Luxury handbag label S.Joon opens first shop in Corn Exchange after former Leeds dance teacher builds global brand

Luxury handbag label S.Joon has joined the line-up of independent businesses in Leeds Corn Exchange.

By Abbey Maclure
Sunday, 16th January 2022, 11:47 am

Founded by former choreographer and dance teacher Sahar Asvandi in 2017, the now-global brand was born as a side-hustle, inspired by Sahar's love of vintage handbags.

Her career in dance runs through her designs; structural silhouettes and unique shapes that are now stocked by retailers across Europe, the US, Japan and the Middle East.

Sahar, who lives in Kirkstall, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “Because the arts are such fulfilling careers, they’re not always the most reliable in terms of work.

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Sahar Asvandi, founder of luxury handbag label S.Joon, which has opened its first store in Leeds Corn Exchange (Photo: James Hardisty)

"I started sourcing vintage pieces on the side and selling them on eBay, using them as a way to supplement my income.

"I’m a bit of a bag person, that’s always been my thing. I love to collect them."

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To meet the demand from her shoppers, Sahar began to design her own pieces - using high-quality leather and brought to life by expert craftsmen and women in Italy.

The now-global brand was born as a side-hustle, inspired by Sahar's love of vintage handbags (Photo: James Hardisty)

It was challenging at first to stand out in a saturated market, the 37-year-old said, but her background in dance and commitment to sustainability have given the label an edge.

“It was important to find our voice and DNA as a brand," Sahar added.

"My personal philosophy has been to encourage people to buy well and buy less.

"That’s how I approach my wardrobe and it’s how I encourage our customers and the community to see our brand.

"We’re not just a throwaway purchase, we’re a considered purchase that will hopefully remain in your wardrobe and transcend seasons."

S.Joon was selected as one of four brands to join The Vanguard, Net-A-Porter's long-term development and mentorship programme, for the Spring/Summer 2020 season.

The best-selling Tulip bag, inspired by a bouquet of flowers gifted for Sahar's engagement, was sported by Rita Ora at Paris Fashion Week in the same year - and despite the pandemic, the brand has continued to grow.

Sahar said: "It was challenging in the early days, bags were probably one of the most redundant items when people were only leaving their house once a day for 30 minutes.

"Nobody needed a bag to go anywhere.

“It is lovely to see that now people are able to go out again, bags have become a treasured item. It’s symbolic of the fact we’re getting back to some sense of normality.”

S.Joon's first shop opened on the balcony level of the Corn Exchange last month, giving customers the chance to browse the array of designs in person for the first time.

“It’s such a special building and there’s nothing like it in Leeds, " Sahar added.

"I fell in love with the unit, it’s got beautiful, stripped-back wooden floors and an amazing fireplace. I could visualise the world that I was going to create here.

"We’ve only ever been online, so it’s nice for me to see how people are reacting to the bags - their shapes and materials - as well as the space.

"A bag is quite a tangible thing, so people can appreciate the way the leather feels and smells.

"We have a great independent scene in Leeds and I feel proud to be a part of it."

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