A genius poet, master pastry chef, and scarf-designing superstar—yah, we’re talking about one person. Born in Dubai, Rawaan Alkhatib spent her early days surrounded by peacocks and gazelles. “This definitely contributed to my animal obsession, which you can find in my writing and design,” she says. In 2002, she headed to Brown University, eventually landing in an MFA program in Iowa. “It’s the only place where you can be at a bar and a stranger says, ‘So are you a poet or what?’—and you can say yes and own it,” she recalls.
In 2011, Rawaan found herself in New York with a fancy degree and, while poking around for jobs, started making scarves. In 2012, this side project went official (oh, and she landed a 9-to-5 at a luxury flash-sale site, too).
Scarves appeal to her for two reasons: She wears them a lot and comes from a culture of headscarves. “Silk is so magical—it keeps you warm when you’re cold and cool when you’re warm. It has a history of being used in luxury items, but it’s functional,” explains the designer, who hopes to add bags, clothing, and stationery to the mix down the road. “I have no real artistic training—merely boundless enthusiasm,” she says. “But this feels the most right of all the harebrained schemes I’ve had.” —alisha prakash
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When college freshmen go to parties, they probably expect to encounter a kid from their bio class, a line of people waiting to do keg stands, or, at best, next year’s roommate. They don’t expect to meet a future business partner—but that’s exactly what Alex Bell (right) and Shira Entis, co-founders of Fleabags, found in each other during their first week at Brown University.
From there, the two bonded over many a flea-market outing and, after schlepping their day’s finds home in dowdy canvas bags, the girls contemplated why a great tote made to endure a lifetime’s worth of hauls didn’t exist. “What we needed was something cool and sturdy that didn’t feel disposable,” Alex explains.
The girls spent eight months honing in on the ideal tote back in 2008—when Alex was working full-time as a corporate lawyer, and Shira was an assistant designer. “We made 100 bags because that was the factory minimum—and we were terrified they wouldn’t sell,” Shira explains. Women’s Wear Daily featured them the very same week the duo launched the company, and the orders started flying in.
Today, the girls run Fleabags from their Williamsburg studio, where they make lunch for each other and design everything from sturdy, stylish carryalls to classic clutches—all of which are handmade from locally sourced materials. “Even though our line is eco-friendly, our priority is good design,” Shira explains. And they’ve got that in the bag. —monica derevjanik