With a series of Arab designers emerging into the world of fashion, the latest to catch our eye is Haya Khalifa, a Bahraini-based women’s contemporary brand. With experience studying architecture, Haya shifted her career focus to fashion design, channeling these skills into creating modern, deconstructed silhouettes that highlight a woman’s femininity. Haya’s latest collection is inspired by the high priestesses of the Amazighen tribes, and features pieces with hand-embroidered details and crystal embellishments. Vogue Arabia decodes the emerging label’s approach to womenswear.
When did you launch Haya Khalifa and how did the brand come to be?
The idea emerged in 2014 when I was still a fashion design student, working part-time on my mother’s brand. As much as I loved working with my mother and we had planned that I’d take over the brand in the future, I felt that I had a different aesthetic and ideas I wanted to experiment with, something that represents me. However, I didn’t launch the brand until after I graduated in 2016.
Where are the pieces made and how do you source your fabrics?
All pieces are made here in Bahrain, and we have an expert team of seamstresses and patternmakers from the UK. We’ve created a new technique of embedding Swarovski crystals and weaving them into silk threads to create geometrical patterns. It’s a technique we’re going to develop with every collection.
The Middle Eastern fashion industry is constantly evolving. Do you have a vision in mind for the future of Haya Khalifa?
My main focus is to create modern yet classic pieces for the fashion-forward Arab woman. I aim for Haya Khalifa to maintain a level of luxury while providing more ready-to-wear looks, and we’re looking into taking a more sustainable approach in designing and production.
What do you think differentiates the fashion industry in the Middle East from the rest of the world?
I think the market here in the Middle East is very specific – while we’re all embracing international fashion, we’re still attached to our roots and culture. The Middle Eastern woman is fashion-forward and knows exactly what she wants. She loves luxury and demands excellence. While I feel the rest of the world looks for fast fashion and comfort in the industry, in our region the focus is on luxury, well-made clothes, and unique designs.
You mentioned that you draw inspiration from your architectural background. How is this evident in your pieces?
The first things we learned in architecture were the principles of design, focusing more on geometry like the golden ratio and art movements like Bauhaus. Aesthetically, I’m mainly inspired by lines and shapes created in art and architecture. I also feel a connection with history, which is why I like to derive inspiration from existing places that tell stories.
Seeing as you began your design career in Bahrain, is this where you continue to draw inspiration from?
I’m half Bahraini and half Moroccan and I always look to both cultures and heritage for inspiration. The Moroccan culture is quite popular and rich with history but Bahrain’s heritage is filled with hidden gems and stories that are truly inspiring.
Where are most of your clientele based, and do you keep their nationality in mind when designing your pieces?
Most of my clients are here in the GCC, mainly Qatar, KSA, and UAE. I think most GCC women share similar tastes when it comes to evening or ready-to-wear pieces and I always keep them in mind when designing. Each look is designed with a specific woman in mind, while the entire collection can be worn by one woman – one who is confident, elegant, and shares a love for art and creativity.
If you could dress anyone in the world, who would it be?
I’d say the Mara sisters, either Kate or Rooney. I love their style and how they’re not afraid of experimenting with fashion.
Most played song on your playlist?
“Eraser” by Ed Sheeran
Haya Khalifa’s full Spring 2017 is available online and via Instagram.