Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 19:16 pm (KSA) 16:16 pm (GMT)

Lebanon 'prison chic' for the rich and famous

Movie stars and Queens have been seen sporting Sarah's bags (Courtesy of Asharq al-Awsat)
Movie stars and Queens have been seen sporting Sarah's bags (Courtesy of Asharq al-Awsat)

From prison bars to velvet handbags, the latest trend in socially-conscious fashion is handbags embroidered by Lebanese female prisoners and they are showing up on the arms of celebrities and royalty alike.

A Lebanese woman has turned her academic research on female ex-prisoners seeking a new life after release from jail into a fashion business, making handbags with Arabic embroidery that have caught the eye of the rich and famous.

After research trips to Baabda Female Prison Sarah Beydoun thought of ways to help female inmates and ex-prisoners get back up on their feet. The result was Sarah's Bag, a fashion company that grew out of a modest five-member workforce.

 Life in prison is hard as it is but with Sarah's project to help prisoners like me, I began to learn the craft and with Sarah's help I now work regularly for the company 
Maya, an inmate

"The idea came to me after I visited the prisoners and found that many of them had hopes for a better life," Beydoun told the Lebanese paper al-Akhbar.

At first Beydoun hired five inmates to make bracelets but soon asked them to embroider pieces of cloth instead, which were turned into handbags. Beydoun would visit the prison regularly to bring supplies of beads and cloth and pick up the finished work.

Demand for Sarah's bags quickly increased after the first 12 handbags were sold to great acclaim. Beydoun gradually expanded her staff to 40 female inmates and hired former female prisoners as a way to make a fresh start.

"Life in prison is hard as it is but with Sarah's project to help prisoners like me, I began to learn the craft and with Sarah's help I now work regularly for the company," Maya, one of the prisoners told the paper.

Royalty and celebrity get Sarah's Bag

In 2006, Queen Rania of Jordan was also spotted with one of Sarah's Bags

With a unique design of Arabic embroidery, Sarah's Bag's has caught the eye of movie stars and royalty alike. French actress Catherine Deneuve, visiting Beirut for the premiere of her film about the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon, was recently seen carrying a velvet black Sarah's Bag embroidered in Arabic with "where is my heart?"

In 2006, Queen Rania of Jordan was also spotted with one of Sarah's Bags after a royal friend contacted Beydoun asking for an appropriate gift for the queen, the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Alawsat reported.

"Determination comes from the determined," read the motto on the queen’s bag, which she sported at the wedding of Spain’s crown prince.

Sarah's handbags come in many designs and shapes. Some of them have images of famous women icons embroidered while others have Arabic script.

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