designs “like the hand of Fatima and arabesque calligraphy.” Another collection was inspired by Lebanese poet and writer Gibran Khalil Gibran in which handbags where decorated with some of his quotes.

Habache also designed a collection of handbags shaped as the iconic traditional tarboosh flat-topped red hat with its side swept black tassel, dating back to the Ottoman era.

“We wanted to highlight this legacy that we rarely find in our country nowadays and introduce it to the younger generation that did not get the chance to see it,” Habache said.

The bags featured prints like nostalgic paintings of a traditional Lebanese couple or modern graffiti art about Beirut.

La Rose de Sim also partnered with Save Beirut Heritage, collaborating with painter Bernard Renno “which gave us exclusive rights to print his hand-painted canvases of old Beirut with brick-roofed houses on our bags.” Save Beirut Heritage is a cultural organization, founded in 2010, which aims to preserve and increase awareness about Beirut’s architectural heritage that is threatened by extensive and unorganized urbanization.

Although vintage, pop art and nostalgic designs have been a feature of many Lebanese accessory brands, Habache is adamant that La Rose de Sim is adding a new flare to the market in Lebanon.

“Allow me to acknowledge the success of Lebanese artists Sara Beydoun of Sarah’s Bag, Rana Salam of Rana Salam Design and others: They were undoubtedly playing an important role in shedding light on Lebanese talent all over the world. Whether I was inspired by their talent or not for my brand, I certainly admit that La Rose de Sim is the result and the translation of my passion for my parents’ attachment to their roots, one of the most significant values I hold from them.”

“Print design goes back to the early 1960s with big designers like Italian fashion designer Franco Moschino. What we are adding to our product is a feeling and a story with every design.”

Habache’s parents had an influential role in guiding the direction of the brand. “My parent’s photo albums of old Beirut inspired prints like the Pigeons’ Rock in Raouche, Place de L’Etoile or Nijmeh Square in Beirut’s central district and Rue Gouraud in Gemmayzeh in the 1970s.”

His parents were also the inspiration for the name of the brand: “My father’s name was Simon and my mother’s name was Marie-Rose. They both passed away in 2006. As a tribute to them, I took the name Rose from Marie-Rose and Sim from Simon and came up with the brand name, La Rose de Sim, to keep their memory alive and thank them for everything they gave me.”

La Rose de Sim’s fabrics are printed in Lebanon “with the UV printing method. It is the best quality of printing that is guaranteed for life. It does not scratch or fade with time.”

Besides their printed fabrics, La Rose de Sim offers non-printable fashion bags like limited edition bags dipped in 24-karat gold that bear Arabic calligraphy and are customizable with people’s names or mottos.

La Rose de Sim also produces handmade high-end jewelry using gem stones like agate, pearls of baroque, amethyst, quartz, jade and turquoise. Chains are dipped in 24-karat gold and guaranteed for life.

Since La Rose de Sim’s concept is adaptable, Habache and his team have been applying their heritage model to neighboring countries.

“For the past two years, we expanded this concept to Oman, Kuwait, Tunis, Dubai, Qatar and, lately, Egypt.”

“La Rose de Sim is adding a new concept and a new choice for people to wear high-end fashion accessories with a twist and a message attached. It’s not only a fun and funky handbag, but rather a statement for every woman to wear.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 16, 2015, on page 2.




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