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  • Lucy Faulkner

Creativity, Connection and Conscientiousness: In Conversation With Dara Hamarneh

The year since I last spoke to Dara Hamarneh has been nothing short of tumultuous - how does this impact a handbag designer with bold ambitions?

Dara is no stranger to INJECTION Magazine, though I am somehow even more in awe of her talent a year on from our last chat

Jordanian-born, Italy taught and (currently) London residing, Dara Hamarneh is a handbag designer with an eye for style and sustainability. Launching her namesake brand only four years ago, she is on a mission to fulfil her bold legacy: create a brand designed to reflect the future of fashion. And she is certainly on her way - with features in the likes of Marie Claire, Forbes and L’Officiel, Dara Hamarneh is a name soon to become one we all know.

The months that have elapsed since our last conversation make it feel both like it was yesterday and “forever ago.” Yet, Dara’s core values and brand DNA are as clear as ever: ethics and aesthetics. 

“The brand was built on an aesthetic that I have stayed true to; maybe the references have changed a bit because we always need to evolve, but I prefer seeing my bags as pieces in one story and I like that they complete each other. 

They’re like a Matryoshka doll somehow…”

In a year that has felt like a never-ending stream of social and political turmoil, it can be difficult for creatives to navigate such a challenging landscape. For Dara, this has not manifested as an influence on her designs, but instead she has moulded her business to adapt to the ever changing climate, astutely noting that, even in industries not directly impacted, “we are all being affected by it [what is happening in the world], and I think it is foolish to think we are not." 

Armed with the motto “buy now, carry forever”, ethical production and consumption remain at the fore of Dara’s work, a truth which hasn’t wavered since the topic led much of our conversation last year. Discussing whether 365 days makes a difference, Dara is, yet again, acutely aware of the progress and shortcomings within the industry she is forcefully breaking through. 

“I think that there is a lot of textile development, and things have become more circular. We have an array of rental and resale platforms now, which is great. But in terms of shifting consumer mindset, I sadly don’t think a lot has changed. The industry still relies on that constant demand and trying to find new ways to feed into it. 

She (perhaps cynically?) adds that “it is business after all…”

So, in an industry where change seems a far fetched notion, how does she reshape her own practices?

“I think with what is happening in the world right now, I would like to find a way to start giving back to certain communities, whether through their craft or by picking charities to give back to.”

“Community” has also become something of a buzz-word when talking about the platform creatives occupy, and Dara recognises the importance of forging connections in achieving success. Her use of social media aims to do this, though she acknowledges the juxtapositional position she holds in this space as both a businesswoman and an individual. 

“A lot of brands like mine rely on social media so much to reach wider audiences and to make connections. I try to give hints of myself on the brand account, to create that relationship between designer and consumer. 

This becomes tricky when it comes to more political opinions because a lot of people don’t want to see that coming from a business or don’t really care for it. But I find it very tone deaf trying to go on, “business as usual”, when there’s nothing usual about what is going on. It’s like living in two separate worlds.”

But don’t be misled, Dara is certainly not shy to share political and topical views when needed: she eloquently shared her views on the ongoing conflict in Palestine and for two months pledged to donate 15% of all sales to UNRWA - The United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees.  

And when it comes to lacing together her business and her individuality, and engaging with her community, Dara also has an answer: posting her current reads in a “book club” highlight. On this, she notes,“Sharing what I read is a way of bringing more substance to the page. I love when followers interact or react to whatever book is posted. It does create a sense of community and hopefully bring more people together."

It is this notion of, and commitment to, connection and community that, besides the obvious attraction to her designs, allows Dara to cut through the noise and stand out in a sea of other eager creatives. 

Further still, if there is anything that can be learnt from a year of tumult, it is the need to adapt, and this is something Dara does not shy away from. In fact, she embraces this head on, armed, of course, with an abundance of wit and talent. A year ago, the goal was to “keep finding unique ways for people to find the brand." Now?

“There will always be a new market we can tap into, so expanding our audience will still continue to be a goal. But as the business grows, so do our goals. 

Scaling a brand needs a lot of resources, and I’d say the handbag department is very competitive so that in and of itself is a challenge. I think finding the right people that believe in you and your vision is very important and I’m lucky that I’ve created something people feel they don’t find elsewhere.”

And the proof is unquestionably in the proverbial pudding: Dara has launched a successful Made to Order service for private clients, and hosted her first pop-up in London this October.

“In the past we have participated in multi brand pop ups, and found this approach more personal. We’re looking forward to more in the future!”

We end our conversation with the same question I always come back to: what’s next for Dara Hamarneh?

“We would love to tap into a new product category and continue to experiment with materials, hopefully looking into the more tech side of material innovation. We will always strive to create relevant and long lasting products.”

It is impossible to say exactly where the next year will take her, but I am sure that for our third meeting, there will only be yet more exciting endeavours to report.

To shop Dara’s bags visit her website, and to keep up to date with all things Dara Hamarneh, follow the brand on Instagram.


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