5 Minutes with Emirati Designer Hana Al Matrooshi

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We talk to Hana Al Matrooshi, the designer behind Hana Collection, about her handbags, sourcing fabric in the UAE, and drawing inspiration from the Emirati culture.

Author Stephen King once said, “What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” That holds true for most human endeavors, but none more so than those in the overly saturated fashion industry. Luck and passion, of course, play an undeniable role in success, but the starting point is almost always hard work. Fortunately for Hana Al Matrooshi, all four – talent, hard work, passion, and luck – were in abundant supply when she decided to launch her line of handbags, Hana Collection.

I sit down with Hana Al Matrooshi one Thursday afternoon in March in the lobby of The Address Dubai Mall over tea, fruits, and chocolates. “I can’t resist chocolate. I just love it,” she explains. I am immediately struck by her kindness and humility. When I congratulate her on being the first female Emirati handbag designer, she blushes and changes the subject to talk more about how important it was for her to create a line that was, from conception to production, entirely made in her beloved Emirates. I lean in so as not to miss a word as she tells me about the birth of Hana Collection, her family’s support, and her culture.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I actually studied Information Technology. I don’t have a background in design but I love designing. I love to create. I love drawing and painting.

And what led you to bags?
I wanted to start something very unique, very different. I am the first Emirati to design leather handbags. I started by myself, sewing small handbags using sample pieces of leather. I thought of a design, drew it, and then tried to produce it myself many times until I ended up with something I loved. Then, I tried to find special factories or workshops that handmade leather bags. Before getting started, I spent a year learning all about bags, the history of handbags, the history of leather, how leather is made, and how leather is sewn.

I am the first Emirati to design leather handbags.

How old is Hana Collection?
A year and a half.

Your bags have a very recognizable and distinguished shape. How did you come up with the idea?
I am a woman who likes to be free. I love to do whatever I want. You can look at them as wings, a sign of freedom. I also love horse riding; some people say the shape reminds them of a saddle. It’s up to you to decide. As a mother of two, when I travel I want to carry a bag that is very special, very different, very elegant, but also casual. I decided to create a bag that would work for all my needs and the needs of women. It’s a practical bag in a classic shape. I can wear it forever.

Do you draw inspiration from your Emirati culture?
Yes, of course. I use a lot of camel leather. I am one of the first handbag designers to use camel leather. This comes from my culture.

What other leathers do you use?
Apart from camel, I use ostrich, cow, and calf leather. I’m also working on using more crocodile.

Do you source your materials in the UAE?
My fabrics are sourced in the UAE and treated in the UAE. My bags are made from A to Z in the UAE. I don’t produce large quantities and work mostly on special orders.

Was it important for you to source sustainable and environmentally friendly materials?
Yes, it was. Everyone needs to play a part in helping the environment. I love the idea of being eco-friendly. If you can do it, why not?

How does your family feel about you designing bags?
They are so proud! My parents are so happy and supportive. My husband helps with anything I need. My daughters also try to help me. They decorate their wallets and say, “See, mama, I made a handbag.”

You seem very proud to be Emirati. What is your favorite thing about the Emirati culture?
There are so many things. First, the food [laughs]. We also have a love of sports like horse riding and camel riding. I am a horse rider and I love our passion for this sport. I also love the fact that our culture is full of talent and craft. We have perfected the art of weaving. Bottega Veneta’s weaved bags? We’ve been doing that for centuries with palm tree leaves!

Do you have any advice for young Emirati designers who are trying to make a name for themselves?
First of all, I want them to be unique and to not listen to anyone who doesn’t support them. In the beginning, people who didn’t believe in me would keep telling me that my design was too strange and that no one would like it. I didn’t listen to them, and, now, people are crazy about this design. Secondly, they have to work hard and look for something special and different. Everyone always wants to do the same thing, go in the same direction. Everyone wants to be an abaya designer. We have enough abaya designers as it is. Try to do something different, something unique. Open a new door.

Try to do something different, something unique. Open a new door.

What is on the horizon for your brand?
The next step is to make a name for myself in Europe and the USA. I would like to have my own signature so that when a person sees one of my pieces they recognize it. It’s not about how much I will sell. It’s about being recognized for my work. I will also expand into belts, shoes – anything made of leather.

Where could our readers purchase one of your bags?
They can either send me an e-mail or order directly from the website, which is launching soon. They can also place orders through social media.

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