One of Lebanon’s traits is the way the old harmoniously meshes with the new. The old architecture and ancient ruins still standing by newly erected skyscrapers, and traditional customs playing alongside those more westernized. The newer generations bringing innovation to the old ways. These harsh contrasts are one of the country’s most charming and unique aspects, and another one of the reasons to love it even more.
Nestled in the heart of Monnot, Ashrafieh is the boutique La Rose de Sim, a perfect example of the beautiful marriage between the past and the future.
Rajaa Habache, 33, founder and head designer, creates bags and jewelry that represent the spirit of old Lebanon, encouraging people to love and appreciate their heritage.
“It’s not only a fashion brand. I’m trying to deliver a certain message to the Lebanese people.”
The makings of a designer
Raja Habashe started designing jewelry at a young age while still in college, and graduated from Notre Dame University in 2005 with a bachelor’s in business and marketing. His mother saw his passion and talent for design and encouraged him to continue that path.
He credits his parents as the main inspiration for his success and for the name of the boutique. His parents Marie Rose and Simon passed away only a few days apart and since then, Raja Habache longed to do something to honor them.
“It was a huge trauma to get over at the age of 26. It took me years to accept the fact that they were gone. I wanted to revive the memory of old Beirut and do something to keep their memory alive.”
A few years after his parents passed away, he was looking through old photo albums that contained pictures of his parents in the 1970s, images of their wedding, as well as happy memories at sites in Raouche, Bab Idriss and Ashrafieh, and a wave of nostalgia poured over him. “My parents used to tell me, ‘Ah Beirut el adimeh , if only you could have seen Lebanon before you were born,” he remembers.
He started with one piece and after that, the orders started pouring in.
Designs from the heart
His passion for design and for his country shows in every piece he designs.
Each one is something special. Clutch purses with old photos of Lebanon and famous faces, each representing a special piece of Lebanon’s history, reminding the Lebanese people of their heritage and bringing them closer to their country. For foreigners who purchase one of his pieces, they will not only take HOME a beautifully designed piece, but a little piece of the spirit of Lebanon, the old and the new.
Currently, La Rose de Sim is available in Tunis, Bahrain, Muscat and Qatar, and the pieces are adapted to each individual country, showing famous sites, creating a feeling of pride and love for heritage.
“My favorite piece is the Lebanese passport clutch. I worked so hard to get permissions to use the passport as the design. It’s a national symbol.”
He spent time at General Security, filling out written forms, going back and forth multiple times, and in the end, he not only got the permission to use it, but he also got tremendous moral support from the institution, which from the beginning believed in his idea and supported him the whole way.
Maghroum bi Lubnan (in love with Lebanon)
Although he admits being an entrepreneur is hard work and difficult in a constantly wavering economy, Raja Habashe’s passion for Lebanon is unwavering. “I never watch the news. I believe in people. I believe in humanity. Lebanon is my HOME. When I travel for work or vacation, I’m always eager to go back HOME. I can’t stay away for more than three to four months. It’s where I feel most safe, even when the situation is critical. HOME for me is the feeling of being safe. The memory of my parents, my family and friends. HOME is where your heart is.”
As for the future of his brand, Raja Habache is looking forward to going global, and having famous personalities like Fairuz, Nidal Achkar and Oprah wear one of his designs.