He established Omar Munie Clothing in 2006, and his bags became such as success that in 2008 he received a "Best entrepreneur under the age of 25" award in the Netherlands.
He has also designed telephone covers, and key-hangers and bags for Samsung, of which over 18,000 have been sold. He’s still only 25.
What makes him tick and how did he do it? Omar Muni was kind enough to make time for me in his schedule so I dropped by his workshop in The Hague for a brief chat.
"I have always wanted to make beautiful things"
Omar Munie leather, sheepskin and satin-lined bags and accessories are all handmade. People identify them as "African" because of his use of material and colours, while others describe them as "exotic". I mention this and Omar says he does indeed draw his inspiration from Africa, and that he developed an interest in fashion at quite a young age.
Why bags, I ask. Omar smiles and says: "I have always had a passion for bags. I designed clothing too at the beginning of my career, but I can express my creativity better with bags. I am 25 today and when I reflect on the dream I had at the age of 17, it is the very same dream: I want to make bags. It’s what drives me, and as long as this remains it makes me happy."
"I am a proud African"
At the age of 9, Omar and his family fled to the Netherlands because of the civil war in Somalia. He’s lived in the Netherlands ever since, but remains fiercely proud of his origin.
He talks a bit about what growing up in the Netherlands was like, and how once discovering his need to follow a creative path decided to attend fashion school.
Augustina Austin with Omar Muni
"You have to hold on to your dreams"
"The beginning of my career was not easy, especially when you are judged on the colour of your skin. That makes it difficult for you to sell your product. I would visit retailers to show my products and not only did they not believe they were my designs they also thought I must have stolen what I was showing them. This was hurtful in the beginning. But every difficult moment turns out right. I make beautiful things and I am driven. My work didn’t come out the way it is from one attempt, but from constant practice. When I talk to people now they they think I’m older because of my experiences and my success to date."
"Perseverance is important. If you know you can make something nice, you have to hold on to that dream and figure out the options you have at that moment."
With respect to his schedule, he says "My work is never too much for me. If you have a good schedule, you can do anything. So I am never too busy."
Omar opened the Omar Munie Clothing retail store in Rotterdam in 2009, and his handbags are also available in 20 outlets in the Netherlands. He also gives workshops to his customers: “I make each bag carefully by hand, so during the workshops I give people the opportunity to own a beautiful bag they’ve made themselves.”
More information about Omar Munie, his bags, accessories and workshops are available at his website (also check him on Facebook and Twitter).