This article is contributed by one of our talented interns, Dima Badawi, an AUB student majoring in Business Marketing.
Ever since I started university at AUB, my friends and I have regularly headed to Henry's Handmade, a small but abundantly-filled accessories store on Hamra's main street. Every time we went, we would always leave with a curiosity about how this place came to be and the stories that lie behind its crowded walls stacked with timeless handmade pieces.
As I joined Raghunter this summer for an internship, it was the perfect opportunity to highlight this local fashion gem, and a chance to get to know Henry the owner a little better and share his story.
Henry’s Handmade: The Store
Henry's Handmade is situated on one of Beirut’s most staple and busiest streets, Hamra main street. Restaurants, cafes, and other shops have opened and closed over the years, but Henry’s Handmade is still standing 15 years on and has become an assertive part of the area’s culture.
Every wall of the store is totally filled with unique fashion accessory pieces - even the ceiling has accessories dangling from it. You can find all types of accessory pieces here.
More specifically you can find necklaces, bracelets, rings, anklets, keychains, and more for both men and women. In terms of prices, they are extremely affordable ranging from $10 - $40.
The coolest part of it all is that every single piece in the store is handmade by Henry himself! However, you can also customize pieces (the price will obviously vary according to material used and amount of work involved).
Meet Henry, Henry Loussian
Henry is the owner, producer, salesperson, and the spirit of the store. He is a very delightful person and kept us quite entertained during our visit by sharing his personal inspiring experiences that brought him to where he is today.
As we roamed around the store and took photos, Henry paused us and showed us the first piece he ever made and shared the funny story behind it. It all started with the urge to reproduce an African-inspired necklace that someone was wearing, however he did not have access to the material the necklace was made of: ivory and leather. So he decided to get creative and recreate it using available resources at hand. He headed down to the beach and collected bits of broken cow’s bones and replicated the chunks of the necklace. After that, he cut straps from his mother’s expensive leather Italian jacket and used them as ropes to wear the pieces he produced. Hysterically laughing, Henry told us how his mom proceeded to lay a proper slap on him when she found out. Poor Henry!
In 1996, Henry decided to sell the necklaces he was wearing by placing them on a mat on Gemmayzeh stairs, which landed him $800 straight into his pocket. That must have put a smile on his mommy’s face and lessened the pain of her torn Italian jacket.
After that, he sat on Bliss Street in front of AUB’s main gate next to the famous Abu Naji and began selling accessories to students based on their taste and demands. It was until 2000 that he opened his store in Hamra and began producing all sorts of handmade fashion accessories. Here's an actual photo of him back in the day.
What Makes Henry's Handmade Unique
When we entered the store, my friend was trying on a bracelet and she didn’t know how to wear it, but Henry refused to help her and told us that we have to figure it out ourselves. When asked for the reason behind this, he told us that he places “self-service” papers all over the store because he wants customers to relate to the piece, one way is figuring out out how to wear it. Moreover, his store is also a workshop for customers as he offers the service of customizing accessories completely from scratch.
A Sense of Identity
When you look through the collections at the store, you will not help but notice a sense of identity and patriotism in most of the accessory pieces. Henry produces accessories relevant to Lebanon, its past, and its significance as well as other Arab countries such as Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and Kuwait. He told us that political disturbance in the country and the region is a motivator for this and that he shifted from colorful accessories to patriotic ones with the aim of satisfying market needs.
He believes that identity is a MUST - he always works with Beirut's character, charm and spirit in mind. Although he believes that nowadays we've lost the true meaning of identity, it is still engraved in each and every one of us so it is important to have something that reminds us of our roots. In an area that has become commercialized as much Hamra, it's so special to have this place that still conserves and represents Beirut’s essence.
Advice From Henry: Each person should depend on himself and do what he likes or you will reach nowhere.