With their distinctive signature shields and pyramids, exotic top-quality leathers and diverse colour spectrums, it isn’t a surprise Bahraini designer Sofia Al-Asfoor’s bags are flying off the shelves. The London College of Fashion graduate explains the story behind the luxury statement pieces that are, “Your Shield, your power, your guard, your declaration of opulence.”
What prompted you to start a luxury handbag business?
Being the daughter of a conceptualist I have an eye for refined details. Growing up watching him create a luxury perfume brand (Designer Shaik), I naturally gained a lot of knowledge in design.
I developed an interest and curiosity for leather goods during my university days, which made me explore studies in leather craft at the London College of Fashion. Here, I developed a passion in craft and love for leather.
International luxury brands heavily cater to our Middle Eastern world, where women desire luxury brands to wear so why not offer a luxury treasure from Arabia that truly represents our women? I wanted to create and offer a luxury statement piece that exceeds in quality and tells a story.
What were the most important things you learnt about leather goods while studying in London and Spain?
During my time in London, I was truly inspired by the talent of everyone around me; your mind is consistently stimulated with ideas that make you want to develop the unimaginable. With inspiration all around you, you are constantly creative and because of the talent you are always pushing your boundaries. I learnt the basic knowledge of leather goods craft and came up with my signature identity of what my brand is today. I then took it to Spain, where I was able to learn vast knowledge of the artisanal world.
Working alongside craftsmen that produce for international household names, you learn more about the leather industry, where they share the passion of creating handmade refined luxury.
My visits to Spain always give me such fulfillment because of the development and work journey we go through together as a team to create the best of our abilities in bringing something so unique to life.
You may have studied abroad, but you keep true to your Arabic heritage. Is that tricky?
I have been brought up in a liberal household and studying and living abroad has only made me who I am today. Living and mixing within different cultures only brings out one’s character making, me a modern Arab woman.
You make it a point of ensuring the natural grain in the quality calfskin you use keeps its inherent thickness and characteristics. Why is that so important?
There is nothing more beautiful than a natural material, so it is important for me to maintain the natural characteristics of any leather I use, and that is what brings out the beauty and the quality.
Why did you choose to have your workshop in Cadiz, Spain?
It is an area where generations have produced refined leather goods for centuries; it is where genuine leather artisans still stay true to handmade leather artisanal craft using traditional techniques and tools. And I will only work where I know I can bring to life the best I can in terms of quality for my brand.
The creation process is lengthy and your signature pyramids make it even more so. You also have your monogram, the Shield, tell us what it symbolises.
The "Shield" represents today's woman of the world who celebrates power and sensuality, it’s sealed with a coat of arms representing the beholder’s true heart, mind and soul.
You recently came up with the “Mini Shield” and “Backpack Shield.” What else do you have in store for us?
Our collections are timeless pieces and we will be launching these items along with a cross body bag next month. Our style range is quite extensive now and we are very excited to offer it exclusively to the Middle Eastern market.