Her Excellency Hend Al Otaiba, the first ever woman Ambassador to France for the United Arab Emirates donned a made-to-measure gown by Emirati designer Ahmed AlKhyeli for the French state dinner at Versailles Palace, Monday evening. The soirée, hosted by President Emmanuel Macron and First Lady Brigitte Macron, was held in honor of the first visit of His Highness Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to France as President of the United Arab Emirates. This is President Mohammed’s first global visit; His Highness stated, “I was pleased to arrive in France, a close strategic ally of the UAE, and meet my friend President Emmanuel Macron.” The President continued, “Our countries enjoy longstanding partnerships across many fields. We look forward to further collaborations and strengthening ties towards a prosperous future.” The President was accompanied by Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, Deputy Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Council; Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and minister of the presidential court; Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed, Managing Director of Abu Dhabi Investment Authority; and Her Excellency Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth, among others.
AlKhyeli, whose couture house Khyeli is established in London, shares, “When I launched the brand, I knew I wanted to create for women of value. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate that intention, the union of Emirati creativity and its political leaders. To design for the first female ambassador of the UAE in France honors our devotion to women who live to make change and deeply moves me and the team that supports me on my creative journey.” He explains that the gown is made of 20 meters of pure silk georgette and lined with seven meters of pure silk satin. The skirt is made of 12 panels of widely cut georgette that allow for a smooth transition between the sculptural 12-piece bodice and the fabric rich hem. The gown was finished with some 120 Swarovski crystals hand sewn to the neckline. It took over 150 hours to complete the custom-made look with a seamstress hand delivering it from London to Paris ahead of the state dinner.
To honor this unique moment in history, and to mark the occasion, the French high jewelry maison Chaumet bestowed Her Excellency a magnificent, 100-year-old patrimonial bow-knot corsage brooch designed by its founder Joseph Chaumet. Made in 1922, it features baroque natural pearls, diamonds, gold, and silver, and is inspired by the ribbons dear to Queen Marie-Antoinette and the jeweled garlands of the Belle Epoque. Chaumet’s bow-knots symbolize the bonds of love and affection in the tradition of sentimental jewelry. The eternal tie between two beings, the knot that is carefully tied and presented to the world claims a pledge of serene love. Chaumet President Jean-Marc Mansvelt remarked that he considered the opportunity to bestow the patrimony piece for Her Excellency for this occasion an honor for the maison. The director of patrimony Claire Gannet was on-hand to personally pin this remarkable piece of jewelry on Her Excellency’s Khyeli gown, with its Middle East team having had collaborated at all hours with the Paris-based patrimony team to secure the jewelry, which otherwise never leaves its Place Vendôme address.
Preceding the state dinner, Ambassador Al Otaiba partook in state meetings, choosing Paris-based Saudi designer Ashi for a made-to-measure crepe tuxedo shirt and pleated skirt, which Ambassador Al Otaiba chose to wear to welcome President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan at the airport on Sunday. This look offered a chic nod to the tuxedo, traditionally embodying empowerment, and elegance. The skirt is soft and pleated, also in eggshell white, a signature hue of the couture house. “Being Saudi and Her Excellency Al Otaiba from the UAE—for me, this embodies the spirit of collaboration between the two countries,” remarks the couturier. “I was honored to contribute in my way.”
Ashi offered a second look, a suit, made of crepe and light as air, an elegant choice for the particularly blazing summer’s day heat. The jacket silhouette is inspired by the New Look era led by Dior, marking the influence of women’s soft power. “It’s very empowering to both women and men to have an Arab woman take this position,” he commented of Ambassador Al Otaiba’s role. “To have the opportunity to work with Her Excellency closely during these moments has been an honor for myself and my team.”
Below, captures of President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President Emmanuel Macron, and Ambassador Hend Al Otaiba on the special day.