Rawan Azhar, the Jeddah-based founder and designer of the abaya brand Ta Marbota, began her career in fashion the day that she decided to design abayas for herself and her close friends. Here, Azhar speaks to Style.com/Arabia on building her brand; her new collection, “Yamam”; and her new studio in Jeddah.
ON GROWING UP IN JEDDAH AND FINDING HER CALLING
I grew up in Jeddah and my mother was very much into fashion. She was always spending time cutting new patterns and sewing dresses for herself and her friends. Even so, never before did I think that one day I would be in the fashion industry. In fact, I graduated from college with a Bachelor’s Degree in Management Information Systems. I then started to look for a job, but I couldn’t find anything that satisfied me.
ON DESIGNING HER FIRST ABAYAS
Since abayas are the traditional costume in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, I began to design and choose the fabric for my own abayas. People around me were struck by the simplicity and elegance of the abayas I was wearing, so they started to take my opinions and ideas and apply them to their own abayas. This inspired me to design ten abayas and display them to my friends and relatives. This first foray into abaya design (in 2009) showcased light, simple colors with a soft combination of silk and lace.
ON HER FASHION CAREER THUS FAR
After this first experience, I felt that I had finally found my calling. I started reading, exploring, and studying many online fashion courses. In the beginning, Valentino inspired me a great deal. The cutting, the embroideries, the colors, and everything that pertained to his designs amazed me. In 2010, I created my first official collection, “Waves.” Afterwards, people started to notice the Ta Marbota brand. Since then, we have made five collections.
ON HER NEW COLLECTION, “YAMAM”
Travels, books, art, people, and cultures inspire me and each collection has its own story. I always start any collection by selecting the fabrics and colors and then I execute the design step. I have also maintained the same material that we have used for our abayas from the beginning: a very soft and light crepe fabric. After the powerful elegance of the black and white dominating my previous collection, “Patterns Mania II,” this new collection, entitled “Yamam” (which means “Dove”), captures precious moments of contentment and freedom, offered by the delicate, breathtakingly beautiful side of nature. A flow of hand-stitched birds; a rich selection of crepe, organza, lace, and sequins; and an infusion of colors make “Yamam” a personal journey.
ON HER NEW STUDIO
The studio is the place where we dream, reflect, and create everything. It is a very comfortable, classy elegant place that is divided into three parts: the by-appointment showroom, my office, and our workshop.
ON HER EXPANSION PLANS
My hope is to one day launch Ta Marbota studios in all of the Gulf countries, and to reach the level of the high fashion brands in Paris and around the world. My own dream is for Ta Marbota to become an aspiration for all women.
Shop Ta Marbota at www.tamarbota.com.
As told to Caterina Minthe