Where Homewares and Fashion Meet: Samar Habayeb on Silsal Design House’s Latest Collaboration


Samar Habayeb

Silsal Ceramics was founded in Jordan over 2 decades ago, by Reem Atalla and her sister who looked to revive a traditional, native pottery tradition. Following much success, Samar Habayeb, launched Silsal Design House in Dubai after her mother and aunt retired. Known for its Middle Eastern design sensibilities and recognized for its use of Arabic calligraphy, Silsal is a homegrown brand that adds a quintessential Arabian touch to any home, whilst maintaining a contemporary edge.

Most recently, the homewares brand collaborated with Arab fashion brand, Zayan the Label, to launch a unique scented candle. AboutHer.com caught up with CEO of Silsal Design House herself, Samar Habayeb to find out more about the collaboration, inspirations, lifestyle and what could be coming next.

Tell us a little about Silsal the brand, where did it all begin?
The Silsal story began in Jordan back in 1989, when my mother and aunt launched Silsal Ceramics, as a way of reviving the country’s dying pottery tradition. After they retired, Silsal Ceramics closed and a year or so later I picked up the torch, launching Silsal Design House, which was heavily inspired by Silsal Ceramics, but with a brand new focus and ethos.

Silsal, as a brand in the UAE, is better known for its contemporary take on the quintessential Arab homewares. What made you take up a collaboration with local fashion brand, Zayan the Label?
Collaboration is particularly important for me, because I’m always focused on pushing Silsal beyond my own imagination. A fashion house was a natural fit, given the synergy between fashion and home design – the two have always influenced and informed one another. Zayan the Label, as a homegrown Middle Eastern brand with a passion for Arabic letters and language, seemed like the perfect match. In terms of aesthetics, they are so unlike us, so I knew the project would inspire us both to move outside our comfort zones.

The collaborative project is a scented candle. What was the concept, from scent to design, surrounding the collaboration?
As business owners and mothers, both Zayan and I live fast-paced, often hectic lives. Having time to relax, light a candle and be mindful is a real treat. I was also wanted to create something that was reinvented once the wax had run out. So, once customers have enjoyed their Wurood Candle, they can use the vessel to store jewellery and knick-knacks or even serve sweets or nuts.

What is so significant about the scent you have chosen for this candle?
This candle opens with sparkling notes of white grapefruit, before revealing a floral heart of orange blossom balanced with geranium – it’s fresh, energizing and carefree. It will mean something different to everyone, because these are smells that most of us have encountered, and have a relationship with. For me, it transports me to long summer days in the Mediterranean. One member of my team says it reminds her of her grandmother’s house, where she used to eat fresh, juicy grapefruit in the garden with her toes in the grass. And that’s what makes it so special.

What is it about scent that you believe changes the vibe or mood of a space? And what kind of a mood were you going for when creating the scent for your Silsal x Zayan the Label candle?
Not only can scents transport you, but they have amazing effects on mood, stress reduction and sleep enhancement. So when we were creating the Wurood Candle, we really wanted to create a scent that was both energizing and calming – which was as tricky as it sounds! It took a lot of trial and error, but we got there in the end. Since we want the candle to enhance wellbeing we only use soy wax and high quality natural ingredients.

The Silsal aesthetic combines traditional Arab world sensibilities with contemporary interior and home wares trends without losing the essence of its roots and origins, is that something that is always kept in consideration when introducing new product ranges/designs?
We are dedicated to producing products that are inspired by the Arab and Islamic worlds. That is, and always will be, our modus operandi. The Middle East is a land of contrasts, one where ancient heritage and modern culture sit side-by-side. With every collection, we hope to preserve time-honoured traditions, breathing new life into them and reimagining them through the frame of modernity, and in the process creating something new and beautiful we all can enjoy.

Silsal's signature products are heavily inspired by Middle Eastern heritage. What is the significance of Arabic art and calligraphy, and what does it mean to your brand?
It is our brand, our DNA. It’s how Silsal was born. To this day, some of our most popular collections are rooted in Islamic art and Arabic calligraphy, and I think that speaks to their timeless appeal. 

What would you say are your top 3 quintessential Silsal products that everyone should have in their home?

  • Arabic Coffee Cups – they are beautiful, functional and versatile. They can be used for Arabic coffee, green tea or even for serving desserts or storing earrings. As time goes on, we are really focusing on how our products can work harder, and do more.
  • Scented Candles – not only do they have a calming, positive effect on any space, but they are all adorned with beautiful messages and designs. Again, these have been designed so they can be repurposed as a serving dish or trinket bowl once the wax has run out.
  • Acrylic Containers – internally we call them catch-alls, because they can be used for almost anything and everything – from serving crudités and popcorn, to storing pasta, pens, pins and accessories. There are so many styles and sizes, there’s one for everything. 

As an inspiring businesswoman, with a successful enterprise, who have been the women that have inspired you on your journey?
So many of the women surrounding me inspire me in various ways, and having the ability to get that inspiration from my friends, family and, of course, well-renowned and successful people is really important.

My late grandmother, Odette, taught me to live life to the fullest, love what I do, and always challenge myself. My mother, Reem, taught me how to be empathetic in the workplace and helped build a lot of my emotional intelligence over time. Hana, my sister, works with an ultimate commitment to whatever she touches and that’s incredible to watch and has definitely informed me.

Madeleine Albright made it clear how important it is to support other women. Ruth Bader Ginsberg kept fighting and working towards her dream, and taught me that “it helps to sometimes be a little deaf” – though she was referring to marriage, I also think the sentiment lends itself to the workplace! Finally, Tara Westover, the author of Educated, taught me a lot about what we choose to accept and to keep committing to my journey, in addition to adding whatever I can to ‘education’, and thus she is the inspiration behind all of my voluntary work with INJAZ.

Will we be seeing more collaborative projects with fashion brands from Silsal going forward?
We have some incredibly exciting collaborations in the pipeline, so watch this space.

Lastly, what brands have inspired you and have been the ones you have always wanted to collaborate with? And why?
Bateel is such a great success story. They grew in an elegant and bold way, across several continents, while maintaining quality and remaining authentic. Lego’s continued innovation is astounding. Repackaging the same items in new and exciting ways to create an endless array of products is remarkable. Crayola also continue to diversify their product offering, which has kept the brand exciting and unpredictable.

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