Maya Nakhleh Abawat is a small, beautifully delicate woman. A doting mother and wife, posting photos of her idyllic family on social media, with a generous handful of sweet emoticons. One may for a second believe that she is just that, a really sweet, wonderful woman. A quick scan of the business she has created and the accomplishments under her belt, and we can’t help but do a double take. That sweet adorable woman, is also an astute business woman and more importantly a visionary.
Why is it that when we imagine a savvy entrepreneur we see a woman in a cowboy costume guns ablaze, or worse, sharks circling the waters searching for blood…
In 2004 this Lebanese beauty dived into the world of handbag making, and she hasn’t come out of the water yet. Her genuine passion for her trade means that she has immersed herself completely. She sleeps, eats, breathes and dreams of her label, and it shows.
Like most creatives, this comes naturally. There is nothing forced about her obsession with handbag making. It flows through her blood, it is part of who she is. Where there is Maya Nakhleh Abawat there is Maïa N.
A graduate of Central Saint Martins School of Art, and Ecole de la Chamber Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. Maya always knew she wanted to be in the luxury fashion world. What started off as a haute couture atelier in Beirut, quickly turned into the burgeoning accessories label that it is today. Specializing first and foremost in the manufacture of crocodile handbags, Maya also produces some fabulous crocodile ballerinas and mules.
Maïa N. is one of a handful of brands that works in the crocodile handbags trade. Sourcing her skins from traditional Parisian suppliers notorious for snubbing small business owners. These Hermés sources for exotic leathers have embraced Maya because she knows her stuff and she brings in the orders. A technical wizard, a hands-on manufacturer and savvy entrepreneur, Maya can visualize the process from A-Z while still selecting her skin. There is no hesitation and that is precisely how she has grown her business, No Fear.
The only Arab accessories designer with a substantial corner at famed Parisian luxury department store Printemps, Maïa N. is comfortably sandwiched between Fendi and Prada. A clear indication of where she sits in the luxury market today, and it is impressive to say the least.
When chatting with Printemps President Paolo Cesare over a cup of coffee, the topic of Maya Nakhleh brings to his face a look of awe, his feelings towards her tap dance between great respect and total bewilderment. The way he sees it, an unlikely combination of factors come together to create the powerhouse that is Maïa N.
That’s just it, Maya has created a new flavor to the luxury handbags market. She has disarmed the infamously snooty industry, with the most human touch.
Maya Nakhleh is well connected, born with a silver or perhaps diamond spoon in her mouth, it is only natural for her to attract the appropriate customers. With over 80% of her business coming from Arab Royal families, the achievement is to keep them as customers and that she has done brilliantly.
Where luxury accessories brands have raised their levels of arrogance to appear more exclusive, Maya is a sophisticated yet familiar voice, personally attending to each of her clients with the expertise of a manufacturer and the gentle touch of an old friend. Always in head to toe Chanel, Maya talks their talk and walks their walk. Her approachability only enhanced by her knowledge and understanding of the trade.
How many times have you tried to purchase a luxury item from either an arrogant sales manager that loves the word, not possible. Or worse, a Chanel clad teenager that calls up her manager every time you ask her a question.
We pick the brain of this intriguing woman, only to find a genuine woman with a heart of gold, here is what she had to say…
When we ask the part Polish mother of one (Um Alex) what her secret of success is…
She mentions her perfectionism, which she admits is not always a good thing. It does however ensure that nothing passes her by. Her two cents worth to aspiring entrepreneurs is to depend on yourself mostly. We all need a little help along the way, but no one understands your vision like you.
Depend on yourself mostly. We all need a little help along the way, but no one understands your vision like you.
As for sources of creative inspiration…
Maya is actually most inspired by human interaction, she is curious and learns from the people around her. When she is not working she loves to surround herself with loved ones. Her family a constant source of support and affection. If you are ever looking for Maya, you can find unwinding at a spa, or dining at Annapurna or Plaza Athénée’s Le Relais.
As for her personal fashion philosophy…
This woman clearly has a weaken for Chanel, ‘when in doubt wear Chanel’. Her timeless elegance is characterized by her red lip, red nails and understated jewelry by Joanna Nakhleh, a bright star in her own right in the fine jewelry business. A beauty secret that she shares with us is, the Shiseido foundation, that she swears does wonders for her skin.
As for what she would do if she was stuck in an elevator with Warren Buffet…
She would say,
I am Lebanese, I have an luxury accessories brand, and I have the best clients in the world !