When interior designer Sara Khalil received her cancer diagnosis three years ago, she knew the journey ahead was going to be a difficult and emotional one. Despite knowing that cancer would take a toll on the body and soul, Sara found a way to see the silver lining of her situation.
After losing her hair because of her cancer treatment, Sara additionally struggled with something a lot of women struggle with in her situation: she couldn’t find nice bandanas to cover where her hair and crown used to shine. Sara not only made her own bandana, but she decided to make 360 bandanas for the children of Children’s Cancer Hospital 57357. And she kept at this until the brand started coming together.
“Underprivileged cancer patients also have to worry about how to fund their treatment. That is too much for a person to handle,” she said, “Therefore I decided to work hard and give 100 percent of the revenue to help everyone I possibly can [in order] to ease their worries.”
First on the list was finding a way to fund the project.
“Strolling through the wholesale fabric market I got the idea of using Egyptian materials to make funky beach bags, sell them and then make more bandanas with the money,” Sara said, “I started right away.”
Spending hours after her chemotherapy sessions designing bags, Sara expressed the great sense of joy and purpose that this brought her during one of the most difficult struggles any person could face.
“The cancer journey is a difficult one. One battles all the time with pain, fear and anxiety.”
Second step was to construct the brand itself.
“My husband chose the name ‘The Bag’ and I added all the numbers below that correspond to the first letter of the names of my family members and friends.”
“I decided to have them on every bag, and donated this project to them, trying to show my appreciation [for] the endless support I got from them [throughout] my own journey.”
With the bags, the name, the brand logo and the full support of her loved ones, especially her husband, children, mother and friends, Sara launched her collection that summer in the North Coast.
“The amount of support and help I got from my family and friends and even people that I don’t know well but who just loved the idea and wanted to help in any way was so amazing,” she said.
She added that they help with “[choosing] colors and brainstorming together at the beginning of the collection, then preparing photoshoots, writing press releases [and] planning the launches.”
“I use and abuse everyone around me,” she joked.
With the success of the launch and the revenue from the bags, Sara was able to start supporting underprivileged cancer patients.
“It was another success, thank God. It’s then that I decided that I will pursue this path and give it my all,” she said, “[I have] been designing bags ever since.”
“Seeing this impact amazes, me sometimes because when I started, I never dreamt that I would be a bag designer,” she added.
Her latest collection of bags was characterized by the use of genuine leather and a distinct horseshoe detail that were instantly recognizable as ‘The Bag by Sara Khalil.’
“I love the horseshoe and I believe that it brings luck,” Sara said.
The initial plan was to try to make the horseshoe out of horns but that didn’t work out. One stroll through Khan El Khalili later, though, Sara was “blessed to find a craftsman who shared my passion and is working with me enthusiastically.”
“One idea led to another and in no time, I had my horseshoe.”
Finding the signature detail of the collection, though, did not mean the collection was done. Every bag in the collection is unique; no two bags are the same.
“For every bag I need to choose separately the leather, the color combination and the buckle that goes with the colors I chose,” she said, “[Therefore], my collections [are] very limited, so on average a collection ranges between 15-25 bags only and takes about 3-4 months to make.”
Sara is continuing to push through in the pursuit of her goal to ease the pain of cancer however she can. She is already planning her next collection which focuses “mainly on evening bags” but with some day bags as well.
Feeling “God’s presence in every move [she] takes,” Sara “hopes one day this brand grows so strong and I can make a lot of money and use the funds to build a hospital and help more and more people.”
“I am determined more than ever and [I am] pushing forward to try to take this brand international and incorporate the whole world in my plan. It might sound naive but that’s my dream.”