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This Qatari Label is Empowering Arab Women with its Contemporary Abayas

If Qatari ready-to-wear label 1309 is looking beyond its shores, it’s only after strengthening bonds with Arab women at home.


Photo: Courtesy of 1309

Qatar’s only ready-to-wear brand, 1309, is pushing sustainability and fashion forward. Its founder and creative director, Ghada Al Subaey, shares that its textiles are vegan, packaging is biodegradable, and it practices zero waste. “I want to empower the Arab woman,” states Al Subaey of her vision. “Throughout the years, we’ve dressed in brands from the West – but what do we want to wear? And how do we make it contemporary and even futuristic?”

Photo: Courtesy of 1309

Also Read: How the Abaya is Giving Saudi Women Identity Ownership

She started with conceptualizing the abaya, which she notes, in Qatar, was historically very traditional. “Teenagers who transition to women and start wearing the abaya – it’s something no one talks about – it’s very hard. It was black, and personally, I felt like it put me down,” she shares. “I want to put it on and feel feminine; like it adds to my outfit.” Her brand, established in 2015, embodies a cool, contemporary vibe that celebrates women through empowering silhouettes, bold colors, and hand embroideries. “I’m trying to speak to women of every age. Western designers want to get into the Arab market but it’s time for us to reach the global market and make abayas fashionable.” She doesn’t hesitate to collaborate with regional counterparts, with a recent collection created with Jordanian brand Nafsika Skourti. “You see designers from around the world trying to redesign the kimono – that’s what I want to inspire with the abaya.”

Photo: Courtesy of 1309

The designer comments that today, women are “very different.” Arab women are “ambitious, with big dreams, and are on the go. They want to evolve and take care of themselves.” Her desire to reach out to women saw the birth of the 1309 community, launched during lockdown. “Everyone’s mental health had become affected,” she notes. She hosted Saudi Nouf Hakeem, who spoke about maneuvering a fast-paced life, and recently held a beach cleanup, as well as hosting meditation sessions. “Women don’t need another fashion brand,” she states. “What we need is a solid brand with values that heal, rather than add to the toxicity of the world.”

Read Next: Qatar’s Sheikha Reem Al-Thani on Bringing Arab Art and Museums Into the Future

Originally published in the February 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia

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