halm handbags
Photograph courtesy of HALM

Why Dubai-Based Handbag Label HALM Should Be On Your Radar

Sustainable, standout designs are just one reason.

On a blisteringly cold day in late November, we went behind the pink door at Yorkville’s Cabine to meet with Hanna Ransjö and Hannah Louise Brewer, the duo behind handbag label HALM. Having flown in from Dubai (where “winter” sits around 23 degrees celsius), it was a stark change from their office in the city’s Design District. But as Ransjö  (the founder and creative director of the brand) tell us, she loves Canada. “I’m not just saying that. I came here two years ago for heli-skiing and I felt like I was in Europe. The people know what they want, they have style and an independence. I love the fact that people here are paired back but in an elegant way and they still have an incredibly, cute twist to it.”

Nicholas Mellamphy’s Cabine is the first North American location to have HALM bags on the ground. “The main thing is to align yourself with the right people,” she says adding that teaming up with Nicholas “just felt right.” The space, which is by appointment only, allows for the brand story to be told in a more genuine way, says Ransjö – something which is incredibly important to the founder as it allows for the messaging around sustainability (each bag is produced in limited quantities to minimize waste, for example) and quality (the bags feature materials from Italy, France and Switzerland) to be communicated genuinely. “[The key message for us] is that our bags are super special – you’re carrying a bag that’s been lovingly made and has only been made in a maximum of 50. It’s also a bag that, because of the soft leather, really takes on your personality and how you wear it.” Ransjö says that some people comment on the prices of the bags being high for a new brand (styles start at approximately CAD$900), however she says there’s a simple explanation for this: “It’s because we’ve chosen the top, quality materials. Plus, everything is limited edition.”

The whole business is eco-conscious also – the dust bag has been beautifully crafted to encourage people to use it beyond storing their bag, there’s no plastic water bottles in the office and they’ve scrapped unnecessary packaging. They also provide a repair service to extend the lifecycle of the bag, and include a cleaning kit with all purchases to help educate consumers on how to take care of their piece. “It’s basically to learn how to look after what you have, to love it and treat it well and it will love you back,” says Ransjö. Brewer (the design and project manager) adds that they deliberately avoid branding collections seasonally (i.e. summer or fall) – “We always try to say trans-seasonal, and each following collection has been designed to complement the previous collection so you can build on top of one another and add in elements from one collection to another.” Plus, they keep their shape options limited deliberately. “You’re sending the message that what you had before wasn’t good enough,” explains Ransjö. Interestingly, Brewer says the inspiration for the shape of the bags actually came from the menswear market. “We did so much research on the men’s market actually. We focused on men’s bags, rather than women’s because we wanted these really clean lines, a minimalist [feel], and [the pieces to be] a little more contemporary rather than everything rounded.” As a result, some of the styles have proven popular with both men and women.

At the end of each month, Ransjö tells us that they release special pieces under the sub-brand Ethos by Halm which have been crafted using surplus leather from earlier designs. As such, these pieces are incredibly limited. “We might only be able to do one or two, so they are super unique,” she explains.

We ask whether or not they would consider using a leather substitute in the bags, to which Ransjö says, “The only leather substitute I would use is velvet, and I have actually looked into plant-based leather. I would never use a plastic because I don’t believe this is where we want to go.”

As for who the HALM customer is, Ransjö says her guiding principle when designing is this: “You should make somebody from the twenties to the nineties feel like they could wear the bag. It should be practical and beautiful.” She adds, “But practical doesn’t have to be boring.” All of the bags are designed in colour, with no black bags appearing in the main line collections. “The reason why I don’t want to do a black bag is because the colours come out so much more beautifully. I also feel like it’s a confident woman today, you don’t only need to wear a black bag.”

The woven straps that adorn the bags are a particular design highlight – not only are they beautiful, and a brand identifier, they have also been extensively tested by the HALM team to ensure the elasticity offers the perfect amount of support when worn on the shoulder. Plus, these can be swapped out for different colours to personalize your look.

For Canadian consumers keen to get their hands on the collection, prototypes are on display at Cabine (these can be personalized via a large selection of leather and colourways) which can then be ordered and sent directly to your door from the UAE. There’s also a preview of a very ‘grammable binocular-inspired bag that we suggest you check out (in all senses of the phrase).

Click through the gallery below for some of our picks:

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