by Nadia Michel
Inspired by power, Bahraini designer Sofia Al Asfoor defies convention and embraces luxury that goes the whole nine yards.
“I created a handbag made entirely of crocodile leather, which is the most luxurious leather you can use for a bag, and then I had all the components made in solid gold and diamonds. This is the type of luxury I can offer,” smiles Sofia Al Asfoor.
The customised handbag she is referring to is part of a personalised service her eponymous brand (which was launched in 2012) offers to clients. In an effort to outshine the more mundane accessories that mainstream luxury brands offer, Al Asfoor makes her handbags in the same Spanish factories as those big industry players, but raises the bar considerably higher. “Many brands are not even using real leather on the inside of the bag, and they are always looking for ways to reduce costs in any way they can. I don’t compromise on anything, because I only want to offer the best.”
The process of creating a one-off bag can take up to six months, and allows the client to choose every detail from the type of skin to the exact colour – which is matched and produced at the tannery – and the hardware, which can be standard plated-metal or cast in gold and adorned in precious gems. The final result is then presented in a tailor-made blue leather box, padded and lined with lamb suede, and labelled with a metal plate engraved with the owner’s name and unique serial number, all under lock and key.
Of course, her bags, which apart from her Classic Signature, also now include a crossbody and a backpack, are produced in standard leathers with more humble hardware, but they invariably feature a 3D geometric pattern of pyramids, which is the brand’s signature and the thing that separates it from other brands. “Our bags use double or triple the amount of material that a typical bag would use because of the structure of the pyramids. It’s a flat piece of leather that we mould by hand with water, and then each piece is glued individually. It requires a lot of handiwork.”
Developed while Al Asfoor was studying at London College of Communication’s prestigious Design School, the technique actually took a long time to perfect. “The teachers told me to stop and try something else, but I was stubborn,” she recalls. Now her wares are sold in most major department stores across the region, and the designer will also soon be launching a contemporary jewellery line. If her indomitable perseverance or budding friendship with Roberto Coin tell us anything, it’s to not bet against her.