The magic behind a finished accessory may have always rested in the touch of an artisan, but new digital technologies and software are taking this concept a step further. Bahrain-based Touchless, a sustainable 3D-printed bag brand by sisters Dalal and Fatema Alkhaja, has been quickly gaining ground for its future-facing innovation.
The label recently left its mark at Selfridges in London, where it was selected to present an exclusive collection alongside an impressive roster of global designers. “We were approached by the team at Selfridges earlier this year after they found our Instagram account,” says Dalal. “They were excited about including our brand at their experimental concept store, Supermarket,” she adds about the presentation that was on view until 30 April.
The sister duo was also invited by New York City-based Flying Solo to display Touchless creations at their retail space and join a mix of 65 designers who they hosted at Paris Fashion Week 2022. “What stood out to these entities was simply our sustainable and innovative approach towards design and manufacturing—the idea of distancing ourselves from fast fashion and creating our own unique story for the customers to share,” Dalal states.
3D printing involves creating three-dimensional, solid objects from digital files, and is a proven way of reducing manufacturing waste in the fashion industry. “With 3D printing, only one material is used from the beginning till end—there are no moulds and no excess. At Touchless, we also use a sustainable type of plastic called flexible TPU, which is highly durable and 100 percent recyclable and biodegradable,” explains Fatema.
“What stood out to these entities was simply our sustainable and innovative approach towards design and manufacturing—the idea of distancing ourselves from fast fashion and creating our own unique story for the customers to share.”
Co-founder Dalal Alkhaja
The brand’s story is deep-rooted in the family’s passion for design. “3D printing was introduced to us back in 2012 by our father, who is now the lead concept designer and head of production at Touchless,” notes Dalal. “It has always been a tool that we’ve featured in our university projects, design experiments and prototypes at work.”
The idea for how they could incorporate 3D techniques into a greater vision came about during the COVID-19 lockdown. “We started brainstorming and designing our own tools to allow the family business team to push buttons and open new doors with minimal physical contact,” Dalal states. “Then, we started producing face shields, masks, and many more accessories that would benefit the community during these times.”
The sisters quickly recognised the endless possibilities that 3D printing offers and that they could apply the same technology to design bags that are visually striking, lightweight and can be easily washed at the end of the day. After developing the idea for a few months, they received incredible feedback from friends and family. And this was just the beginning.
The first Touchless design was the Prism handbag, a striking open-top shoulder bag in black and pink, which is the top-selling piece till today. As the sisters’ designs and ideas have evolved, they’ve experimented with new machines to create more intense colour themes in collections like Marbled and Pleated. “Our family is tech-oriented, and we’re all self-taught. We understood the way these machines work, and how to get the perfect print,” holds Dalal.
“At Touchless, we also use a sustainable type of plastic called flexible TPU, which is highly durable and 100 percent recyclable and biodegradable.”
Co-founder Fatema Alkhaja
On the educational front, Dalal and Fatema hail from contrasting backgrounds but share a passion for design and fashion. Dalal is an interior architect and studied in London before moving back to Bahrain to join the family’s event production company, whilst Fatema is studying business and finance. “I wanted to opt for a field of study that I loved and would guide me in pursuing a career in the design industry,” shares Fatema.
Among the brands that inspire the sisters is Iris van Herpen. “Iris is a forward-thinking creator and uses 3D printing, fusing technology and haute couture craftsmanship,” Fatema states. In their own futuristic style, the duo is now looking to create a line of accessories and would like to introduce an interior line in the near future.
Touchless bags are perfect for “head-turners and anyone looking for something different,” as Dalal says. For the brand, fashion is more than just about wearing a handbag. “It’s about carrying a piece of art. A story, and a little bit of fun.”
Touchless is available at Alserkal Avenue in Dubai, Tryano in Abu Dhabi, and AlMashtal Creative Space in Riyadh. Visit Touchlessbh.com and follow @Touchlessbh on Instagram.
Images courtesy of Touchless