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The Dubai-Based Designer Speaking Out About the Arab Identity

Since 2010, the laid-back luxe of UAE-based brand Kage has cut an effortless, so-wearable silhouette on the womenswear scene in the region. Founding designer Basma Abu Ghazaleh lives and works in the maison’s Dubai workshop in a 24/7 crucible of creativity that appeals to a broad range of clients: millennials and seasoned go-getters. With its Spring 2017 collection currently in boutiques, and the Fall 2017 collection freshly showcased during Paris show season, Vogue Arabia looks through the new-season Kage offering and speaks to Abu Ghazaleh about going global, the Arab identity, and tips for aspiring designers.

Born and raised in the United Arab Emirates, Abu Ghazaleh fuses her cultural heritage with an effervescent flair for appealing to the East and West. When asked about the misconceptions placed on the Arab identity, the designer is as bold as her collections. “It is natural to stereotype that which is not understood… so based on what the media perpetuates. I think many people assume the Arab woman is repressed and timid,” she says. “Quite the opposite, really – the women I meet are highly educated and opinionated. They face the same challenges as women around the world – we have our careers, our families and our social responsibilities.”

I think many people assume the Arab woman is repressed and timid

The winter Kage woman is clearly an empowered woman, and a global citizen too. “The Middle Eastern Kage customer loves living in the region but she values travel and the freedom to explore,” the designer says. While the DNA of the brand is ever-present throughout its bi-annual seasonal offerings, there’s a universally appealing, nonchalance to Kage Fall 2017.

Founding designer Basma Abu Ghazaleh of Kage in her studio. Courtesy of Kage

Founding designer Basma Abu Ghazaleh of Kage in her studio. Courtesy of Kage

Fashion Forward was the launchpad for the brand, with three catwalk shows and two presentations wrapped up at the Dubai shows. It’s challenging for regional designers to go global, Abu Ghazaleh says, but after eight years of business, she has some wise words for emerging designers: “Be patient. Think big. International players want to see regional expansion while regional retailers hesitate to take regional brands seriously. It’s quite an interesting challenge but over the years I’ve come to realize that fashion is a long-term game.”

What can we look forward to for Fall 2017? “The unexpected element of Fall 17 lies in our brocade inspired fabrics, which we combined with star and stripe printed material,” says Abu Ghazale. Indeed, the luxurious metallic fabrics, baroque prints, and voluminous frills make for a bohemian rhapsody of wintry separates.

“The Dreamer collection showcases a richer, more glamorous realm, but with our signature free spirit,” she says. With the addition of a ribbed turtleneck, these key pieces tick the boxes for modern elegance, and can be reinterpreted in many ways. The collection is versatile enough for international buyers to pick and mix for their local market. Smart. “My dream is to grow Kage into an international brand through continually evolving our aesthetic,” Abu Ghazale says. From the classic striped shirt to the longline dresses, it’s clear to see how Kage will appeal across cultures.

Kage plays host to a pop-up at Etoile La boutique at Mall of the Emirates on March 28 from 6.30pm – 8.30pm, retailing its summer collection, which was inspired by the 1980s cartoon series Rainbow Brite.  

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