These Saudi Arabian fashion designers are internationally educated, focused on their home soil, and bursting with creativity.
Aram by Arwa AlAmmari
Born and raised in Riyadh, Arwa AlAmmari has always been interested in art. Her inspiration for fashion design began when she couldn’t find clothing that matched her taste, or that had a traditional Saudi identity. And so, she began designing pieces for herself and the more she did, the more people were intrigued about her outfits. Consequently, her brand ArAm was launched in 2013. AlAmmari obtained her bachelor’s degree in fashion design from ESMOD Dubai; she also holds an MBA from the University of Leicester, and a master’s degree from The London School of Economics and Political Science in policy, planning, and financing.
With her vast educational background and her passion for art and design, AlAmmari managed to make a mark in the fashion world both locally and internationally. She is the ambassador of the Arab Fashion Council and was one of the honorees to win an EmiGala Fashion Award 2022. AlAmmari was also the first Fashion Star Arabia in 2016, with the guidance of mentor and fashion designer Reem Acra. In January of 2020, the BBC named her one of the most creative minds showcasing Saudi elegance on the fashion map. AlAmmari was also chosen by the Saudi Fashion Commission to be a part of the Saudi 100 brand program.
AlAmmari is inspired by Saudi traditional designs and patterns. One of her signature pieces is the unisex Saudi tuxedo bisht representing a modern twist on a traditional Saudi cultural piece that is worn by men. Additionally, she incorporates Sadu patterns with various colors throughout her designs. Creating something new and interesting, telling stories through these creations, and witnessing its influence on people is what encourages AlAmmari to design. What makes ArAm unique is the combination of avant-garde designs with a feminine touch, and a twist of Saudi traditional elegance. “I want people to feel unique and empowered when they wear my statement pieces,” she comments.
When it comes to Saudi’s progression in the fields of art and fashion, AlAmmari notes that the interest in the creative industries has grown so much in the Kingdom. Fashion is considered one of the main pillars of culture and is highly supported and promoted. On embarking on her fashion designing journey, AlAmmari shares a few words of advice: “Have a unique identity, as people want to see something different and interesting. Have a long-term vision and be persistent. The journey of creating a brand that has an influence is long – it won’t happen overnight.” She adds how collaborating with local talents in the community can be a step towards starting a conversation, noting, “You’ll be surprised by how many people aspire to team up.”
Living in Tokyo, Switzerland, New York, and Milan has given Ziyad Buainain the opportunity to broaden his understanding of culture and fashion. Buainain, who is now based in London, holds an MA in fashion design from Istituto Marangoni. Following his studies, he launched his brand during the pandemic in March, 2020, and successfully came through with a unique signature. His creations are all ethically made in London and use deadstock alongside new and recycled fabrics. The label tells its story through striking prints, playful silhouettes, and rich textures.
“The woman I envision while I’m designing is a modern woman who appreciates art and isn’t afraid to stand out – a bold and daring woman,” says Buainain. “We’re living in a time when women – especially Arab women – are becoming increasingly empowered and I would love nothing more than to make them feel powerful wearing my creations.” His bulbous sunrise dress was featured in the debut issue of Vogue Scandinavia,
worn and styled by international model Rawdah Mohamed.
Buainain’s mother introduced him to fashion as a child via her small, multibrand boutique in Al-Khobar in the 90s. The designer recalls seeing
eveningwear and accessories from Prada, Vivienne Westwood, and John Galliano, among others. Buainain shares, “I was always inspired by her style and her love for unconventional clothing. She used to take me on buying trips from a young age, and that’s why I became obsessed with fashion.” He remembers spending hours sketching and draping silhouettes in his room, knowing that one day, he would become a designer, too. To Buainain, fashion is an outlet for self-expression and a language that’s universal, which helps people tell their stories.
By translating an idea, inspiration, or a message into beautifully constructed garments, he hopes to inspire others with a career that, in parallel, makes him feel alive. Reflecting on his lessons learned during these early but formative years, he shares, “Don’t lose your identity trying to please everyone – that will put you in a box and limit your creative potential. Always be open and willing to learn and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Surround yourself with supportive people who believe in you.”
The brainchild of fashion designers and sisters Abeer and Alia Oraif, Atelier Hekayat was launched in 2012, in Jeddah. The brand aims to introduce a new meaning to outerwear, that aligns with the rhythm of its creators. It represents dramatic, daring, and bold designs using the finest fabrics, including lace, silk, organza, and chiffon – with ruffles and bell sleeves on kaftans, dresses, and kimonos – representing some of the brand’s signature pieces.
To Atelier Hekayat’s designers, working in the fashion industry requires more than reading fashion magazines and blogs, or watching fashion shows. It can lead towards discovering themselves as creatives and designers. Their grandfather was one of the founders of the textile department for the Kiswah that covers Al Kaaba in Mecca. During their childhood, the sisters were inspired by the gold threads and fabrics used. The designers, who put all their effort into the brand, share, “We believe in art that comes from the combination of identities, moods, and cultural settings. In Atelier Hekayat, we believe in stories – without a story, there is no creativity.”
Abeer has a bachelor’s degree in international business management from King AbdulAziz University in Jeddah and holds a degree in fashion journalism and fashion business from Condé Nast College of Fashion and Design in London. Her sister and co-founder of the brand, Alia, has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from King AbdulAziz University in Jeddah, and a certificate in principles of design and sewing from the same university. In January this year, she was chosen as a founding member of the Saudi Fashion Professionals Association, a nonprofit fashion society created by the Ministry of Culture under its minister, HH Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan.
“The most important thing is to find a strong story to build your collection. For every beginning there is a story and ours begins with Hekayat,” the sisters share. In their opinion, nothing has taught them quite like their first year working in the industry, as it’s a quickly evolving and challenging one. Yet, through perseverance comes reward. In 2019, the Ministry of Culture named it one of the Kingdom’s most successful brands, offering it the Certificate of Excellence, among hundreds of fashion designers. Atelier Hekayat was also invited to participate in the Fashion Futures Event. In 2020, the brand was chosen to be a part of the Saudi 100 Brands Exhibition.
“We want women who wear Hekayat to feel proud. Proud for choosing us, and to represent themselves wearing our brand,” state its co-founders. “Having people’s trust is priceless.” Their advice to young designers is to maintain their creativity, follow their dreams, and avoid comparison to others. “Be yourself and you will succeed. Most importantly, work with what you have – because fashion never sleeps.”
Originally published in the June 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia
Style: Mohammad Hazem Rezq
Hair: Gül, Huwaida
Makeup: Daad Alduhami
Photography assistant: Naif Alquba
Style assistants: Jawaher Aldokheel, Raghad Almadani
Local producer: Mustafa Alamasi
Creative producer: Sam Allison
Model: Asmaa Al Turk