TheFace: Dr. Lama S. Taher, the successful fashion designer whose one dream was not enough

Dr. Lama S. Taher (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
Updated 20 April 2018

TheFace: Dr. Lama S. Taher, the successful fashion designer whose one dream was not enough

  • Lacking in financial assistance but armed with grit, perseverance and passion, a young Saudi woman fashion designer launches her own brand while pursuing further studies, and succeed in both

I was born and raised in Riyadh and moved to London in 2004 to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree, followed by a Master’s degree in Mental Health.

Eight years ago, when I started on my Ph.D. in Psychology, I felt compelled to go into fashion design. Armed with grit, perseverance and passion, I took the plunge and launched my own brand, LUM, in May 2010.

I had no financial assistance and no fancy business plans — but I believed in it. No one else did, except my older sister who stood by me.

In spite of its humble beginning, the brand was well-received in the Kingdom and the Gulf region. But my father, a physician, was not convinced. I placed a bet with him, vowing to make substantial sales and revenue within one month. On July 1, 2013, I won that bet, making him my number one supporter.  In 2016, I achieved my academic dream, obtaining a Ph.D. in psychology at City University London.  

But it was not easy. Enduring sleepless nights and homesickness, I persevered to meet high academic demands. Meanwhile, the LUM business continued to flourish.

People asked why a successful fashion designer would pursue a doctorate in psychology. I was constantly asked to pick one — but my heart was in one and my mind was in another. 

Few believed I could achieve both. At times, I too doubted myself.

Today, I am an assistant professor at Dar Al Hekma University in Jeddah, supervising award-winning researchers. I am also a Saudi designer and manager of a successful fashion brand sold in the GCC, New York and Los Angeles.  I share my story to empower women to pursue their dreams, to believe in themselves, to fight for what they want.

People still ask: “Why both?” 

I reply, smiling: “Because one dream was not enough.” 


Dubai handbag brand gets royal approval

Creative director Hanna Ransjo with a HALM bag. (Supplied)
Updated 21 August 2019

Dubai handbag brand gets royal approval

DUBAI: HALM is the Dubai-based handbag brand whose discreet take on design has caught the eye of several of the region’s tastemakers including Queen Rania of Jordan.

Across fashion, there is a “new luxury” that you can see taking momentum, and nowhere is it more obvious than in the women’s go-to item, the handbag. HALM embodies that emerging trend.

With Swedish creative director Hanna Ransjo, who has lived in the Emirates over 25 years, and British project manager Hannah Louise Brewer, who came from womenswear label Temperley London, the company has gone from strength to strength.

The duo have merged the best of three cultures into their two-year-old brand: Scandinavian minimalism, British pragmatism and Dubai’s love for luxury. Theirs is a “Made in the Middle East” label that embodies global fashion’s move towards blending minimalism and maximalism. 

Their signature bag, Chilluxe, works as a perfect day to night accessory, and was given the ultimate seal of approval when Queen Rania carried it at her first official engagement of 2019. On a visit to the Children’s Museum — she stepped out in a checked buttoned top by A.W.A.K.E, paired with an asymmetric navy skirt — her hand firmly clutched a HALM bag.

“We see this bag as ‘relaxed understated luxe,’ elegant yet chilled, designed in such a way as to gently soften with wear, yet maintain its core signature structure,” said Ransjo. Another edition is set to follow in their next collection.  

Brewer added: “It was a very conscious decision to keep branding on the bag to a minimum — we want the customer to know that they will be buying quality and design, not just a name.” HALM is helping to change the notion that “Made in the Middle East” is about maximal design and shows how the region is embracing the new feel of luxury.