Nine years ago, Omani designer Amal Al Raisi launched Dar Al Aseel, a label featuring traditional kaftans and abayas. The mother-of-two has since switched gears to expand her design portfolio with the launch of a contemporary ready-to-wear line alongside her traditional label. Today in Muscat, in the arabesque interior of the Al Bustan Palace Hotel, Style.com/Arabia will witness the launch of her rebranded Dar Al Aseel Ramadan 2016 collection alongside members of the Omani royal family including HH Dr. Khawla Julanda Al Said; HH Sayyida Hujaija Al Said; and HH Dr. Basma Al Said; as well as HE Maitha Al Mahrouqi, the Under Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism; and HE Abdullah Khamis Al Raisi, Admiral of the Royal Omani Navy.
Style.com/Arabia’s Nouriah Al Shatti speaks with Al Raisi to discuss her new global ambition and learn how she intends to elevate her Omani heritage through her designs.
ON DESIGNING HER OWN WEDDING DRESS
I started designing by coincidence. I was getting married and I couldn’t find a wedding dress that I wanted. I ended up designing it myself and I received a lot of compliments. I concentrated on my Henna dress the most—a green, traditional Omani dress rather than a white bridal gown. People were asking me, “Who’s the designer of that dress?” I thought, “This is something that I enjoy doing,” and everything took off from there.
ON REBRANDING HER FASHION HOUSE
I launched my traditional dress label Dar Al Aseel nine years ago before expanding into abayas and eveningwear gowns. Last year, I felt that it was the right time to launch a ready-to-wear line and I rebranded my fashion house as Dar Al Aseel by Amal Al Raisi. Under this umbrella label you will find By Amal Al Raisi (the ready-to-wear line) and Dar Al Aseel (the traditional line). Each line follows a different calendar but the collections complement each other. The Ramadan collection and the classic collection for Dar Al Aseel respectively launch after the Spring 2016 ready-to-wear collection and Fall 2016 ready-to-wear collection.
I want a woman in Paris to be able to find her contemporary pieces from my ready-to-wear collection, and a woman in the region—looking for a more modest style—to be able to layer the same pieces with an abaya from Dar Al Aseel.
ON USING TRADITIONAL TECHNIQUES
Obvious or not, my collections will always be linked to my Omani heritage. For the By Amal Al Raisi Spring 2016 ready-to-wear collection and Dar Al Aseel Ramadan 2016 collection, this important link is conveyed via dying techniques that are used to create traditional Omani dresses. We incorporated this process by hand-dying our fabrics the traditional way—using natural dyes such as flower pigments—which ties in with the floral inspiration behind the collections. The pieces also feature our custom-made lace and embroidery techniques.
ON HER TRIBUTE TO THE SEVEN OMANI REGIONS
The Dar Al Aseel Ramadan 2016 collection features seven exclusive pieces that are a tribute to the seven Omani regions. The designs complement the Spring 2016 ready-to-wear collection in terms of colors, fabrics, and embroideries—but are purely Omani in terms of silhouettes. You can see from which region a woman comes from based on the way she is dressed. In one part of the country, Omani women wear three-piece sets—a combination of a short dress over tight trousers and a long head cover. In the southern region the dress silhouettes are loose; short at the front and longer at the back. In another region, women wear a one-piece kaftan.
It’s very important for me to stay true to my heritage and to promote Oman as much as I can. Even for this launch, it was important that it be in Muscat—I wanted to be with the people that have supported me for all these years.