With all of the recent tragedies occurring across the globe, including the ongoing Syrian crisis, the flooding in Houston, Texas, and the devastating mudslides that claimed thousands of lives in Sierra Leone last week, it’s refreshing to remember the number of triumphant men and women who are channeling their influence and talent towards supporting those who are less fortunate. Just recently, Amal and George Clooney partnered up with Google to help educate 3,000 Syrian children in Lebanon. On that note, we decided to shine a light on the inspiring Arab women in the fashion industry who are empowering other women and giving back to society. Whether they’re raising funds for charities or advocating for the environment, these 12 trailblazers are dedicated to making a difference in the world.
HRH Princess Basma bint Majid bin Abdul-Aziz AlSaud
HRH Princess Basma bint Majid bin Abdul-Aziz AlSaud is the president of the Art of Heritage initiative. It is affiliated with Saudi Arabia’s oldest charity, Al-Nahda Philanthropic Society for Women, which was founded in 1963 by the late Queen Effat Al Thunayan. Art of Heritage aims to reinvigorate Saudi traditional dress while empowering women to earn incomes. Under Her highness’s leadership, all of the garments are produced by more than 100 female artisans who are employed full-time.
HH Sheikha Shamseh Al Sharqi
The daughter of HH Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, the ruler of Fujairah, HH Sheikha Shamseh Al Sharqi hosts Zero Nine, an annual charity exhibition in Fujairah, which showcases a wide collection of clothes, accessories, home decor, cosmetics, and gifts by businesswomen from the Middle East and North Africa. Each year, the exhibition draws attention to a different local charity.
HH Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan Al Nahyan
Ataya, which means “giving” in Arabic, is the prestigious annual charitable exhibition that takes place in Abu Dhabi. Created with the support and vision of HH Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan Al Nahyan and organized by the Emirates Red Crescent, the expo serves as a platform to support talented individuals as well as regional and international small businesses, by inviting them to showcase fashion, jewelry, and lifestyle designs. All proceeds go to charity.
Lebanese-Australian model Jessica Kahawaty has joined the Louis Vuitton for Unicef appeal to raise awareness and funds for children affected by the Syrian civil war. Kahawaty visited Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan to provide support and aid for families and children affected.
Rawan Maki is a name you need to know. The Bahraini environmental engineer turned designer is the brains behind an all-sustainable namesake label. Her clothing brand is built on the concept of using reusable, low-impact materials and fabrics in an effort to maintain and protect the environment.
Darzah– an ethical fashion range of hand-embroidered shoes, handbags, and homeware – is the brainchild of professor and humanitarian Janette Habashi. The initiative aims to better the lives of marginalized women in Palestine while preserving tatreez, an age-old embroidery technique passed down from generation to generation.
Sarah Beydoun, founder of Sarah’s Bag, works alongside female prisoners and ex-prisoners in Lebanon. Beydoun designs the bags before the inmates and women who have completed serving their sentences create them by employing artisan-trained techniques.
Syrian-born Yara Tlass, designer and founder behind jewelry label uSfuur, works in partnership with grassroots charity organization Watanili so that a percentage from each sale goes towards supporting displaced Syrian communities in need.
Céline Semaan founded her label the Slow Factory back in 2012, with the goal of using fashion design to increase awareness of global human rights issues – most notably, the refugee crisis. This is something she has a strong personal connection with, since she and her family fled to Canada from Lebanon as refugees in the 1980s.
Designer Nour Najem created a non-profit organization called the Kenzah Foundation, which aims to preserve artisanal crafts in the region that are on the verge of extinction. This knowledge is then passed down to underprivileged women, who can use the skills to empower themselves, while keeping traditional crafts alive.
The Lebanese-Palestinian is the founder of UAE-based bespoke handmade doll company Dumyé. For each doll purchased, another doll is gifted to an orphan or an underprivileged child, who will then have the opportunity to create their own Dumyé doll at a workshop.
Alongside her co-founder, designer Rabih Kayrouz, Tala Hajjar launched non-profit organization Starch. The platform selects a number of up-and-coming local designers and helps them for a year develop their collections, branding, and distribution.