Founder Hannah Ransjo prides herself on keeping her company HALM local and producing the best quality luxury leather pieces.
HALM is a luxury leather handbag brand based in the UAE. It was originally founded as an aspirational handbag brand to celebrate the authentic beauty of genuine, full grain leather and its charming characteristics. This relatively young brand is quickly growing momentum both in the region and internationally thanks to its recently launched e-commerce platform. Swedish born founder and Creative Director Hanna Ransjo prides herself on only using the best quality leather and all of her products are designed and tested in Dubai.
This summer HALM launched ETHOS by HALM, a range of capsule pieces that are 100 per cent designed, manufactured and produced in Dubai. A more playful range of bags, ETHOS pieces will be released throughout the year with the first piece being the Bento Bag Pack. The main aim of the collection is to create practical pieces that have a timeless elegance to them while are still on trend. A&E spoke to Founder and Creative Director Hanna Ransjo about the future of this young brand.
You are from Sweden but your brand is based in the UAE – how did this come about?
Having lived in Dubai for many years, my love and loyalty to what feels like my adopted home country made it natural to develop HALM here, rather than in Italy, Paris, or London for example. Dubai and the UAE are such inspirational and supportive places to be. The essence of HALM is here. I could not have done this elsewhere and wouldn’t have wanted to.
My Scandinavian inheritance of functional, minimalistic and paired back designs is combined with the daily inspiration from Dubai and the Middle Eastern region: its exquisitely rich cultural diversity, the wonderful individuality of the Arabic women.
Both places have each their own distinct charm and specificities, their mix inevitably leads to interesting, unusual yet sleek and modern designs.
What do you think makes HALM different from other leather bag brands?
What gives our designs their uniqueness is their quality, authenticity and rarity.
We focus in using the highest quality whole leathers and materials, including bull nubuck for its natural smooth velvety touch. When worn, the leather evolves, taking on different shades over time. This charming characteristic of natural hides makes each of our bags truly unique.
This rarity factor is amplified by the fact that we produce each specific silhouette and colourway in very limited editions. When receiving their HALM bag, our customers can find on the product certificate its own limited edition number, and can be certain that only a handful of people will own the same.
Who is the HALM customer?
The HALM customer is discerning, and able to recognize and appreciate quality and value. Curious and open minded, this customer loves art and design, and seeks rare and unique pieces. Strong and self-confident, this customer enjoys and supports emerging trends. This customer wants a timeless bag and a classic design, to cherish year after year.
Why do you think being in the UAE is important for your company?
One of the beautiful aspects of living in Dubai is you mingle and network with such a variety of people. Dubai is so tolerant, open minded and accepting of various styles. It’s a colourful, vibrant, inspiring and culturally rich city, so it’s definitely an exciting place to be creative.
I also love the fact that there is so much serious investment and interest in the emerging fashion market here. The government is putting in so much effort and support into developing the art, fashion and design scene: in Abu Dhabi with everything from the Louvre to interesting continuous art and music events, and in Dubai with D3, Fashion Forward, Art Dubai, Design Week, Al Serkal Avenue, Galleries in DIFC.
What can you tell us about the ETHOS collection?
The HALM Collection is fully designed, prototyped, sampled in our Dubai D3 Design Studio as well as in our own Atelier. Production is then taken to Italy by traditional craftsmen.
Our new line, ETHOS by HALM, launching this summer, is not only designed but also 100% made in UAE.
It is a more spontaneous and playful line, consisting in the release of very limited edition capsule collections, some of which will be embellished with work from artisans from the region and elsewhere, to create unique pieces of wearable art; keeping at heart the HALM core standards of exquisite natural leathers, signature bespoke components and premium quality.
The whole design process takes place in Dubai – did that throw up and challenges?
On the contrary, a great asset to the HALM design process lies in our Dubai based Atelier. It allows us to experiment with design ideas, and develop prototypes on a daily basis with a completely hands-on approach, together with our experienced and talented master cutter, Musthafa.
Initial inspiration, sketching, development, specifications and technical drawings, production of prototypes and further samples are all carefully considered and executed here.
What can you tell us about the artists your worked with to produce these bags?
The first ETHOS by HALM collection has been assembled by extremely skilled UAE artisans. Collaborating with artists is beautiful as it associates their personal flair and style, with our HALM values and standards of quality and attention to detail. We can say that we are also working on a future project for ETHOS by HALM involving macramé work, Sami art, with influences from northern areas, Scandinavian Lapland to inspiration from South Africa… watch this space.
Your new Bento Bag Pack can be worn in seven different ways – do you think functionality and versatility are something that is important in bags today?
Versatility and functionality are key for women today: workers, mothers, wives, travellers… to name a few of their many roles. Their bag is not an ornament, they need to rely on a practical and stylish multi-tasker bag to take them from morning to evening, through travel, meetings, shopping, dinner or unforeseen destinations.
It should be versatile so they can choose its style upon their needs. Our Bento Bag Pack is a transformer bag: changing from a handle bag to a shoulder bag, wearable as crossbody or as backpack – it can adapt to each and every situation.
What is the future for the brand?
For the immediate future, the HALM Collection 1.3, our third collection, is in the making and we are very excited! We are also working on new silhouettes for ETHOS by HALM and for the HALM collection 1.4. To us, releasing a new silhouette is the result of months of drawings, designs, tests, quality control and a double digit number of prototypes! to ensure perfect execution and premium quality, in line with the HALM standards.
To us, success does not lie in speed nor sales growth, or fame. Success for us is staying true to our artistic philosophy, our quality standards, steady development with sustainability in mind, to be respectful and respected.
Would you consider expanding into products other than bags?
Our newest project involving macramé, for ETHOS by HALM, has taken us towards a new territory for HALM; women’s jewellery. At first, the macramé art jewels were only supposed to embellish bags, but it was only a natural progression to diverge towards developing jewellery drawings. Let’s see where that takes us.
How do you divide the business duties between the team?
We are actually a core team of three, mostly working collaboratively, sometimes individually depending on our different and complementing strengths.
As a start-up we do everything ourselves, from making coffee, speaking to suppliers, invoices, IT, to developing strategies and business plans, or building our e-commerce! We have also recently expanded to two new team members: constituting the incredible and hardworking dedicated HALM team who amaze me every day with their strength and perseverance.
What do you love most about the UAE?
What I love most is that the UAE is a such a culturally rich and diverse area, tolerant in all aspects, open minded to new projects… It is a land of opportunities, where people have the right positive attitude, as well as kindness and flexibility.
What do you think is the future in the UAE?
A bright future is ahead. With such qualities of open-mindedness and positivity, summed with hard & fast work, reactivity and adaptation… anything is possible.
What is a day in your life?
A day in my life goes a hundred miles an hour, involves a million emails, and is full of challenges. But they keep us on our toes and make us learn at every step of the way, therefore we consider it a blessing and privilege, and for that we arrive every day with smiley faces, ready to embrace any opportunity.
How would you define luxury?
Luxury in a material world is of course premium quality, however luxury is also durability, lifetime ownership; lastly luxury is rarity, being the unique owner of a unique product. The ultimate luxury to add is knowing that the product has been assembled from a fair-trade chain from start to finish: sustainability, high quality with high standards.
Last but not least luxury is to wake up healthy and happy every morning, grateful for the day to come, free and in peaceful environment.
Where do you go when you want to get a break from work?
If I have time I will aim for off-piste skiing in Europe or Canada, otherwise my ultimate meditation will be immersion in art exhibitions or cultural events.