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Hands that create are special.
They are different than anyone else’s’.
They carry scars that tell stories and stains that wear out only to make space for new ones.
They hold knowledge and history alongside both strength and fatigue.
When a pair of these hands is involved in crafting, it elevates any product as it transfers the story of the artisan to the wearer. In the same way that a meal cooked with love tastes so much better than anything from a fast food chain, shoes made in ateliers where every step is made with passion and by a real person will feel so much better on your feet (read more about it in Handmade vs machine-Made Shoes).
In the same way, shoes from the Rana Cheikha Brand will feel so much better than anything from a mass-produced brand. This is because they are designed with love and knowledge, and most importantly, made by real hands.
In an industry that produces so many mass produced items, it is a breath of fresh air to be able to consciously make the choice to create products using materials that are sourced ethically, in workshops that pay fair wages and where every aspect and every dollar spent is transparent. I see firsthand that the production and sale of every item supports the livelihood of a person, of a family, of a business and of a beautiful industry that is slowly dying.
Working this way may be costlier, but this is because the materials that are sourced ensure that the products made will last and will wear well, aging with beautiful character.
It may be that every item is not identical, not perfect, but this is because real materials are used, these are genuine leathers that come with scars and stories of their own.
What they surely will be is as special and as unique as are the hands of the people that made them.
Similarly, and as creative director of the Rana Cheikha Brand, my entire background is put together in every aspect of the creative process. Having studied both footwear and accessories design (in Italy) as well as graphic design (in Beirut) is indicative of the way I combine my passions in aesthetic, great design and exceptional detail. The brand merges my life’s inspirations, and are an expression and tribute to all that I know.
I have learnt all about footwear from artisans whose families have been in the industry for generations. I have worked beside them at their workshops in the hills of Tuscany, Italy and Norte, Portugal. Experts in the luxury industry have mentored and instilled in me the importance of quality as I combed Europe to find the finest craftsmen who share my values and want to be a part of the brand I am shaping today. I took all that I learnt and chose to move closer to home, to combine the knowledge that I gained with experts and producers in Lebanon.
This move was perfect. I spent time daily at the workshops getting involved with every tiny aspect of the sampling and production process. The Lebanese artisans I work with also come from a lineage of shoemakers. They have gained knowledge through the generations of shoe makers before them, learning the craft firsthand and through application. They have, on their own, further modernization and adapted new ways and techniques for their ateliers by traveling to countries that produce leather items and footwear not available in Lebanon (primarily Italy, France, Portugal and Turkey). They continue to do so in order to keep gaining knowledge, to always have options of material sourcing, to keep the exchange of ideas and experiences open. This has made way for cross-culture collaborations and projects that have strengthened both ideas and techniques.
Wherever in the world, I always work with a small group of handcrafters and businesses to create exquisite leather shoes. And wherever it is that I land, being Europe (read about part of it in My Introduction to Leather Shoe Making in Italy), Africa or the Middle East, I have become friends with individuals in the footwear industry, listening to their stories, passions and fears. I love to hear what they strive for, what their dreams once were and what they have become, and believe that this must be incorporated into the products that I create together to keep their passion alive.
This makes a very difficult job much easier, and that much more enjoyable by giving reason to every late night and every tiring minute and hour that is spend on not only keeping a brand alive, but sharing stories and creating communities. The aim is to keep alive traditional shoe making techniques and knowledge in footwear production. Investing in a well-made and honest product should mean that you, as a consumer, is supporting a beautiful industry that is slowly being taken over by mass-produced products.
It makes my personalized process of thought that is shaped by transforming 2-dimensional designs into 3-dimensional creations easier to incorporate into the production of designs (read more about it in Taking the Creative into Production and For the Love of Leather and Shoes). I ensure that each product undergoes an evolutionary process through stages of experimentation and transformation. I make sure that the common starting point in each piece is the dedication to quality, and follow through with the commitment to conveying beauty through each product. There is no other way to transform all of this other than through the hands of the artisans and through the stories that our community of wearers will experience in their Rana Cheikha Shoes.
Signing-off: Rana Cheikha for The Shoe Advisor
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