Designer Spotlight : Rana Cheikha

Rana Cheikha is a formal and casual footwear company specializing in the design and production of high quality leather goods. It is a design establishment first and foremost, and approaches the industry in a creative way merging technique and the “well-made” with art. Experience, artisanal technique, collaboration and creativity are the driving force to move forward and aim for the best.

The Rana Cheikha label represents a modern, active and confident individual. It has an aesthetic appeal that is beautiful and interesting as well as practical. It is made for those who value a unique timeless product. The purpose is to challenge the current footwear industry in the Middle East by introducing an innovative look to creative artistic products of quality.

House of Coco went along to find out more…

Can you tell us a bit about your brand and your journey to getting where you are today?
I always loved the combination of art and design and finding the common ground between the two. I began my career as a graphic artist, but at one point felt the need to move forward and produce a more tangible product. I always loved shoes and after taking a shoe techniques course in Italy I became infatuated with leather products and their creation. I decided to continue with a master program in footwear and leather accessory design, and have been designing and producing leather products ever since.

I was privileged to be part of an endless world of beautiful creativity and craftsmanship during the time I spent in Florence as a student at Polimoda. I was in awe to the dedication to detail and quality that was being used in producing leather goods, that in our time and age is being easily overlooked. Whether the artisans in the smallest of workshops or the masters of the industry who taught me, I was lucky to meet a multitude of fascinating people who today I call my mentors.

What has been your highlight since launching the brand?
There have been a lot of highlights, especially considering that most of the experiences I have gone through when launching the brand were firsts for me. I love having people that I do not know contacting me about my shoes and sending me positive feedback about the brand. I’ve also met a lot of new people that has opened the doors for other interesting collaborations with fellow designers and artists. But definitely the feeling of selling my first pair of shoes tops it all off!

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Who is involved in the business?
It has pretty much been a one-woman-show the past two years! I did of course get support and guidance from family and friends. I have my wonderful agent in Portugal that deals with the day-to-day supplier and production issues with the manufacturers. I also have my legal advisor and financial accountant.

What product has been your best seller?
The Mina grey flat sandal.

Describe the brand in 3 words?
Sophisticated.

Contemporary.

Timeless.

Tell us what a typical day in your life looks like?
I start off my day with going through my mail and reading up on some industry news. I then always refer to my “to-do” list, I like staying organized and do so by setting weekly goals. Some days I spend the entire time behind the computer screen getting emails out, researching, planning events or working on technical aspects like creating specs sheets for the shoes. It could also be a day spent designing and making samples, going through materials or following up on finalising and shipping samples/shoes from the factory. By late evening I gather all my remaining energy, and head to my workout. I make it a point not to miss it; it pumps me up and gives me more energy to keep going!

How do you juggle work and social life?
My social life has of course taken the biggest toll! I am currently very focused on getting the business running, and feel best when getting things done. I do love going out and spending time with friends, so I try to be out socially at least once a week to unwind and catch up with family and friends closest to me.

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You are obviously a creative person, when your creativity is lacking what do you do to get it back?
I would definitely have to take a step back for a little breather. I try to re-look at previous projects I’ve worked on when I was feeling inspired and excited about the creative process. That often gives me a pick-up and a boost of energy. I also like to go out and explore, brainstorm with friends and designers, visit exhibitions and galleries and experience something new. It is very important to get some positive energy back, and creativity comes with that sense of excitement.

What sets your range apart from anything else that is currently on the market?
Well the main purpose of establishing the brand was to challenge the current footwear industry in the Middle East, and that’s what sets me apart. You need to look at the piece twice to get the sense of the details; I create pieces that are different without being flashy which is more challenging. I want to highlight the importance of a well-made product, and have people look beyond a brand name, to go past fast and disposable fashion and instead to value a well designed and timeless piece.

Who/what inspires you?
When I started my brand my initial source of inspiration was drawn from Fariuz and Marina Abramovic and everything between their two worlds. I created a link between their modes of expression, their yearning for the homeland and reputation for tearing down boundaries. I looked at everything from lyrics and mapping to performance and experimental art. The journey has led me to the creation of a label that represents a modern, active and confident individual, and it continues to be the driving force behind my inspiration.

Are there any sources you go for support with running your business?
I have yet to find found an establishment in Lebanon to support running my business, but I did just recently join the Blessing Foundation mentorship program. This is a Lebanese initiative aimed to support women and young female entrepreneurs who are establishing their businesses. I hope this experience can be a source of encouragement and strength that I can benefit from in the near future.

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What are your plans for the brand in 2016?
I want to preserve the quality of the brand and high standards of production and design, and in 2016 hope to introduce more products to strengthen this. I hope to gradually introduce the brand into more countries in the region.

Are there plans to expand outside the world of shoes?

Definitely. I would love to get into designing a full travel range that extends from the concept of the brand. This would include luggage and accessory items that would travel and experience the world with their owners.

At House of Coco we love to travel, tell us about your favourite place on the planet?

That’s a very difficult question, just like asking what my favorite pair of shoes are! I do also love to travel explore new places, experience other cultures and get a true sense of the place from a local’s perspective. I think every place I have visited so far has been very special in its own way.

If there’s one business owning activity you could get better at, what would it be?

Definitely the financials! I tend to overlook the costs when I am trying to get the products to the level I want to get them at.

For others aspiring to run their own company, what advice would you give?

Stick to the original idea and never forget why you chose to start the adventure and what you really want to achieve. Take the mistakes made as the best opportunities to do better, to make smarter decisions and to be stronger, so do not get discouraged, especially at the hardest times!

ranacheikha.com

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