Qatar’s fashion industry has thrived over the past decade, from local entrepreneurial designers making a name for themselves one hashtag at a time, to local investment firms acquiring Valentino and the French premium fashion house of Balmain. To ensure the fashion industry’s growth in the region, Qatar has invested in arts education. In 1998, Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts opened a branch campus in Qatar (VCUQ). The college offers five different art majors, including fashion design. This was the first step Qatar took to show it is investing in its creative youth to contribute to the industry in the years to come. It has been almost two decades since VCUQ opened its doors in Qatar, here contributor Alessandra Al Chanti looks to the stories that have progressed beyond the campus walls.
Tamader Al-Sultan is a Qatari VCUQ alumna who argues that success comes from tailoring designs to the consumers needs. “Qatar has amazing opportunities for those who understand the market, it’s all about knowing what the people demand,” she said. Al-Sultan also suggests that a market for Qatari fashion designer aesthetic and taste is present and in demand, as “a lot of the local designers know exactly what Qataris want.” Amna Ahmed Al-Misned, a Qatari senior at VCUQ majoring in fashion design, is the proud owner of her abaya brand, Terzi. Launching her brand in 2012 was her way of doing what she loves before she enrolled at VCUQ. “I thought that if I couldn’t pursue my passion through education I would start my own business while I had the chance to design.”
Following her passion and starting up her own local abaya brand was what pushed her to pursue her dream of becoming a fashion designer, by degree. Her brand focuses on creating “simple yet timeless” abayas that women can feel empowered and comfortable in.
The lack of job opportunities for local designers, especially fresh graduates, has not stopped them from making a name for themselves— in fact, it seems to be the motivating factor to create their own brand and see their craft come to life regardless of the obstacles in their way.
Al-Misned agrees that progress is slow but improving, “there are still a few stereotypes about fashion that I wish we could break but generally I think there will hopefully be more appreciation and recognition of fashion in Qatar.”
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