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The Arab Designers Report: Your Guide to Supporting Local Talent

Arab designers report, buy Arab designers

Photographed by Ali Sharaf for Vogue Arabia

As the world undergoes a social and economic crisis, there has never been a more crucial time to look within the region for fashion buys that not only help designers continue to create but also strengthen the local ecosystem.

Encouraging consumers to invest in homegrown brands has been a long-term initiative of Vogue Arabia which was only propelled further with a full-blown campaign. What started off with a tiny print reading #BuyArabDesigners on the cover of our February 2019 issue grew bigger as some of the biggest Middle Eastern celebrities joined us in our initiative. As a Pan-Arab title, we have the responsibility to showcase the best of our region, which is why in this project, we engaged brands and personalities from as many Arab countries as possible.

And now, we have compiled a comprehensive guide of trends and the Arab designers to have on your radar, hoping to make it that much easier to lend your support to the region’s creatives.


Trend: Dare to Dream

Meet the fantasists, who preserve the craft of couture with designs that are what dreams are truly made of. Inspired by the Middle East’s rich social scene and desire for ‘glamor,’ they continue to create without boundaries, bringing us cloud-like chiffon, intricate beadwork, and soul-enlightening silhouettes.


Designers: Darin Hachem and co-founding creative director Fernanda Gallardo
Brand: Darin Hachem

Darin Hachem and Fernanda Gallardo

Darin Hachem and Fernanda Gallardo. Supplied

Lebanese designer Darin Hachem and her co-founding creative director Fernanda Gallardo, from Mexico, are based in Milan. The result? A multicultural brand with a future set firmly on the global stage.

FG: Do you remember when we met?

DH: It was the introductory day of our Istituto Marangoni intensive year. I arrived in advance, as usual, and you entered too! Basically, we were the only two people in a big room, waiting for the class to start.

FG: What are you most proud of?

DH: This is a tough question for me because I’ve always had trouble with this type of feeling it’s hard for me to say I’m proud of something I’ve done. I’m appreciative of the background I’ve got, where I come from…

FG: Was there anything along the way you were worried wouldn’t work out?

DH: Our jobs are made of worries and doubts – it has never stopped and it never will. At different phases, we faced different uncertainties and there were many times I thought the whole project might end. We were friends who had to work together, which meant interacting non-stop 24/7: arguing, agreeing, disagreeing, and all of the mood swings linked to that.

FG: Is your heritage present in the collections?

DH: Yes, I think there’s a mix of things I’ve acquired along the way. For example, from Lebanon, I love all those earthy tones that surround us on a daily basis.

FG: How do you see us utilizing digital in the future?

DH: The digital world is inevitable; it was a natural evolution for the fashion industry in general following social changes and adapting to the demands of consumers. We will have to adapt, too, each time there is a shift in consumption habits – this is how it goes.


Trend: Tailored & Timeless

Reject season-specific fads in favor of precision-cut separates and quality add-ons. Call them effortless, anti-fashion, no-nonsense staples but styled in an individual way. Chic blazers (Madiyah Al Sharqi), timeless everyday bags (Halm) and elegant tailoring with a twist (Lama Jouni and Darin Hachem).


Designers: Shaikha Noor Al Khalifa and Shaikha Haya Al Khalifa
Brand: Noon By Noor

Shaikha Noor Al Khalifa, Shaikha Haya Al Khalifa

Shaikha Noor Al Khalifa and Shaikha Haya Al Khalifa. Supplied

Founded in 2008 by designers and cousins Shaikha Noor Al Khalifa and Shaikha Haya Al Khalifa, Bahrain-based label Noon By Noor is a regular at New York fashion week, with an emphasis on sharp tailoring and clean silhouettes.

Shaikha Haya: What about yourself do you think your project most into our designs?

Shaikha Noor: My love and appreciation for strong cultural references, men’s tailoring, and minimal silhouettes – which actually reflects us both.

Shaikha Noor: What are some of the favorite places you’ve visited?

Shaikha Haya: The Maldives, for sure; it was a few years ago now but I absolutely loved the laidback island life feel. Milan is another favorite – the city’s architecture is stunning and so fundamentally different from anything else on this planet.

Shaikha Haya: What has surprised you most about the fashion business in New York?

Shaikha Noor: I’d say more inspiring than surprising are the creative, daring minds you meet from all over the world and all walks of life, racing to share their personal vision of art and design.

Shaikha Haya: What about the SS20 collection do you think we did particularly well? Is there anything you would have done differently?

Shaikha Noor: Balancing the duality of fragility and strength was a key part of this collection and the positive reaction we received after the launch made it all worthwhile. There is always room for improvement but I would never change anything about past or current collections – our label’s DNA always shines through and that in itself is an achievement.


Trend: All Ears

From modern geometrics to handcrafted techniques, the best statement earrings offer an insight into the designers’ colorful heritage. Their stories are all different – some look to their childhood, others to local surroundings, architecture or the spirit of bygone eras – but each represents a powerful and above all else, uplifting message.


Designer: Basma Abu Ghazaleh
Brand: Kage

Basma Abu Ghazaleh

Basma Abu Ghazaleh. Supplied

Muses: “Ideas come in many different forms; through travel, nature, decades past or present. I tend to design items that I feel are missing in the current fashion climate.”

SS20: “Sustainable, transitional, and contemporary.”

Regional fashion scene: “There are opportunities given to creatives locally, whether through initiatives such as Fashion Trust Arabia or the community at Dubai Design District. Designers are able to come together for industry and pop-up events and support one another.”

Social media: “Having a digital presence is invaluable; it expands our reach on a global level. Social media has led to an increased amount of Middle Eastern designers being discovered and showcasing their collections in London, Milan, Paris, or New York.”

The future: “Given the current global pandemic, I do feel that the impact on the industry and how it operates will be reviewed. Other virtual mediums will be explored and people will start to rethink their strategies.”


Trend: White Out

Evening elegance meets sleek tailoring in a purist’s dream color palette. Think breezy white dresses from the likes of Noor The Label and Kage, soft suiting by Arwa Al Banawi and Maison Rabih Kayrouz, and period-inspired shirting by Reemami and Nabil Nayal – looking to the past to find new in the present, these designers have updated a wardrobe classic in cropped, ruffled or dramatically exaggerated silhouettes.


Trend: Small Wonders

There’s a common aesthetic many Middle Eastern handbag designers embrace: box shapes, exotic skins, metallics, and brass-work – in short, ladylike, elegantly structured designs that have become a staple of the local and international social scene. Take, for example, previous Vogue Fashion Prize accessories winner, Okhtein, whose signature miniaudière top handle bags have been spotted in the hands of everyone from Demi Moore to Queen Rania. The following miniatures by regional designers are guaranteed to make a maximum impact…

Photography Ali Sharaf
Style Barbara Baumel
Hair Olivier Lebrun
Makeup Alice Ghendrih
Casting V&Y Casting
Production La Belle Production
Model Rawiyaa Madkouri at Elite

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