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Shaikha Al Ali’s New Handbags Aim to Preserve Emirati Heritage

Courtesy of Gasah Studio

After being a successful food blogger for a number of years, Dubai-based designer Shaikha Al Ali decided she needed to change gears and find a new way to challenge herself. This led to the launch of her label Gasah Studio this year, with a mission to preserve Gulf culture in a fresh and modern way. “I launched Gasah because I wanted to have the ultimate creative freedom to play around with both old and new and to reintroduce elements of culture in a very experimental way,” says Al Ali. “It’s a very personal project,” she notes.

For her debut collection, Al Ali fused her Emirati heritage with rich Japanese culture. The result is an artful lineup of contemporary silk printed bags with knotted handles that take the form of the azuma bukuro bag, or Japanese market bag. “I love how something so simple can go a long way,” acknowledges the designer of the folding of fabric.

To craft the pieces, the designer begins by laying out a strip of millennial pink, eggshell blue, ivory, or black French taffeta fabric. Next, she dips her palm and fingertips into pots of paint, and presses down on the sheet sprawled out in front of her. She then handpaints a forgotten traditional henna design called gasah, which also translates to “story” (and which is the inspiration behind the name of her brand) and that is characterized by brown swirls on the fingertips with a stroke of henna that connects from the pinky to the index finger, on the outline of the hands. It is then sent to production at Al Ali’s manufacturers across Dubai. Each piece comes packaged in a dusty rose organza carry bag.

“Once complete, it’s a very subtle design and that’s exactly what I wanted,” says Al Ali. Each bag is one-of-a-kind and handmade, and comes with all the functionality for storing all of your necessities – Al Ali even uses hers for weddings. “I love how perfectly imperfect the bags are. Each one is different than the other.”

Prices start at AED/SAR 960 online at or at General.3am in d3, Dubai, where Al Ali will also be hosting a make-your-own-handbag session from 5-9pm on Friday.

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