“A bag can instantly elevate your outfit and look. A bag can be that finishing touch you need, or it can dress up a casual outfit.”
Dania has wasted little time in transitioning her fashion studies into a highly desirable brand of sustainable designer handbags that are eco-friendly. Her passion and eye for detail are helping the Saudi Arabian entrepreneur help women create a fashion statement that is contemporary while echoing one of the most icon eras in fashion, Art Deco.
Please introduce yourself.
I’m a 25-year-old Saudi Arabian designer and owner of the DANIA SHINKAR brand, a Saudi and Ireland-based contemporary bag brand.
Tell us your education.
I completed my Bachelors and Masters degrees at London College of Fashion (University of the Arts London). For my BA, I studied Fashion Textile Print Design, and for my MA, I studied Fashion Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
After completing my Masters, I did short intensive courses: Patternmaking at Central Saint Martins; Sewing Skills and Bag Design, both at London College of Fashion.
When did you realize you had an affinity for designing bags? When did you decide to become a designer?
I was planning on designing clothes as I had studied Textile Design. But after my Masters, I wanted to explore a different realm of fashion, an area that was entirely new. I took an intensive course in bag design, fell in love and found my true calling.
What is it about a bag that excites you?
The challenge of designing something that looks unconventional yet remains completely functional. Finding that balance is challenging, which is what makes this exciting for me.
I also believe women’s personalities are reflected in their choice of handbags, and I think that’s so exciting and interesting. A bag can instantly elevate your outfit and look. A bag can be that finishing touch you need, or it can dress up a casual outfit.
When and why did you decide to start your brand?
My inspiration stemmed from a lifelong passion for designing. I knew I wanted to start my brand since my first day at London College of Fashion. As cliché as this might sound, I just wanted to see my ideas and designs brought to life and be worn by others. I felt I had something unique to offer and bring to the market.
What was your biggest fear going out and starting your line?
I guess my biggest fear was, “what if it fails?” Starting your own business is like taking a leap of faith. There’s no guarantee of success, so it’s the uncertainty that’s scary. But I always keep in mind that it’s better to fail than to never try!
Describe your brand in three words.
Contemporary, sustainable, unconventional
How would you describe the DNA of the brand?
The brand’s personality is explorative and experimental in its design approach in reinterpreting vintage designs with modern philosophy. Sustainability is at the heart of the brand. From using eco-friendly materials to practising waste reduction to using ethically sourced leathers, we try to implement sustainability practices in all stages.
Do you take part in the production of your bags?
No, but I manage the production process from A to Z. The handbags are manufactured in Italy at a genuine leather factory that’s run by a master artisan and a team of skilled craftsmen. Even our hardware is custom-designed and made in Italy. Our leathers are responsibly sourced from the finest Italian tanneries.
Tell us about your collection
Our debut collection is inspired by artist Nathalie Du Pasquier’s abstract sculptures and geometric installations. The collection also takes inspiration from one of the most highly stylised eras in design, Art Deco.
Are all your bags made from leather? What kind of leather are you working with? Do you want to explore other materials as well?
Our bags are made from the finest Italian leathers. We work with smooth calfskin, suede, and croc-embossed calfskin leathers. Our signature handles are custom-made and 100% handmade from Cellulose Acetate, a natural and renewable material which makes each piece distinctive and eco-friendly.
How do you motivate yourself?
I don’t have a specific strategy to motivate myself; I think for me, it just comes naturally because I’m very passionate about what I do, and I love my work.
My brand is like my baby. I’m 100% self-motivated and driven when it comes to work, and that’s exactly why I wasn’t worried about taking the entrepreneurship path. I believe the most important quality when launching your own business is self-motivation.
What are your other hobbies?
Drawing and painting; dancing and playing fun games with friends and family like Charades.
Where do you find creative inspiration? Do you have a favourite designer you admire?
I’m mostly inspired by art, architecture, vintage design and surrealism. My favourite apparel designer is Mary Katrantzou, and my favourite bag designer will always be Judith Leiber.
Will you design bags for men? Or do you have other plans?
I’ve actually been asked to design for men, but it isn’t really in my upcoming plans, but who knows? I want to expand my collection to include other types of accessories like scarves and wallets.
What’s next for your brand, and how do you plan to get there?
I wish to stock my products at top international fashion retailers and department stores.
Where can CiiN readers purchase your bags?
Online via our brand’s website at www.dania-shinkar.com.
What is absolute happiness for you?
My family’s happiness and safety. Achieving my goals for the brand and witnessing its growth and success. It would be my absolute happiness to see others enjoy my products.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received and from who?
“Whatever you think, whether positive or negative thoughts, you will attract and manifest, so always keep your thoughts positive – and positive things will start to happen” – my mother.
A few words for CiiN magazine.
Thank you so much for reaching out and featuring me. I’m flattered and honoured.