Accessories Designers talk to VIVA

VIVA speaks to three amazing Ladies that are on top of the accessory game
BySarah HamdanSunday , 14 September 2014
Accessories Designers talk to VIVA
© ITP Images
Roula Ghalayini

Roula Ghalayini
Handbag designer, Poupée Couture

Where do you get your inspiration for new designs?
Inspiration comes from the art of looking at things ‘sideways.’ The most interesting and design provoking journeys have always begun from a glance at something mundane, and from an unexpected angle.

How did you become an accessories designer?  Did you study it or were you obsessed with your mother’s handbags?
I dove into the world of design when I enrolled into the graphic design program at my university. On one of my very first days into the program, our Dean told us that “design is not a profession, it’s a way of life,”  and I instantly adopted that as my own modus operandi. After taking on the role of Art Director at Leo Burnett and working on building and developing regional and international brands, several of which were fashion related, I knew I was ready to create my own.

Can you tell us how the Poupée Couture brand was born and about the concept? 
Poupée Couture was born in 2007 out of my profound fascination with form and function, and specifically with pushing the boundaries of each. And while I felt that fashion (apparel) was becoming increasingly prejudiced in its depictions of the average woman, accessories could be worn and enjoyed by all women, irrespective of their waistline, hips and height (or lack of).

Are your designs rooted to the region?
Poupée Couture began as an expression of the modern Arab woman. The facade she wears is rarely an accurate depiction of her true personality, but rather a perfectly calculated depiction of how society expects her to portray herself. This creative concept materialized into bags that had strong geometric forms and a layering of materials with brilliant rays of colours beneath - symbolic of the woman’s true personality.  My goal is to make this a global brand born in the Middle East.

Do you design custom or bespoke pieces?  
I recently launched an application on the Poupée Couture website that allows for consumers to create their own bespoke handbags allowing consumers to play around with colours and textures of various leathers as well as metallic hardware.

Any crazy requests?
A friend’s mother had acquired an exotic skin from Africa and wanted me to make her ‘something’ with it. Naturally, I declined politely, and consequently was never invited over again!

Meher Mirchandani
Dress and accessories designer of M&R

Where do you get your inspiration for new designs?
The inspiration for the collections is derived from art, architecture, music, travel, interiors and prominent women in history. The autumn/winter 2014 range is called Symphony. It is inspired by Parisian cafe music, creating an exquisite, soft and romantic mood. 

Your dress collections are always stunning.  Why did you decide to also design jewellery?
Meher & Riddhima is a 12-year old womenswear brand and it was a natural progression for us to launch accessories as we wanted to introduce an additional product line. We use delicately intertwined cord work on our designs as embellishments and we realised that they can be translated into necklaces and belts. 

Can you tell us how the M&R brand was born and how it has evolved to include an accessories range? 
Meher & Riddhima is an evening wear brand launched in Fashion Forward Dubai in 2002. It is a creative partnership between Meher Mirchandani and Riddhima Whabi. The collection, known for being delicately influenced by rich heritage and tradition of the region, includes long sensuous evening gowns, cocktail dresses, formal jumpsuits, accessories and children’s wear. 

Are your designs rooted in the Arab world?
Our vision is to be a global brand, but we get highly inspired from the region. The architecture on mosques contrasted with the mordern skyline always inspires us.

And yet you have an international appeal – why do you think that is?
Living in cosomopolitan Dubai where tourism is encouraged, silhouettes have to be international to appeal to the modern women. We stay true to the region by having intricate hand embroideries on these silhouettes as unique embellishments.

How has your style evolved?
From launching a contemporary daywear collection in 2002, we have evolved into an evening wear brand.  We design evening gowns to red carpet dresses.

Do you do custom or bespoke pieces?  
Yes all the time, especially for accessories. People send us colour swatches, going all out on the size of Swarovski embellishments and increasing the width of the necklaces.

What’s next for M&R?
We have launched an online shopping site where our customers can buy accessories, junior and womenswear from or  We also launched our Junior line for girls at Saks Fifth Avenue.   We will be showing the SS15 collection in New York and Milan this season.  We want to start sampling our fine jewelry line to be launched in future.

Which celebrity would you love to wear your designs?
Keira Knightley, Scarlett Johansson, and Emma Watson!

What advice would you give to a budding designer?
Follow your passion. Be honest, patient and persistent and you are sure to achieve your vision.

Nadine Kanso
Accessories designer, Bil Arabi

What inspires you?
People and events are very inspiring…and we have a lot happening around us!  For my jewellery, the main inspiration is the letter itself and the constant change and challenge to make things progress and be different.

How did you become a designer?  
I studied Advertising Design and Communication Arts in Beirut and I love photography and design in general. When I created Bil Arabi back in 2006, it was because I felt the need to promote and express issues related to our identity and culture. I was more into sports and arts rather jewellery…until I turned 16 and started getting interested in my mum’s jewellery, in fashion, and in having my own identity.

How has your style evolved?
The beauty of Arabic calligraphy appeals in general to all audiences. What I have created is the extra step or another way of looking at jewellery in Arabic or coming out the region. I have modernized it, yet kept its essence. The designs are simple and yet meticulous, the evolution in design is also a key to that appeal.

Can you tell us about your collaborations, for example, with Cruciani?
It is always great to collaborate with international brands, it gives us a certain international recognition. Working with the likes of Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Cruciani and Chanel have been absolutely great experiences. To adapt what I love and work with brands such as these is challenging and makes me want to push for more.

What’s next for Bil Arabi?
A men’s line soon and a totally new line that is more design oriented and less emphasis on calligraphy, hopefully in October.

Which celebrity would you love to wear your designs?
We had some cool celebrities wear Bil Arabi, such as Zaha Haddid, Julianne Moore, Kylie Minogue and more. I would love Charlize Theron to wear a one piece one day. I love her elegance and calmness.

How do you like to accessorize in your every day life? Evening?
I love to wear what i feel like and if it is a big or blingy piece, let it be! I like pieces that you can start the day with and end up at a chic dinner still wearing them and looking good!

What advice would you give to a budding designer?
Have your own identity, because this is what will keep you going.  Do everything from the heart.

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