June 13, 2024

Saudi Designer Zahar Al Sayed Offers a Glimpse Into Her Daily Life

Having reimagined one of the country’s most essential fashion pieces, Saudi designer Zahar Al Sayed offers a glimpse into her daily life.

Photo: Omaima Alshareef

When not working at her full-time job as a public relations and events manager at Seven, creative and cultural consultant Zahar Alsayed is busy designing clothing for The Abaya Factory. Having founded it in the summer of 2012, Alsayed says of her company, “We were one of the first brands that introduced colored abayas when all women used to wear black abayas.”

Photo: Omaima Alshareef

With a master’s degree in graphic branding and identity from London College of Communication, Alsayed broke into the world of fashion by complete coincidence. “I was introduced to my (now) husband Ahmad Angawi, a product designer, who had a brilliant idea of an abaya that turns into a jacket by removing from its sides, adding functionality to the design,” she says. At that time, in 2012, her husband needed a graphic designer who could help him brand the idea and make it come to life. Alsayed was interested not only in the brand’s identity, but also in the creative direction and fabric selection process, and the rest is history.

Photo: Omaima Alshareef

Today, when the Jeddah-based designer is not working from her space in Zawiya 97, she’s in her office located near her home where her tailors are based. The creative shares that she enjoys the process of making a mess and reorganizing everything. Her atelier is full of samples and sketches with numerous experimental pieces she tests herself before moving forward in the production process. Alsayed explains that she can work from anywhere as long as she has a sketchbook, a pen, and a strong internet connection. “My lucky charm is my parrot, Skittles; he brings me so much joy and good energy.” She also prefers to listen to Moroccan music while crafting.

Photo: Omaima Alshareef

When the weather is beautiful, Alsayed enjoys working outdoors at Al-Balad or the Corniche. With that being said, Alsayed’s absolute favorite place to work is at her friend’s studio. “It inspires me to create,” she states. “My friend is the type of person that we don’t need to have a lot of social battery for each other; we can stay in silence while doing our own thing. We also laugh and have great meals and deep conversations in that studio. It’s modern and has so much character.”

Photo: Omaima Alshareef

A typical workday for Alsayed begins with a 45-minute barre workout, followed by coffee and her nine-to-five job in luxury marketing. Once off work, she makes a to-do list, works on scratching tasks off it, obtains samples of fabrics, and makes sure all orders are delivered within three working days. She tries to be in bed by midnight at the latest. The Abaya Factory aims to release two collections a year, in addition to custom-made orders. “During Ramadan, we usually design kaftans as well,” says Alsayed. Each collection has a theme. The latest colorful collection called Alwaha (The Oasis) showcases vibrant prints and was inspired by and shot in AlUla.

Alsayed, who credits her mother as her ultimate inspiration – for her patience and unconditional love and for having shared her knowledge of textiles with her from an early age – now draws most of her design inspiration from her travels after seeing how different cultures work with varied cuts and silhouettes. “When I go to Mecca, I see textures and colors of textiles that really inspire me,” says Alsayed. Working with luxury brands, attending high-profile events, and constantly meeting with clients also motivates her to create elegant clothing. All The Abaya Factory’s abayas have a side zipper to transform into jackets, making the pieces practical for women who have multiple types of events and places to be in through the day. “We were also the first brand to make matching pants with the abaya to look like an outfit or even a suit when worn as a jacket, or to camouflage with the pants when worn as an abaya,” adds Alsayed. The designer envisions those who wear her clothing as women who “love to do more than one thing a day, and elegant women who pay attention to detail.”

Originally published in the June 2024 issue of Vogue Arabia

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