Since launching her namesake brand in 2012, Nora Al Shaikh continues to draw on her Saudi heritage to create versatile and on-point pieces that are relevant to the East and West. Case in point: The Jeddah-based designer’s Pre-Fall 2019 collection, which she unveils exclusively on Vogue.me. Inspired by a recent trip to the Kingdom’s mountainous, southwestern region of Asir, the offering explores all the beauty that the destination has to offer. “Visiting Asir is a magical experience because it’s so different from other regions of Saudi Arabia with its mountains and verdant valleys,” states the designer.
During her trip, Al Shaikh made sure to visit the city of Abha, and Asir’s centuries-old souks. She lists The Tuesday Market as a must-visit. “You’ll see jars of locally harvested white and gold honey, traditional embroidered dresses, distinctive straw baskets and hats, as well as shab, a white powder that’s used as a natural antiseptic by locals,” she recalls. However, it was the Asiri women that served as the starting point for her new collection. “They were strong and independent women who not only raised families and grew crops along Asir’s terraced fields, but also created a unique visual language through the clothes they wore and their homes, which they decorated with distinctive geometric patterns,” she explains.
Known as Al-Qatt Al-Asiri, the ancient female traditional interior wall decoration is ever-so-present in her designs, appearing on billowing gowns, white halter tops, the waistband of flared trousers, and on the sleeves of black abayas. The designer reimagines the ancient tradition in a contemporary way by stitching graphic embroideries on delicate mesh tulle, which she layered over colorful crepe satin and taffeta. The collection also comprises eveningwear in the form of slinky, silk gowns in red, pink, and emerald colorways — the hues that traditionally make up the ancient wall decorations.
With her offering, Al Shaikh hopes to dismantle pre-conceived misconceptions about Saudi women, by shedding light on these oft-overlooked traditions. “After spending time in Asir and reading up on its history, if there were three words I would use to describe Asiri women they would be pride, resilience, and creativity,” she notes. “They are a people who are very much proud of their distinctive heritage and eager to share it with visitors. These were women who toiled in agricultural fields, built homes, and carried their produce over long distances, while raising a family. And despite living in harsh conditions they managed to create beauty through the materials that were available to them. This can be seen in their traditional clothes, basketry — and the traditional homes they built and decorated.”
Nora Al Shaikh is stocked at S*uce boutiques across the region, Dress Me Fashion Store in Doha, and Cugini Boutique in Jeddah.