Jalan Sahba was born to an American mother and an Iranian father. Raised in Italy, she later lived in North America, India and Africa. She now designs and runs her own brand of luxury hand-stitched clutch bags. Made in Italy, these are regularly featured in Vogue, Elle and a plethora of other fashion magazines. Kayhan London caught up with Jalan to find out more.
What made you launch your luxury clutch bag line in 2011? Why clutch bags and not clothes or shoes or scarves or other accessories?
Clutch bags seemed to have an inherently architectural quality. They were an opportunity to explore a variety of materials, and the perfect canvas for refined work. I was interested in creating a distinctive product with a strong visual effect and a narrative that synthesized my aesthetic perspective.
The year 2011 was the propitious time to launch. It took years of preparation to learn about the industry, the process, the business, and I learned that the learning never really ends.
Which side of your family is Iranian? Have you ever lived in Iran? What do your Persian origins mean to you?
My parents still live in Italy; my mother is American and my father is Persian. His extended family left Iran in the late 1950’s and settled, first in Genova, then in Verona, where they still reside. Iran holds an unquestionable attraction and allure. But I have yet to visit my father’s homeland.
I have always felt that we subtly and unintentionally weave into our work references that allude to our personal and collective cultural heritage. Certainly, my Bahai perspective and heritage and my multicultural background are at the heart of my work. I have gleaned insights from different visual cultures, and this has both fortified my identity as a designer and solidified my aesthetic language.
You were drawn to art from a young age. What did you study and where?
For as long as I can recall, I felt drawn towards higher beauty in all its forms. I went to design school in Canada, but in all frankness, it was not particularly insightful. It did provide the rigor and the discipline to channel my creativity.
How much do your clutch bags cost?
They range in price from around $1000 to $1500, and are available both on our site www.jalansahba.com and in selected boutiques around the world. But they also cost passion, time, inspiration, research, sacrifice and dedication. We employ some of the most passionate artisans that Italy has to offer, who imbue each work with their knowledge and experience.
The materials used in the clutch bags are curated from around the world. For instance, the semi-precious stones come from Mozambique, Kenya, India – a nod to artisanal legacies that add a rich narrative to our collections. The metals are 14-karat plated gold, and the leathers are all tanned and crafted in Italy. Each of these elements hinges onto the other to create a composition of contrasts, as well as a unique product.
Why do you work with Italian ateliers?
I needed a fixed geographical location from which to run the business. Italy is still where my family home is, and a point of cultural and sentimental reference. I am familiar with the culture, speak the language, appreciate the ethical dedication, and respect the country’s manufacturing legacy. Add to that Italy’s outstanding artisanal know-how. It gives the brand relevance and ensures that the product is crafted to international standards.
What is the inspiration for your next line of handbags?
We just launched a new limited edition entitled “The Africa collection” – a personal homage to the continent and its people, and the fruit of years of research. Stirred by the exaltation and intensity of life in Africa, the collection is characterized by sophisticated and graphically powerful imagery. It combines bold colors with clean silhouettes and curated indigenous materials.
Our “minaudières” are a thoughtful synthesis of the powerful, vibrant and diverse beauty of Africa. Creamy calf leather, masterfully hand-carved semi-precious stones and large gems marry to create a bold, intricate and striking contribution.
Where do you see yourself, ideally, in five or ten years’ time?
From a geographical perspective, my location is inconsequential, though I have found that more challenging environments keep me interested, focused and intellectually alive. From a business perspective, I trust that I will continue to push myself to the outer limits of my perceived potential. We all have, latent with us, limitless capacity and potential. It is really up to us to channel it.