The 5.2 million followers regularly checking in with Lebanese influencer and entrepreneur Karen Wazen will notice that there’s something uniquely special with today’s gallery of looks. A timeless, asymmetrical powder pink, spaghetti strap dress; a tie-dye suit with flare pants; an off-the-shoulder, balloon sleeve, A-line dress; and diamond-pattern pant and peasant-shirt all look like something Wazen would wear out in her hometown of Dubai, or at fashion weeks in Milan and Paris, for they entertain something of her own youthful, feminine and flirty, signature style. Separates like oversized jackets, bandeau tops, and high-waisted pants along with daywear dresses of various hemlines in earth-toned or soft pink and blue hues soothe while suggesting play. Meanwhile the silhouettes are cut to flatter women on the move of all shapes and sizes (36-44 France). Yet the sartorial showcase harbors a certain je ne sais quoi; something about the attention to details, fabrics that include crinkle Tencel, cotton and linen blends, and cupro; and the fine edit of looks. That something special is the skillful hand of Emirati designer Madiyah Al Sharqi. Dropping this month is a 28-piece Madiyah Al Sharqi x Karen Wazen summer capsule that represents the first ready-to-wear collaboration of such a scale for both women.
Sheikha Madiyah Al Sharqi explains her motivation for the match, stating that following eight years since her brand’s founding, and taking into consideration the current climate, the time felt right to explore a new direction. “Collaborating with design talents from the region is not unfamiliar to the brand, but a partnership of this scale–an entire ready-to-wear collection–was a first for us. The collection harmoniously captures Karen’s fresh vision and my brand’s trademark aesthetic; it has been an exciting journey to work with her and bring our designs to life.”
Al Sharqi and Wazen’s collaboration can offer a compass for designers across the region. Design partnerships have always offered brands opportunities to express a different layer to their label and connect with customers in a novel and sometimes unexpected way. For women looking for the “perfect” look to maximize feelings of optimism, femininity, and newness, they can rest assured that the two women have explored the wardrobe considering her many sartorial needs.
Read on for a personal conversation on the collection between award-winning designer Madiyah Al Sharqi, whose clothes are worn by Zendaya, Constance Jablonski, Priyanka Chopra, and more, and Karen Wazen, founder of Eyewear by Karen Wazen, whose international collaborations include Dior Beauty, Cartier and Breitling.
MADIYAH AL SHARQI: It’s finally a new year, it brings such a sense of relief and hope for everyone. How were your holidays?
KAREN WAZEN: I agree, I feel a lot of optimism all around. The past year has been so strange and challenging for everyone but my family and friends have kept me grounded. I feel so lucky we got to spend the holidays together.
MADIYAH AL SHARQI: I’ve really been looking forward to the new year, mostly because of the launch of our collaboration. I remember we first spoke about the possibility of it in our Paris showroom last February – just before, life as we knew it, completely changed.
KAREN WAZEN: At that time, I never would have imagined that we would be creating a collection under those circumstances. But in so many ways, it’s made it so much more special and personal to work on something like this for the first time with a trusted friend and collaborator. You’ve been designing for eight years, how was this experience different for you?
MADIYAH AL SHARQI: Like you said, it felt personal, and also a very unusual landscape we had to quickly adapt to. Being confined at home, it allowed a lot more time to discover new sources of inspiration, look back at our brand’s archives with you, sit with our ideas, and refine them. It was also an opportunity to reevaluate the brand’s practices and explore ways to reform them. As the industry paused, it was made to rethink the pace of its production and consumption, and that really motivated our conscious efforts to work with only one source for all of the fabrics being imported this season, cutting down the brand’s carbon footprint, as well as looking into the deadstock of fabric we own and utilizing them. You were very invested in choosing the fabrics and color palette, too.
KAREN WAZEN: It was so important for me that the fabrics and colors we chose brought a sense of lightness and escapism, and could translate into looks that made you feel like you’ve redeemed your long-awaited holiday, but also still feel very versatile as daywear or for an occasion. The bold prints in navy blue and taupe are such statements in themselves; the looks in those fabrics are some of my favorites. The blush silk pieces, off-shoulder dresses in white and olive green can easily transition from day to night. It summed up everything I’ve been looking for in an ideal summer capsule wardrobe. What was your vision for the collection?
MADIYAH AL SHARQI: When we were discussing the direction of the collection back in late May, I was really thinking about what women would be excited to wear in the next season, coming out of a very uncertain year. The collection had to be something that brought a feeling of enjoyment and adventure when you styled it – we’ve all been in need of that after being mostly at home. And I think you really had a strong understanding of that, capturing it through the designs you developed within the collection. What does it mean to you?
KAREN WAZEN: It feels very meaningful that my first co-designed, ready-to-wear collection is with a brand from the region that I’ve always admired. I think it really represents a true partnership, and how we wanted to offer a fresh outlook of our individual identities while bringing our unique design aesthetics together so seamlessly. I’m so excited about the response and hope people will love what we made together! The Madiyah Al Sharqi x Karen Wazen collection will be available from January at Madiyahalsharqi.com, Ounass, Farfetch, Bloomingdale’s Dubai and Kuwait, Rubaiyat Jeddah