The grand, luxurious Middle East we know now is a fairly modern creation. When Sarah Haran lived there as a child, there were no palatial shopping malls, so her mother had all her clothes made with Vogue patterns and the expertise of local tailors. This ethos of designing something from scratch has become Haran’s life
The travel bag to end all travel bags
VVA by Sarah Haran began as a result of that famous combination of frustration with the way things are and an enthusiasm for what they could be. “As a company director, travelling every week with meetings during the day and functions in the evening, I knew first hand that having a multi-functional handbag would be useful”. Constantly moving things from one handbag to another, Haran established a range of handbags that can “transform from travel to business to play” in 2013. The first range was made in her studio at home. When demand grew, outsourcing that crucial handmade manufacturing stage was something she did with trepidation – “finding highly skilled production was a big ‘Phew’ moment that I’ll always remember”.
The next big moment Haran remembers was seeing someone walking down the street holding one of her VVA by Sarah Haran designs – “it was really great to see my handbag on a stranger for the first time”. Since then, her loyal customer base has grown and grown.
When Haran designs, she “can actually see how something should be put together, and what turns leather into a functioning handbag”. Her design training is entirely self-taught and instinctual, rather than formal.
Each VVA by Sarah Haran handbag is made entirely by hand in very small batches, and when Sarah made them at home they were in an even smaller batch. The pattern pieces are cut with the sharpest knives to ensure a clean-cut edge, then the leather is shaped and skived – “this means we are basically thinning parts of the leather to ensure that we can create a neat turn around the edges, otherwise you’ll have a very lumpy handbag.” Finally, the seams, handles, and lining are stitched by craftspeople with over a combined 80 years of experience in producing luxury handbags and small leather accessories.
Style fused with substance
Sarah Haran’s personal style of “classic mixed with on-trend pieces” strongly influences the range, that and her wish to produce products that will last rather than design for fast fashion – “I simply cannot get my head around the wages they must pay someone to produce fast fashion accessories”.
The collection is small, but full of versatile and functional handbags, including a range of tote bags, a tassel pouch, shopper and a mini cross-body small handbag. They are available in shades as decadent as metallic gold and as subtle as office-appropriate navy, with the option to customise with tassels and furry pom poms. These are the kind of handbags that receive covetous glances and stand out in the airport security queue for all the right reasons.
Wading into the leather accessories industry is undeniably a tall order. “I couldn’t have picked a noisier market”, Sarah freely admits. “I have to build my network up again and get my brand out into the world. But I’m very happy to take on the challenge.” Handbags have, understandably, become Sarah’s world as a result of this challenge. “It doesn’t feel like a job as it’s something I love so much. Customers are empowered by my handbags, the functionality of them means they can carry their lives in style.”
Three cheers for Sarah Haran, and three cheers for being able to find your keys in the bottom of your bag.