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From Lebanon to Massachusetts

By Marian Omidiji

“There is no room for prolonged contentment. I can be content today, but I must be prepared and prepped for the change of tomorrow,” said handbag designer Shaunt Sarian in an interview. Having this mentality certainly helped Mr. Sarian cope with the failures and successes he encountered in the fashion industry. Sarian Designs is new to Massachusetts and has received a respectable amount of attention since its grand opening on September 15, 2011.
Prior to the birth of Sarian Designs, however, Sarian was involved with his family business in Lebanon in the 1950s, and his work there encouraged him to become a fashion entrepreneur himself. He began making samples for the fashion market of Paris. He always dreamed of living the European designer’s dream of having a studio and shop in the same building. It took Sarian multiple years and three career switches before his dream became a reality.
Sarian came to Massachusetts thirty-five years ago. Upon his arrival, he realized that “Boston was not a fashion statement,” and immediately he knew he wanted to change that idea. Sarian tried to sell his handbags through various stores but was unsuccessful. He also ventured into the automotive and manufacturing industry, and then into real estate, but “none of them made me happy,” said Sarian. After nearly sixteen years, Sarian journeyed back into the handbag business, this time with much success.
To get himself started, Sarian spent several years in Wayland, Massachusetts, working out of his home studio. He later decided that he wanted to expand his market and rented a retail space in Newton Centre, Massachusetts. Sarian did not want his business to symbolize a brand; instead, he said, “My types of customers are women who do not need a brand to feel safe; they know themselves and are confident.”
Sarian creates handbags for the individual and not “for the fashion season.” Each handbag is designed according to the personality of the owner. Before he creates his individualized pieces, Sarian “speaks with the customers, adds their names to the address book, and calls them frequently to get a feel for their personality.” That is why he uses exclusive materials like ostrich leather from the famous Klein Karoo in South Africa, Venezuelan alligator skin, python skin from Thailand, and lizard skin to create handbags for his customers. Not only does Sarian create visionary handbags, but he also repairs handbags, hoping that friendliness and service will motivate people to become his long-term customers.
Even with his business on the rise, Sarian manages to influence young artistic minds by teaching at the Massachusetts College of Art and the School of Fashion Design, as well as serving on the Advisory Board of Lasell College. Soon to be classed with brands like Rebecca Minkoff, Chanel, and Kate Spade, Shaunt Sarian’s designs are ones to watch.

Photos By Alissa Polillo

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