It’s all about the details when it comes to pulling together a corporate-ready ensemble. While a sharp power suit is key, a functional bag to fit your essentials is the cherry on top. Reem Salman has just the sophisticated solution. The Doha-based, Jordanian-Italian accessories designer behind handbag brand Belquis is a lawyer by profession, who dreamed up a structured, top-handle tote named the Aida that could fit her laptop. “I’ve been carrying it every day to work since I designed it,” Salman tells Vogue Arabia. She also created a cross-body silhouette that can be slung over the shoulder or belted around the waist, with functional compartments for fast-paced living. “The inside has pockets for business cards, cash, and pens, so you don’t have to carry your wallet. I usually wear it when I’m out with my kids,” says the mother of two toddlers about her bestselling design.
Salman came up with the idea to launch Belquis in 2012 while vacationing in Florence. A fan of leather and vegetable-tanned leather, she stumbled across an artisanal leather goods shop tucked away from the bustling boutiques. Inside, her eyes fixated on a tote – but it was not in the color she wanted. “I asked the shop owner if they had it in red and he said they could make it any color I wanted. They had tannery and I was impresses with the leather quality and craftsmanship,” Salman says. “I took his card, and the idea to start my own line materialized.”
Two years since their encounter, and numerous trips back to Florence, Salman launched her first collection. Crafted in Italy from printed calf leather, Salman landed on crocodile and python motifs in sugary pastels and saturated jewel-tones. The meticulous details in texture can easily be mistaken for exotic skins. The bags are as special as the name of her label, which is derived from the Queen of Sheba – who was also known as Belquis. The collection of soft bucket bags was recently showcased at Fashion Forward Fall 2017. “The bag has gained a lot of attention and we expect it to be a hit,” she says. Salman plans to expand her offering with solid versions of her signature styles and goat leather. “We were reluctant to use it at first,” she says, “but we have discovered that it’s very durable.”
With no design background, a demanding career, a family and a business, you could wonder how she manages her time. Salman says she prioritizes and sets small and achievable goals. “With Belquis I would love to do much more. Right now, I’m taking baby steps with evolving my brand, and I’m really happy about where I have reached in just two years. That’s what keeps me very optimistic.”