“Through our designs, we aim to make every bag a statement, with a story that explains its details,” says co-founder
Bags are a life necessity for women across the globe. While men are usually more concerned about a bag’s functionality, women are often more focused on its exterior. Every season, high-end brands fiercely compete to launch the new IT bag.
While some designers depend on the appeal of limited-edition quantities, others aim to offer the best quality; very few tend to search for new concepts. The local industry has been taking consistent steps towards entering global competition.
Season after season, local designers have launched iconic bags that took the Egyptian market by storm, becoming seasonal must-haves. Furthermore, few designers are also currently working on invading foreign markets and reaching top-notch celebrities.
Earlier this week, Les Miniatures stepped out of the brand’s digital platforms to meet its growing base of fans. The local brand has been reinterpreting the charm of mini-bags for a couple of seasons through elaborate details and a rainbow of embroidery.
Farah Yasser and Hanna Hazem are two friends who grew up discussing fashion and sharing a stack of mini bags. While one is a financial analyst and the other is a stylist, together they created a dream team that has managed to reach the wardrobe of many women around the world.
“We have known each other since forever, and we have always wanted to do something fashion-related. Meanwhile, we have been obsessed with mini bags since we were five. We used to buy silly mini bags that looked like garments and flowers. However, it had never occurred to us to start designing the bags rather than collecting them, until they became a fashion hit,” said Hazem.
According to Yasser, what is currently a well-established statement brand started as a casual Whatsapp conversation on what could have been an insignificant day.
“It was just a casual question about starting something together—maybe something related to mini bags. Then we started researching, studying the market, and contacting artisans. We had no idea at the beginning what we’d do; we did not even have sketches of our designs. We still do not sketch!” said Yasser.
After a few successful collections, the duo decided to finally meet their market through an offline pop-up event. Le Miniatures’ biggest online supporter, Coterique, hosted an event at their premises in Zamalek to showcase their reasons to obsess about this one particular brand.
“We have never launched the bags on grounds of people come and check them out; we have always been available online solely. Accordingly, this is our first pop-up event,” said Yasser.
In collaboration with Coterique, Les Miniatures brought their biggest hits for a day of art, fashion, and fine craftsmanship. Aside from the brand’s previous popular bags, the designers also launched their newest collection through a creative display.
“Today we are showcasing the ‘Minimalist’ collection. It is all about embracing simplicity through simple colours and suede fabrics. We wanted to remind everyone that despite the world we currently live in, simplicity is still beautiful,” said Yasser.
The collection highlights the strength and importance of details. While few designs embrace a circular metallic handle, which allows versatile styling options. Others come with braided details on the side. Furthermore, one design merges simplicity with statement through fur.
The brand’s name is a direct ode to the brand’s specialisation in mini bags. Nonetheless, the designers have already started reinterpreting their aesthetic through new sizes.
“We have also launched the ‘Mother of The Miniatures’ recently. It is a bigger bag because we do not want to be stuck in one size; however, mini bags are not only in the core of our personal preferences. They are a massive current hit,” said Yasser.
The brand originally started in February 2016; nonetheless, the first collection was not launched before August. According to Hazem, the brand is based on the designers’ passion to play around with objects as they tend to experiment with objects and turn them into wearable art.
The first collection of Les Miniatures revolved around two stories, including the tales of two African tribes. “The African collection was inspired by two tribes. The bags did not really shout out their source of inspiration; nonetheless, they told the stories of the tribes: the Zulu and Samburu. We took their sense of colours and overall aesthetic and put them in a bag,” Yasser said.
While the Zulu tribe is the biggest ethnic group in South Africa, the Samburu reside in north-central Kenya.
“On the other hand, the first collection included another bag that was inspired by the Looff, a very old carousel,” said Yasser. The Looff was particularly popular during the 1900s, when its pastel horses and embellishments were notorious synonyms for childhood and fun.
“The next collection was ‘Desassemble.’ For this one, we turned small antique pieces into small bag handles. Basically, this collection was put together as a painting,” said Hazem. The second collection blurred the lines between art and fashion. Each bag was embellished with antique handles that the designers have to comb the market to find. Meanwhile, the fabrics also added more to the nostalgic mood.
According to the designers, depending on one particular shape since the brand’s inception has not limited its potential. After experimenting with various concepts, colours, and fabrics, the duo still sees further potential.
As for the production, Les Miniatures is 100% manufactured locally, which adds an extra value to each and every bag. “Manufacturing in Egypt is extremely difficult. We outsource every detail from a different artisan and supplier. Production was one of the main reasons we started the brand in February but only launched the first collection in August,” Hazem said.
According to Yasser, working with every new supplier and artisan often starts with many challenges. “They come with the mindset that there are only a few common techniques and that any innovative designs are impossible. Furthermore, they deal with production malfunctions lightly; they believe that slight errors can slide.” Yasser added that “it took us a while to make them understand our quality standards. On the other hand, it is quite tricky to find materials in Egypt.”
Each bag is often the collaborative work of many artisans and suppliers specialised in various things. While the embroidery is hand-sketched and then implemented, metallic and antique handles are coming from a completely different source.
“Interestingly, we do not only work with specialised artisans that work on bags only; instead, we look at all kinds of suppliers for materials. For example, the antique handles came from an antique shop that has rare finds. We are always keen on doing things in a different and new method,” said Hazem.
According to the designers, each bag takes a different period of time. Nonetheless, the average time frame is usually between 10 and 14 days. Meanwhile, the brand often offers 15 items from each design.
Nonetheless, Les Miniatures launches many limited-edition designs during every season. Even though the designers test demands and orders before settling on the final quantities, popularity does not interfere with their positioning as an exclusive brand.
“We do not only launch seasonal collections; on contrary, we launch independent stories and capsule collection every now and then. We always aim to represent new lines in limited quantities,” said Yasser.
As for local and international competition, the designers find their distinctive aesthetic a solid method to remain away from any similar brands. According to Hazem, being the only local brand specialised in mini bags makes Les Miniatures quite distinctive in the local market.
With that said, the brand has also reached out to a global audience through the network of ecommerce. “Abroad, people further welcome the brand when they learn that it is 100% manufactured in Egypt. We have already experimented with various markets, including South Korea, London, the US, Dubai, etc.,” said Yasser.