As the UAE celebrates its 49th National Day, there’s no better time to #buylocal. There’s a special relevance, too, in the fact that supporting local, smaller and emerging brands is so pertinent following a Covid-induced tough financial year for the fashion industry. Despite the challenges, Emirati designers are continuing to create, infusing their signatures with fresh inspiration found in unprecedented times. Here are eight Emirati designers to put on your radar…
Celebrating her homeland has been a driving force behind HH Sheikha Mariam bint Khalifa bin Saif Al Nahyan’s contemporary fine jewelry brand, MKS, since its launch in 2013. The UAE’s illustrious heritage – from date farming to camel racing and fishing – informed a previous collection of charm bracelets, each one individually hand-knotted in silk by the women and children of the UAE-Jordan run Mrajeeb Al Fhood Refugee Camp. In celebration of UAE National Day, Sheikha Mariam has created a unique UAE passport pendant in gold, a stunning keepsake to treasure forever.
The daughter of the Ruler of Fujairah may use fabrics from Italy and France but she is determined to keep production of her ready-to-wear label, local. Al Sharqi continues to impress, season-after-season, with her retro-infused pieces and pastel-hued signature. Silk shirts, asymmetric skirts and ombre-effect dresses should top your wishlist.
Combining tradition with eclecticism, designer Fatma Al-Otaiba has created a luxury accessories brand that speaks to modern women. Odeem was launched in 2018 with an emphasis on quality skins and craftsmanship: think lizard-trimmed top-handle bags and mini buckets in a Pantone that will take you from day to evening.
Shamsa Al Omaira’s artistic inspiration comes from childhood memories and philosophical theories; her ideas are expressed through a variety of media, from painting and photography to printmaking and mixed media installation. As a result, her designs are timeless and conceptually strong, provoking nostalgic sentiment through her use of gold, diamonds and sapphires. For her collection titled Portrait of the Century, she celebrates female empowerment. “As a female artist myself, my inspiration for this collection is women, their resilience and vulnerability, their strength and beauty, their devotion and support of each other.”
Founded in late 2014, Twisted Roots was established by designer Latifa AlGurg as a response to the lack of modest clothing available in the marketplace. Today, her designs remain true to her early vision, with versatile tailoring (primed for creative layering), modern abayas and shirt dresses with flared cuffs.
Working with locally based skilled artisans, jewelry designer Noora Shawqi weaves her heritage through her collections – beautifully chic designs inspired by the elegant Emirati women she was surrounded by growing up and their love of fine jewelry. Her most recent collection features pendants, bangles and rings in Mother of Pearl and diamonds, in a Maldives Pantone of ocean turquoise, sand and sunset pink.
This Dubai-based ready-to-wear label offers a supremely modern take on the abaya, with utterly wearable pared-down designs that would form the backbone of any modest wardrobe. Founded by creative director Yasmin Al Mulla and her elder sister Nesreen, the duo have already collaborated with some major luxury brands, including Tiffany & Co. and French perfumer Ex-Nihilo.
Founded in 1990 by artist and creative director Rafia Helal Bin Drai, Mauzan is one of Emirate’s longest-serving labels, loved for its signature cuts and elevated abaya designs. Most recently, Bin Drai joined five other Emirati creatives chosen by luxury watch brand Vacheron Constantin to be a mentor on their six-month educational program aimed at empowering young undergraduates of Zayed University.