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Dima Ayad Pens an Emotional Letter About Her Late Mother, Who Inspired Her Latest Collection

Photo: Courtesy Dima Ayad

Dubai-based designer Dima Ayad dedicates her newest collection to her late mother, bringing life to her lasting elegance once more. Here, she pens a heartfelt tribute

There was a song I heard many years ago that stuck with me and gave me chills every time I heard it – Mat Kearney’s ‘Closer to Love’. There’s a line that goes, “We’re all one phone call from our knees.” I got that call. And suddenly everything changed. In a split second I lost the most precious person in the world to me, my mother. November 28, 2021, will be a date imprinted in me forever.

“She’s in a better place,” they said. “She’s watching over you,” they said. “She’ll never leave you,” they said. “She’s not here,” I said. My saving grace every time I feel it’s too painful to bear is that this is a life lesson we all must endure – we will all grieve someone at some point and that is life.

My bright, seven- year-old niece asked my sister, “Mommy, what do you remember most about Teta?” My sister’s answer was instant: “Her elegance.” I would have replied exactly that and added to it many anecdotes. My mother was effortlessly elegant. It was a characteristic that made her the envy of many. Even as adolescents in the 80s, my sister and I saw how other women (and men) looked at our mother. It wasn’t just what she wore; it was the way she moved, uttered, glanced, spoke. She was an aristocrat – blue-blooded, and we aspired to look like her, to mimic her as much as we could.

Mom barely wore any makeup and believed in looking natural. I’m the same. If I were to think of her colors in the 80s, they were bronze, brass, latte, and often red and all its shades. When she found something she loved, she bought it in every color. I recall Carita nail polish – a shade that mixed bougainvillea fuchsia and red. No one else wore it. Or if they did, it sure didn’t look the same on anyone else.

Mom had such a refined sense of fashion and wore labels like Max Mara, Lanvin, Ellen Tracy, Issey Miyake, and Dana Buchman in her later years. She always discovered brands – Nicole Farhi back in the day. I remember her Fendi handbags, Gucci clutches, Dior dresses, YSL pants, and Chanel bags and accessories, all perfumed with her distinct Clinique Aromatics Elixir. Mom loved pastels, knits, a bit of bling, and linen, and we always marveled that she looked like the models in fashion magazines. We used to stay up late sometimes and watch Dallas with her – we caught Sue Ellen Ewing wearing pieces Mom had in her cupboard. Dynasty, too.

Photo: Courtesy Dima Ayad

How do I pay tribute to you, Mom? In everything I do. I will stand tall, the way you asked me to. I’ll push through, the way you taught me. I’ll work tirelessly to make you proud of me in everything. We’re very similar, Mom and I – both Aquarians, both into fashion, both stubborn, opinionated, and definitely both living in our own bubble most of the time.

I’ve been going through all our WhatsApp conversations, which mainly consisted of food journals – something new she’d discovered, a restaurant I craved to take her to, and screen shots of clothes. Her opinion mattered and so did mine. I feared and respected her opinion when I launched a collection. She was always brutally honest and was vocal about her likes and dislikes.

Mom’s name is Iman. Iman means faith. I decided to pour all my grief into a collection in her honor–the Faith collection. I went into Iman’s archives, her colors, and her preferred silhouettes, and created this collection. Abayas at home with a twist, a breathtaking selection I inherited, were recreated in this collection.

Photo: Courtesy Dima Ayad

Remaining true to the Dima Ayad aesthetic, it has bling, it has warm tones–using blush pink, burgundy, creams, and navy blue. For some more dramatic pieces, I chose electric green, gold, and some shimmery tulles that are lightly textured. There’s something dreamy and romantic about it. Faith is made up of a selection of fabrics: a mix of lamés, plenty of pleats, and comfortable evening wear that is ideal for the coming months.

Photo: Courtesy Dima Ayad

The collection comes in a series of colors, just how Iman would have wanted it, and in all shapes and sizes, of course. It is timeless and can be worn for a long time to come. I had two models on set, somewhat mimicking my sister Myrna and me. I was forever the curvy one and Myrna had her own unique aesthetic. I had the models’ hair tied back exactly how my mother wore hers in her final years, and let the clothes speak for themselves.

Mom, if you’re watching, I want to thank you for making me who I am. I love you deeply. This one’s for you.

Your baby, Dima.

Photo: Courtesy Dima Ayad

Originally published in the March 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia

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