Reviving the tradition

Reviving the tradition
Samar Habayeb, CEO and creative director, Silsal Design House.

Dubai - Samar Habayeb's homeware brand founded on the belief that great design is for everyone

By Muhammad Riaz Usman

Published: Sat 27 Apr 2019, 4:00 PM

Last updated: Sat 27 Apr 2019, 6:36 PM

Silsal Design House, launched in 2013, is the outcome of Samar Habayeb's strong architectural and design sensibilities. She has since turned it into the Middle East's largest and most creative homeware brand - one that has been exhibited at the British Museum in London and sold at the Louvre in Paris.
"Back in 1989, my mother and aunt founded Silsal Ceramics in Jordan. Their idea was to revive the tradition of pottery making, simultaneously empowering women. With their designs focused on artisanal, handcrafted ceramics, the pieces were beautiful and garnered quite the reputation, but the business was hemorrhaging money and operationally was neither scaleable nor sustainable," explains the creative director and CEO of Silsal.
Eighteen years later, as Samar was graduating from Tufts University with a double major in Architectural Design and Economics, her family suggested she take over the business.
"And so I pursued my masters in Ceramic Design at the University of Wales, Institute of Cardiff. With my masters and ambition, I decided to look into a complete metamorphosis of the business, all while remaining faithful to the design principles of Silsal Ceramics," she continues.
"Silsal is a creative homeware brand founded on the belief that great design is for everyone - it surprises, tells a story and makes the everyday less ordinary," Samar say.
Since its launch in 2013, the company has developed a reputation for producing contextual and elegant homeware - from dinnerware to objets d'art and storage to drinkware. The Silsal handprint can be seen in flashes of the past and future, in the delicate duality of art and function, modern form and traditional aesthetics.
Samar says Silsal has resurrected many of the Islamic World's long-forgotten calligraphic scripts, taking them out of the academic sphere and making them accessible to everyone.
"We've reinvented them for the modern home, taking a once-inaccessible art form and reframing it in a way that gives meaning and joy to a modern audience from all backgrounds. The UAE is a perfect place for that, not just because of its Arab and Islamic foundation, but because of the great diversity of people living here. We're now going a step beyond, becoming one of the first homegrown homeware brands to go global - exporting an ancient Middle Eastern heritage to the West. Reversing the tired trend of franchises moving from West to East, we're showcasing the UAE's dynamic business environment to the world, as a truly global platform, where new ideas come to life," she says.
"Silsal's expanded vision means not just producing products, but revolutionising the way we interact with our homes - proposing new visions and models for living. For example, many of our pieces are specifically designed to be multi-functional."   Samar says that Silsal has focused on developing services genuinely designed to help make life a little bit easier.
"For example, you can add flowers to many of our vases and our gift-wrapping service is affordable and simple to use. Finally, Silsal's new rental service was born from a very real, and all too common, problem - having invited more people to dinner than you have plates for. So our focus right now isn't just about beautiful design, it's about great services at accessible price points," she adds.
Samar says she's never been afraid to take a calculated risk.
"Starting the company in Dubai was a risk, but one that has paid dividends. Every business decision is a risk, but if you don't try, you'll never succeed. But, more than that, we're a company that truly offers products and services that no one else does, and I believe we do it well," she concludes.
Going global
After launching Silsal in Dubai, Samar Habayeb, CEO and creative director, brought a decidedly global viewpoint to the start-up. With a focus on exporting, she combined physical stockists with a thriving online retail store, delivering internationally. Today, Silsal is stocked in over 45 outlets across 6 countries.
"We are very active on social media, and we love interacting with our customers, seeing how they put their own personal spin on our products. We're very proud of our e-commerce website, which is something we've poured a lot of time and energy into getting right. However, as with anything, it's constantly a work in progress, and going forwards, we will continue to build on that foundation," she says.

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