For his spring/summer 2021 couture collection, Syrian designer Rami Al Ali looked to his own memories from Damascus. The Syrian capital is where the designer studied visual arts, honing his skills there before making his way to Dubai. Now, the collection marks a homecoming for the couturier who chose to forego presenting a fall/winter 2021 show in pursuit of a more sustainable future.
While the designer is based in Dubai, his Syrian heritage is ever-present in his eponymous label, and is a major part of his “identity and self-expression,” as Al Ali puts it. “It’s deeply embedded in the brand’s DNA and is often my main source of inspiration,” the designer shares with Vogue Arabia. “Sometimes it’s more obvious, while other times it’s more subtle and indirect through craftsmanship and graphics.” With this collection, the couturier aims to evoke his deeply personal, and vivid memories of Damascene evenings. “To me, it consists of a cool breeze wafting with a sweet Jasmine aroma,” the designer said in a statement. “Calming whispers behind the rosewood mashrabias, muddled with the gurgle of the courtyard fountain and the shadows created by the full moon, like a serene sanctuary – so soulful and peaceful.”
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Translating this to the color palette of the 18-look collection, the pieces come in shades of warm beige and blush hues with the occasional moody black. “I wanted the collection to appear dreamlike,” says the designer. “Almost like a foggy vision as if you are looking at a scene from a dream. Therefore, these light, pale pastel shades helped to achieve that.” Silhouettes range from voluminous ball gowns to sweeping, sleek dresses, with bold jumpsuits and thigh-grazing dresses in between. While created using classic fabrics like satin and silk, almost every piece in the collection is elevated with strong opaque fabrics in dramatic architectural cuts and shapes like overscale ruffles, statement hoods, and abstract bows.
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The year 2020 was a tumultuous one for the fashion industry, particularly in Lebanon. The country is home to many established designers who are still reeling from the effects of the pandemic and the tragic explosion, and thus, a few have chosen to delay their couture presentations. Like designers around the world, Al Ali was not immune to the effects of Covid-19 on the industry, having skipped his fall/winter 2021 show in July. However, the designer remains grateful for being able to push through. “To my luck, being based in the UAE — a country that has handled the pandemic in such a thoughtfully and proactive way — has really helped controlled the outbreak and allowed us to move forward with the collection,” shares the designer. “Also, the decision to skip the July collection saved us a lot in our resources,” he adds. “The feeling is also bittersweet, not to forget many of my dear colleagues from Lebanon who went through severe and difficult circumstances recently that led to the delay in production.”
“I wish all of them the best as they rebuild,” he continues. “I do really miss seeing their creations; competition is healthy and an important element for our professional development.” Being one of the few Arab designers to present a couture collection this season, Al Ali’s role as a creative in the current world is that much more weighty, and the designer hopes his collection can offer the much-needed escapism. “One of the highest purposes of all artists is to create, and through adversity, we appreciate that more than ever before,” he remarks. “Like nurses and doctors heal the body, artists are able to heal the mind by creating something beautiful.”