Stockholm-London design duo Hanna Ransjö and Hannah Louise Brewer are the thoughtful creatives behind HALM, a Dubai-based handbag brand whose design studio is headquartered at d3 and atelier is located in Jumeirah. Ransjö, the founder and Creative Director of HALM, adopted Dubai as her home many years ago, which is why she chose to launch her brand here rather than in her native Sweden.
However, her Scandinavian heritage and interpretation of the Scandi aesthetic – functional, minimalist designs – found a unique position alongside inspiration from the Middle East. In an exclusive interview with Savoir Flair, Ransjö shared that she is constantly inspired by the region and “its exquisitely rich cultural diversity and the wonderful individuality of Arabic women”.
As part of our look #InsideD3 at the inspiring businesses that comprise the thriving arts district, HALM invited us inside for a behind-the-scenes look at its office and design studio, allowing the SF reader to immerse herself in the brand’s unique world. Beyond the virtual tour of HALM Studio that you’ll find in the gallery, below, you can also read the rest of our exclusive interview with Ransjö and Brewer as they detail their creative process, their inspirations, and what it’s like to work in such a cool space.
When did you open your office in d3, and why did you choose the district to headquarter your office?
We officially moved to d3 in February 2018. The space and the environment of d3 is amazing, and doesn’t need any further introduction! We were thriving on the vibe, creative spirit, pulse, and dynamics whenever visiting – it was the obvious choice for us. We waited for the right location to come along and spent time curating the space – whilst in full production – so the evolution of the space is ongoing.
We’re already planning some exciting updates and changes for when the next collection is introduced. The HALM atelier and workshop, located in Jumeirah, is where we spend creative hours designing numerous prototypes ourselves, with the help of our talented Master Cutter.
Would you consider yourself a ‘local’ brand even though you’re from Stockholm-London?
Yes, HALM is ‘local’ in so many ways! We had many conversations about launching elsewhere, but absolutely felt that the UAE was the right place. The emerging fashion and design scenes are growing towards international establishment thanks to government support. Events such as Art Dubai and Dubai Design Week, and inspiring places like Alserkal Avenue and the Louvre in Abu Dhabi prove this is definitely an exciting place to be creative!
The UAE is full of wonderful talents, including the incredibly dedicated and hardworking HALM team. This has led us to create, in addition to the debut ‘1:1’ collection that is designed in Dubai and made in Italy, a new line: ETHOS by HALM. It is is proudly made in the UAE.
Italian, French, and Swiss elements all go into the making of your bags. Given your background and office locations, it seems like you are a truly global brand. How do you define your outlook?
HALM is inspired by the combination of functional, minimalistic Swedish design, using the highest quality leathers and components to create a laid-back, understated luxe, fresh yet timeless silhouettes in a trans-seasonal color palette. Art, quality, and design are at the core of our brand concept and design aesthetic. Our style motto is ‘flamboyant minimalism’.
What gives our designs their uniqueness is their quality and authenticity. Our focus is using the highest quality whole leathers and materials. Most of the elements composing our bags have been sourced from Europe because that is where our quest for quality eventually led us, personally sourcing artisan manufacturers who are family-run or long-established and creating bespoke components.
From the beautiful French custom colored leathers and Italian woven webbing straps to the signature custom loomed cotton-linen lining, bespoke Italian hardware, and Swiss metal zippers, we source our materials globally. This was not intentional nor consciously decided, but the result of wanting to source the correct components to create the HALM product as per our vision.
How often are you traveling for work?
Almost every second month! Travel is essential for us at every stage of development to source materials during the design process and visit our European collaborators during production to ensure we reach the HALM standards of quality, execution, and attention to details. And then there’s communication – attending every Paris Fashion Week, for example.
With us all having European backgrounds, we also convert every personal trip into a new opportunity for HALM: an impromptu shoot, social media content, and any ad hoc opportunities that present themselves! Travel has also been at the back of our minds when designing the ‘1:1’ collection. Beauty, practicality, functionality are pillars of HALM designs because women nowadays do not need an ornament. They need to rely on a practical and stylish multitasking bag to take them from morning to evening, through travel, meetings, shopping, dinner, and everything in between.
It should be versatile so they can choose style upon their needs. ‘The Bento Bagpack’ is a transformer bag, changing from a handbag to a shoulder bag, and wearable as a crossbody or a backpack – it can adapt to each and every situation! ‘The Tote’, our largest bag within the collection, was specifically designed to take you from A to B, with travel in mind.
Can you describe the aesthetic of your office and the interior design scheme?
The most important feature of our studio and design office is the good feeling – part of the HALM core and spirit! With practicality and office function in mind, it is built with intelligent and ergonomic office furniture. It’s very versatile, and designed as an open plan with hot desks where everyone can find their own workspace, depending on the task at hand. In addition to a working design studio and head office, it also feels like a showroom, designed as a clean palette. We can enhance it and change things around as we go, depending on a specific event or function.
Constantly inspired by where we are and our surroundings results in a display of curated, special, and bespoke elements bought from talented local and international designers, and creates a unique intimacy – another reflection of HALM’s vision and aesthetics – for our visitors. Hanna’s background in interior design, experience in modeling workspaces and designing bespoke furniture, and everlasting interest for art and architecture is the reason why the office looks the way it does: beautiful and practical with a good flow.
What inspired your latest collection? What’s on your mood board?
HALM’s second release draws inspiration from the roots of the brand: designed in Dubai, made in Italy. It focuses on a tran-seasonal color palette, warm hues from architectural Bologna, and the saturated mellow tones of Dubai: mango, papaya, and “avo”, our signature deep-green hue. Our mood board is a combination of food, travel, nature, and architecture. On it, you’ll find everything from Swedish fruit candies and Middle Eastern spices to the botanics of the Maldives and the warm hues of an Arabian winter.
What are your favorite areas in your office? Can you tell us about some of the special pieces that decorate it?
Can we say “all”? [laughs] The HALM pantry/coffee bar is always a hit and definitely deserves a mention. Hanna’s custom “one-stop coffee spot” is the first thing to greet you as you step inside the HALM design studio. Some people pass by just because of the smell of freshly brewed organic coffee and home-baked Swedish cookies.