Creativity and Sustainability Meet Saudi Designer Dania Shinkar

  • Publish date: Wednesday، 27 April 2022
Creativity and Sustainability Meet Saudi Designer Dania Shinkar

written byNoura Al-Swaiti

Photography: Kinzy Alsaheal

Founded by Dania Shinkar in 2019, the namesake brand, DANIA SHINKAR, is a Saudi/Ireland-based contemporary and sustainable handbag line with an experimental approach to design. Luxury, adventure, and sustainability are just some of the things she embodies in her handbag line.

The designer speaks to about her newly launched brand, the effects of the pandemic on her business, and what inspires her designs.

Dania Shinkar

1. Tell us a little about yourself and background.

My name is Dania Shinkar. I’m Saudi Arabian, and I’m the Owner and Creative Director of DANIA SHINKAR, a contemporary and sustainable bag brand established in 2020.

In 2017, I graduated with a BA specialism in Fashion Textile Print Design from London College of Fashion. Shortly after that, I was invited by Vancouver Fashion Week to showcase my graduate textile collection on a runway in Vancouver, Canada.

During my undergraduate studies, I interned at two young London-based fashion labels, Ryan Lo and Claire Barrow. My work experiences allowed me to gain valuable insights into London’s fashion industry and to acquire several new technical skills.

In 2019, I completed my MA degree in Fashion Entrepreneurship and Innovation at London College of Fashion. After my Master’s studies, I decided to explore another realm of fashion, so I pursued a course in Bag Design also taught at London College of Fashion. It was after this course that I decided to merge my expertise in textiles with my newfound love for handbag design - which I sought to share with the world by launching DANIA SHINKAR.

2. When did you first realize you wanted to pursue a career in handbag design?

Well, initially I was planning on launching a ready to wear label given the fact that I studied Textile Design for my Bachelor’s. But after much research and thought, I found that the apparel market is too over-saturated with designers both locally and internationally. I also noticed that there aren’t many Saudi brands that specialise in bags only. And so I wanted to fill that gap in the market and be one of the first Saudi Arabian designers to focus on luxury accessories. Recognizing that niche in the market really fuelled my desire to fill it.

Therefore, after completing my Masters in Fashion Entrepreneurship and Innovation, I decided to take an intensive course in bag design at London College of Fashion, and that is when I developed a passion for craft and leather, and found my true calling.

3. What was the biggest rookie mistake you made when just starting out?

Not keeping track of everything from the beginning – everything I spent and everything I earned.

4. Your designs are unconventional with impeccable craftsmanship using eco-friendly materials. Can you tell us more about your design approach?

Our key unique selling point is unconventional design with visual twists and unexpected details that beg a closer look. This found actualization through adopting an explorative and experimental design approach as well as reinterpreting vintage designs with a modern philosophy.

DANIA SHINKAR bags are a modern reinterpretation of old school charm, a style that is both contemporary and nostalgic at once. I get inspired by vintage bags’ silhouettes or closures and I merge them with contemporary materials fit for the modern closet. For instance, the Dania Shinkar “MAJJ” bag features a classic ‘coin purse’ re-imagined as a functional phone pocket. Because… people don’t need quick access to their coins these days, they need quick access to their phones.

5. Where do find inspiration when trying to design a new collection?

I find the source of creativity is infinite; for me inspiration comes from everywhere and anything around me, but mostly from art, architecture, vintage designs and the concept of surrealism. I love to draw references from the past, from vintages designs, and re-interpret them with a modern functionality. I also always get super inspired after visiting leather trade fairs such as my favourite one, Lineapelle in Milan.

6. Of your own designs, which are your absolute favorites to carry?

Currently, the piece I’m always wearing is the “mini DANA – Black Stingray Embossed”! I attach the chain and wear it cross-body. It’s my favourite right now because it’s super easy to wear with anything, small and hands-free!

7. If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your career, what would it be?

I would tell myself “Don’t worry and don’t stress everything is going to work out”.

8. The fashion industry has changed so much in the past few years, especially with the challenges of the pandemic, how did you face these challenges and stayed ahead of the curve?

Through a lot of ZOOM calls, e-mails and lots of patience! which was a struggle especially given the fact that we are working on such a technical product.

I also recently decided to shift away from the traditional fashion production calendar, and instead release seasonless collections/ drops.

9. What is your biggest achievement so far? And what does the future hold for DANIA SHINKAR, any exciting plans you can share with readers?

My biggest achievement is getting nominated as a finalist for the FASHION TRUST ARABIA Prize 2021 under the accessories category. And another big achievement is getting stocked at FARFETCH, something that has always been a dream of mine.

I hope the future holds additional exciting retail partnerships. I also definitely would like to expand my product offering to include other types of accessories such as scarves and wallets, maybe eco-friendly jewelry! But for now, I just want to focus on bags.

I would also like to collaborate with fellow Middle Eastern designers and artists.

10. Who have you been most excited to see carry a DANIA SHINKAR creation?

It’s always so heart-warming and touching to see my friends and family wear my designs. But I’ve been most excited to see Victoria’s Secret Angel, Sara Sampaio, carry my bag the “MAJJ – Sky Blue Lizard Embossed” on more than one occasion!

11. There’s so much pressure for designers to come out with their greatest collection season after season. What advice would you give to young designers just starting out and hoping to make it in the industry?

My first advice is… don’t be afraid to fail. Be brave. You will face many road-blocks and obstacles but that doesn’t mean you should give up and quit. Don’t let any setbacks demotivate you or put you down. It’s completely normal to fail a few times before you get it right. Keep working hard, nothing comes easy. Believe in yourself and in your capabilities. And one thing that I always say when I’m asked this question is….you have to be 100% self-motivated and driven if you want to follow the entrepreneurship path, because no one will be chasing you to achieve your own dreams.

And always always have your own voice and be original! Create a unique and cohesive brand identity and stay true to yourself. Identify your unique selling point (USP).

12. Who is your favorite fashion designer regionally and internationally?

Having studied Fashion Textile Design for my Bachelor’s, my favourite fashion designer internationally is Mary Katrantzou. I’m also obsessed with Georges Hobeika’s dresses.