Arwa Al Banawi‘s ‘suitable woman’ – the designer’s fictitious archetype that serves as her muse – relaxes her sartorial direction for 2018, and is all the more bold for it. Taking a strong lean towards athleisure, the Banawi woman just wants to have fun. The Saudi designer previews the new collection titled ‘Banat’ (‘Girls’) on Vogue.me and exclusively tells Vogue about her new collaboration with Apple, which will be officially unveiled in Dubai mid-January.
Banawi is a former investment banker turned founding designer of her own namesake label (in 2015, that is) who confidently blends her cultural heritage growing up in Jeddah, Germany, and Switzerland. She is a citizen of the world and fuses together influences from East and West with ease: the loose silhouettes work for conservative dress codes but wouldn’t be out of place at a power lunch in Shoreditch, London. Albeit her penchant for styling witty T-shirts and color-pop suiting is an obvious universal go-to. Humor manifests across the collections in English/Arabic catchy phrases that have proved to be so Instagrammable.
For Spring 2018, the designer celebrates strong women and reinterprets power dressing from the ’80s, with a chilled so-2018 twist. Banawi’s storyboard for the collection sees the likes of Grace Jones and Michelle Pfeiffer collaged next to David Bowie and Michael Jackson. “The collection was inspired by the rebellious, strong, revolutionary women in style from the 80’s,” Banawi tells Vogue. “Music plays a very big role in my life and it inspires me a lot in my designs.” The collection is what ‘the suitable woman’ “would wear from dinner to her party,” adds Banawi. The slogan ‘Banat’ punctuates the collection, emblazoned across neon pink hoodies and in Arabic on supersized jackets. The call for fun is inherent in each piece (that turquoise sequin jacket is like Miami Vice on ice).
Banawi turned to photographer Saeed Khalifa to capture the retrolicious, girl-power vibe; “His work is very artistic and dreamy but he still knows how to keep the identity of the woman I aspire to.” The candy pink backdrop and trial of forgotten roses that feature throughout the shoot are sufficient emblems of the ’80s era; a nice supporting role to the collection itself.
Far from winding down a busy year – with a fresh collaboration with Levi’s where Banawi reimagined the iconic Trucker jacket – Banawi already has her next creative project inked into the diary two weeks after we’ve all cheered in the New Year. The Saudi designer is a believer in sharing her creative process with loyalist customers and followers on social media. So to little or no surprise, Banawi has officially teamed up with Apple to deliver a workshop on how to sketch using the iPad and iPencil to sketch ideas. While anyone can enrol, student from Esmod will be encouraged to join the course.
“The collaboration with Apple is an opening to collaborate with this awesome company that I use in my daily life,” Banawi tells Vogue. “I am such an old school that I refused to leave my sketchbook and coloring pencils and move to an iPad to sketch but after I was introduced to the technique last year I got hooked.” Banawi would haul about hundreds of pencils and sketchpads alongside the usual essentials a woman needs. “Now I just carry one pad and the iPencil in my bag. I always say you never know when inspiration kicks. It changed my life.” Here we witness a regional designer leave no marks as to where her comfort zone sits: transparency and artistic exchange are welcome here.
In a flurry of neon polka dots, collaborations (expected and unexpected), and an already busy schedule for Jan in place, the house of Arwa Al Banawi is clearly where it’s at.
Arwa Al Banawi Spring 2018 will be available from mid-January in Sid Boutique, Riyadh; Life Boutique, Jeddah; Larmoire De Lana in Beirut; The Box Boutique in London; and Sauce Boutique in The Dubai Mall. The Arwa Al Banawi X Apple session will take place at Apple’s flagship store in The Dubai Mall on January 13th, 2018.
Related Read: Arwa on her collaboration with Adidas