Emirati Product Designer and Founder of Tharb, Eisa Alsubousi Talks Design and the UAE

Lindsay Judge   |   17-12-2019

Eisa Alsubousi has always been inspired by his heritage and surroundings. Growing up in the UAE Alsubousi had a keen interest in quality and unusual materials. After studying product design he decided to launch his own brand in 2016.


His passion for materials led him to start his company Tharb, which specialises in products created using the best quality materials and the finest in craftsmanship. Alsubousi creates elegant yet minimal bags and accessories that showcase the natural beauty of the materials without compromising their quality. All of the products available at Tharb are made in the UAE.



Earlier this year Alsubousi opened his first store at The Galleria Mall, Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi. The clean, minimal concept of the store reflects the designs of the products and the designer’s signature style can clearly be seen through the store’s architecture. After the recent opening of Tharb we talked to Alsubousi to discover what inspires him and why his heritage and upbringing are so important to him in what he does today.


What first inspired you to begin Tharb?


I’ve always been inspired by architecture and the constant rule that whatever the product features, it needs to serve a purpose and not just be an aesthetic choice, so I have always been drawn to functional pieces that are eloquently designed. However, such pieces were rare to find and I found myself sketching alternative solutions to leather products I already had. Naturally, that led me to seriously start thinking about creating my own brand. The inspiration behind Tharb was to create designs that merged the concepts of minimalism and functionality. From rough sketches of handbags such as Dana, to simple yet functional wallets such as Theyab and Saif. It was the inspiration in the making.



Why did you choose Abu Dhabi to open your concept store? 


As cliché as it sounds, the saying ‘home is where the heart is’ definitely rings true to why I opened in my home city of Abu Dhabi. I wanted to start this new journey, where Tharb began. Familiar surroundings yet in a new modern space, that being the new extension of The Galleria on Al Maryah Island.


What do you think customers get from you that they can’t get anywhere else? 


Clients receive a flawless blend of luxury with practicality while maintaining a minimalist design. As the designer, I am my harshest critic and I ensure that all the leather pieces are nothing short of perfection. For instance, Mayed goes beyond being just an elegantly designed leather notebook sleeve. It has a generous outer pocket for essentials such as keys and a phone. It also has various interior slots for small notes, cards, a dedicated pen and a very special eyewear loop.



How has your Emirati heritage inspired you in what you do today?


I am inspired by how Bedouin Emirati artisans take simple materials and create extraordinary pieces while still allowing the material to be the main focus. I have tried to follow that same mantra, where I primarily use premium leather with a minimalist approach to showcase the beauty of the material.


What is your first memory of the UAE growing up? 


I grew up on seeing the example of unstoppable ambition from the late Sheikh Zayed. It was ingrained in me from a very young age. The idea that if you set your mind to something, you’re bound to reap the rewards of your ambitions and hard work. Seeing this continuous and rapid evolution in the country was always a strong motivation.



What was the biggest challenge when setting up your business?


Every business has challenges, but the biggest ones are always the ones that you don’t expect or don’t even realise can be challenges until you are faced with them. Setting up a business goes beyond the product. From sales to marketing, to accounting, IT and government services. As prepared as I was, I faced new challenges in sectors that weren’t my area of expertise, however, I am proud to say they were all learning experiences that I am grateful to have had.


What would you say has been your biggest achievement so far?


Opening the first concept store of Tharb has been a great achievement, although my biggest achievement was taking the first step to create Tharb. Having the determination to take it from being an idea to a company is what I am most proud of.


What would you still like to achieve?


As a designer and entrepreneur, my goal is to keep expanding in terms of products and reaching new markets. My goal is for Tharb to be synonymous for luxury leather products on an international platform. Also, locally designed and made products can compete on a global scale. As part of this goal, I am soon launching new leather products that appeal to a larger demographic and extend into product categories that weren’t previously available.


Who is the person that inspires you the most?


My mother has and continues to inspire me. Her resilience and positive outlook toward any situation motivates me to adopt her approach. One of my first products was the iconic Shamma Marble Handbag, which is named after my mother. The incorporation of leather represents her ability to weather any situation while the marble highlights her refined elegance. I always say that Shamma is as soft as leather and as strong as marble.



Talk us through your creative process from idea to product? 


I am continuously drawn to filling the gap when it comes to functional pieces. I typically start from a simple need then I think of the added features to enhance the product. Technically speaking, I start with several sketches that solve the need I’m trying to tackle. After settling on a design sketch, I create a technical design document that includes technical drawings, dimensions, and features. After sending this document to the factory, we begin by creating a rough prototype followed by several leather samples. It’s often an iterative process until we go from samples to the final product.


For instance, when designing Alyas, which is a laptop sleeve, I took into consideration the need for it to be lightweight, durable and include enhanced functionality. The final Alyas design is now extremely lightweight, made with premium Tuscan leather and with external pockets to hold all your essentials.



How are you trying to preserve traditional craftsmanship through your products? 


I focus on creating unique pieces that rely on hand-craftsmanship and primarily avoid mass productions or outsourcing abroad. All Tharb pieces are produced on the concept of “limited-runs” and all Tharb pieces are proudly made in the UAE.


Have you been inspired by any traditional Emirati crafts for your designs?


I have been always inspired by the simplicity and pure functionality of the Emirati Sadu making process. In addition to the fact that, due to limited resources, local artisans of the past had to utilize every part of the palm tree into different products. From building material to food preparation items, they would never let anything go to waste. Who is the customer that you design for?


I haven’t focused on developing my products for a particular consumer but rather producing luxury goods that any consumer would find functional and would be proud to wear. The design of Tharb leather products encompasses a minimalist approach and are practical for travelling or simply going to the mall. Regardless of the city, my aim is for Tharb to have a global reach, spanning from the streets of Manhattan to the dunes of Abu Dhabi.


What is the professional motto that you live by?


The motto that I continue to use throughout my career and while designing is “take another step” it simply acts as a reminder to keep progressing, trying and exploring. Whether it applies to discovering new materials, creating prototypes or pursuing my vision. This motto helped me to find an incredible premium material for our upcoming phone cases that are even more durable and luxurious than ever before.


And your personal motto?


“Always aim higher” is my personal motto. I believe that by focusing on creating bigger goals for yourself, you’re bound to achieve greatness.


What is a book that had inspired you? 


I tend to explore architectural books when in search for inspiration. In addition, I’m inspired by the German industrial designer Dieter Rams. The book “Dieter Rams: Ten Principles for Good Design” is such an important book to me that I actually kept a copy in my new store for visitors to enjoy.


How would you describe Tharb in one word? 

Tharb is actually an Arabic word that originated from a poem written by the Late Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan. Tharb is defined as “a person with noble character, refined manners and calm demeanour.” There is no better word to describe the brand “Tharb” than the word itself.




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