“A year and a half ago I got married in Cape Town, and that’s where I was first introduced to this particular style of embroidered glass beading,” explained Mochi designer Ayah Tabari after her presentation on the first day of the Dubai Collections. The Dubai-based Tabari has built her entire brand on geographically-themed collections that put the spotlight on indigenous crafts.
“I’ve looked at some traditional African styles before, but it’s never come across as ‘fashion’ to me,” Tabari confessed. Therefore, she made her own prints and sent them to Kenya for beading application. A first glance at the line-up of barefoot models standing atop tree stumps reveals the collection’s vibrant palette of cobalt blue, burnt orange, and sunset red—but also a number of beige linen looks entirely void of embellishment. “It’s the first time I’ve worked with linen, and it serves to expand the offering—not everyone’s going to wear a tip-to-toe beaded look.” Indeed, the linen shirts help dilute the collection’s punch in a way that makes it current and approachable. Actually, the highlight here wasn’t even the clothes, even though the craftsmanship was notable (“This white jean jacket took three months to bead,” Tabari specified). Rather, the stand-out pieces were the marvelous accessories, especially the graphic and multi-color chokers and disc-shaped beaded earrings.
Most people don’t even have a beginner’s grapple of the vast historical and tribal references involved in “African” fashion—Tabari’s collection offers us a token of the glass-beaded tradition, which will be worn with appropriated celebration, and the craftsmanship remains entirely made in Africa.