London-based accessory brand BOVENUE was founded by Saudi-born designer Reema Amer. It is the first Saudi-founded zero-waste accessories brand, with all products being made from sustainable materials, including leather cut-offs and vegan leathers. All the brand’s designs are produced with zero waste, ensuring they are kinder to the planet. But there is no compromise in quality.
BOVENUE works with some of the most talented artisans around the world, including in the Middle East, to create luxury leather handbags by hand. Saudi women inspire each collection, whether it’s from Reema’s own family or iconic women throughout time, and this strong sense of empowerment and individuality can be felt within each collection. As the brand prepares to launch its latest collection, we discover more.
Tell us about the BOVENUE brand and how it came to be where it’s at today.
BOVENUE was established in 2012 in London. We wanted to talk about art, a universal language understood by all, as well as share a little of our origin and heritage with the world through our designs. Our first collection Noura (named after our grandmother) had multiple pieces, each of which was inspired by a part of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This idea of sharing stories grew as the brand grew. Every collection we released following this told the story of a Saudi woman. We would create a piece inspired by her style and personality and share her story on the collection page. We started with real women, Laila (my mother), Nawal (my aunt), Ghada (one of our co-founders), and most recently, our latest collection Ghaliyya (inspired by Ghaliyya Al Bogammiah who had a huge role to play in recapturing Mecca during the Ottoman war.) We love to use our designs and creativity to share their beautiful stories and create collections with so much meaning that people can relate to them on a more personal level.
What can you tell us about the materials used in the bags?
We have two lines of products. We recently converted to producing zero-waste leather handbags using cut-offs from some major brands in the handbag sector, which ensures we are doing no further damage to the planet whilst providing pieces made with the best quality out there! Our second line, which was also recently introduced, is a vegan collection which we use special fabrics to create. These fabrics are usually locally sourced, such as the Damask Fabric made in the Levant region.
Tell us more about the brand’s zero-waste method and how you achieved this.
We have always been eco-conscious as a brand, constantly looking for ways to create our products without harming our planet. From the beginning, our packaging was biodegradable, our invoices were recyclable, our tags were always recyclable, and our dust bags were created for multi-use purposes.
In 2020, we started to consider other approaches, and we stumbled upon manufacturers in Italy who had hundreds of metres of cut-out leather which would have been disposed of (although it was in perfect quality!) We started to discuss the approach and the best way to make use of this. In 2022, we started the shift and began producing zero-waste collections.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in achieving this goal?
We faced several challenges with our zero-waste journey. First and foremost, we cannot control the quantity or type of leather we can find as it is limited. This means there are collections we cannot immediately reproduce, and there are collections we must change before production based on leather availability. We also find that some regional customers are not familiar with the process and so cannot truly appreciate it for its value.
Can you tell us more about the production process and how it differs from other brands?
We do not produce in bulk – simply put! Our manufacturer is a family-run business, and our pieces are each created by hand by extremely talented artisans. We dedicate an incredible amount of time, effort, attention and money into each and every detail to ensure we receive a beautiful product which is luxurious but also sustainable and of the highest quality.
How would you assess the industry’s approach to sustainability today?
We are seeing it pop up everywhere, which is incredible. Unfortunately, the concept of zero-waste and luxury together is still new to the customer base, which will take some time to fully develop into its true value.
What would you still like to achieve with your brand around sustainability moving forward?
We want to continue to create our zero-waste products and luxury handbags in various fabrics and materials. We are also paper-free and send our items in fully recyclable packaging – we want to continue to reduce our carbon footprint.
Can you tell us about the latest collections from BOVENUE?
We have two new collections which will be released in the fall and winter. Each tells a story of an inspirational woman and a strong historical figure. We are very excited to share their accomplishments with the world in the way we know best, through our creations.
We know you have been part of the Saudi 100 Brands platform; what can you tell us about this and how it is helping to elevate design talent in Saudi Arabia?
We have been very fortunate to be part of the Ministry of Culture’s Saudi 100 Brands initiative. Through the program, we were advised as a brand by experts with years of experience in guiding international brands with an extensive history. We were also fortunate to learn directly from the industry leaders such as Tommy Hilfiger, Anya Hindmarch and Messika. We have exposure to incredible talent and a wealth of knowledge which cannot be obtained anywhere else.
What more would you like to see happen to support upcoming brands from the Middle East?
For the region’s mindset to shift enough to appreciate local brands and the immense amount of work that goes into their creations, we would need retail spaces to cater for such brands in their buying seasons and give them a platform locally.
Who are some designers or brands that inspire you?
Yves Saint Laurent, not only are they not afraid to change things up and keep to their identity, but I love that their first collection was partly inspired by childhood memories of his mother’s dress in 1940s Algeria.
What is your vision for BOVENUE – would you like to expand further than bags?
We love to create what we excel in – handbags – but that’s not to say that we are not looking into our first capsule collection, which includes other accessories!
In this issue, we are celebrating Saudi National Day – what does that day mean to you?
We are incredibly proud to be a Saudi brand created by Saudi siblings and operated by some of the most talented Saudis we know! It’s an incredible time for the Kingdom and its people, and we are honoured to play even a small part in the change and the growth.
What is the professional motto that you live by?
“Follow your instincts – you never know if your ideas will work out unless you try them.” Lulu Guinness.
What else is in the pipeline for BOVENUE for the rest of the year?
A lot of innovation, colour, material and statement pieces. All whilst being environmentally friendly!