In battle-scarred Beirut, Sarah Beydoun of Sarah’s Bag has built an international accessories business built on unique bags handmade by former prostitutes and prisoners by putting her story second and fashion first.
WHY IS THE BRAND CONSCIOUS?
Sarah Beydoun is the founder and creative director of Sarah’s bag. Both a fashion label and social enterprise, Sarah’s Bag works to empower underprivileged women. The signature hand beading and embroidery the bags are known for is meticulously crafted by a team of over 200 women, among whom are female prisoners, ex-prisoners and underprivileged women in Lebanon. Most of the designs are created to showcase their skills.
Trained by the Sarah’s Bag team, they are skilled artisans in their own right and some have been with the company since it first launched in May of 2000. Some of the prisoners used the income they earned to overturn wrongful convictions, and others to support their families while they were incarcerated. Once out of prison, Sarah’s Bag encourages its artisans to train other women in their towns and villages, thus creating much-needed jobs in some of the poorer communities in Lebanon.
As a result, these women are soon regarded as valuable members of their communities and their new status helps reintegrate them into society and ease the stigma of being ex-prisoners.
What makes the success of the brand is that Sarah’s Bag is committed to the traditional Middle Eastern crafts culture in its designs, while adhering to the newest trends in fashion and integrating its mission of empowering women in the core of its corporate structure from designers, to management to sales, all the team is aligned to make a change.
Since 2013, Sarah’s Bag has also provided the artisans working behind bars with certificates of completion as proof of their training and work experience with the label so that they can find work once they are out of prison. In 2009, the brand had made its mark on Lebanon and the Arab countries so expanding internationally was only natural.
In 2014, in a push to expand the label’s international reach, Sarah’s sister Malak, an advertising and fashion publishing professional, joined the company as a partner.
In 2016, the Oslo-based Business for Peace Foundation awarded Sarah its annual prize in recognition of her work as a global business leader who is positively changing the face of business.
With the rise of social media in 2017 and the many changes that accompanied it in the fashion world, they realized that our business model strives best when our sales are mainly direct to consumers. This could be only achieved through online sales (www. Sarahsbag.com), our flagship boutique, different points of sales in Beirut, and through the pop ups that we carefully curate in different countries like Cult Mia.
This way they have greater control over our production process and also drive the brand’s value and identity. The ‘direct-to-consumer’ approach also strengthens our relationship with the buyers, who nowadays are conscious consumers who purchase the brand for its aesthetic as much as for the brand’s ethos. Furthermore, the localized production allows us an increasing personalization that elevates our consumer relationship.
Today, over 200 artisans form the backbone of Sarah’s Bag, making it one of the most successful social entrepreneurship brand in the region. And empowered and aspirational women such as Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan, Amal Clooney or Beyonce have all been spotted wearing a Sarah’s bag.