If we told you the perfect party clutch was inspired by Lego blocks, would you believe us?
It’s true, but Eliana Ghantous, a nanotechnology engineer, is not just using Lego building blocks as her inspiration. She’s also breaking the mould with her “design your own” modular handbag startup, Modjewel. (See what they did there?)
The brand was the answer to a problem women regularly face. When we attend a party or wedding, we typically want to carry a bag that matches our outfit, but we don’t necessarily want to buy a new bag every single time, especially if there’s a chance we might only carry it once or twice.
Putting her engineering skills to good use, Ghantous realised she could create a party-ready clutch with “modules” – think clasps, covers and straps – that could be swapped out to create personalised looks for different events.
Customers start by buying the Bare Bag, which is a no-frills rectangular metal clutch with a strap. From there, customers can choose from a lineup of front and back covers in snakeskin, faceted leather, or solid leather. There are three styles of clasps – a slab, a jewel-shaped facet, or a geometric-style trapezoid – that you can add to the top. To boot, there’s a detachable cross-body shoulder strap that comes in various colours. Most importantly, every “module” or piece was designed by Ghantous and her engineering team using high-quality, long-lasting materials
Intrigued? We spoke to Ghantous about prototyping the clutches using 3-D printing, an upcoming collection of velvet covers, and what’s next for Modjewel.
What was the impetus for starting Modjewel?
Eliana Ghantous: I used to own a few clutch bags, but whenever a new wedding or event popped up, I’d have to go shopping to find something that would match my outfit. I would end up wearing the new bag maybe once or twice and then would have to buy another bag for the next event. I tried searching for a clutch in the market that would let me customise and change it but couldn’t find anything. So I set out to create one. The vision was to create a fun party clutch, with a reusable base, that could be built like Lego. The design challenge in creating this bag was being able to make the bag interchangeable while keeping the function invisible – and having a look and quality comparable to high-end party bags from well-known brands.
How long did it take to design the bag?
EG: It took about one week to make the first prototype. I made a simple sketch on paper and asked my husband, who is a mechanical engineer, to draw it in AutoCAD. We then got it 3-D printed, and that was how it came to life. I still have the first prototype, and it looks absolutely nothing like the final product. We ended up working with industrial designers to get into the details of figuring out the mechanisms for interchanging the covers and clasps. It took about two years from that first initial prototype to launch the line.
What can the clutch hold?
EG: Our Bare Bag is roomy for … a “party clutch” and fits all the essentials needed for that perfect night out or date night. It can hold an iPhone 8+, lipstick, mascara and other essentials in an organised way. It also has centre slots for cash and credit cards.
What’s next for the clutch?
EG: We are working on a collection of velvet covers with a fun and minimalist look as we speak.
Do you plan to expand beyond clutches?
EG: Yes. We are working on a new bag silhouette, the Jewel Bag. We’re very excited about how the samples are looking and how the bag has a vintage feel with sophisticated tones, but [is] still minimal and modern. This new bag can be adorned with the same clasps and straps as our flagship product, so if you already own a Bare Bag, you can simply use the same modules to customise your Jewel Bag. This new product will be a roomy shoulder bag that can be taken out everywhere.
You can design your own personalised Modjewel clutch bag at Modjewel.
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