Out of the many things to come out of the pandemic, an increased appreciation for traditional crafts has been one of the most significant in the sartorial world. As the sentiment is shared by the industry across the globe, Emirati designer Shatha Essa Al Mulla is presenting her version of “garments with a story”, with her namesake brand’s latest collection titled Ethereal Oasis.
Unveiled exclusively with Vogue Arabia just in time for the warmer months, the collection has all the makings of a relaxed and breezy offering for summer but also features a special collaboration. This season, Shatha Essa turns the spotlight on artisanal work, teaming up with Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council to create misbaha for the collection. The Sharjah-based organization is known for supporting artisans and designers to empower women professionally and socially while flying the flag for traditional and modern crafts. Each misbaha is handcrafted from wood and tassels and attached to the kaftans and jalabiyas, which are sure to be a wardrobe staple come Ramadan.
The focus on handicrafts and women empowerment is made present throughout the collection as the designer enlisted Tunisian artisans specializing in hand-woven buttons for her designs. The country also served as Al Mulla’s inspiration alongside the UAE, reflected in the embroidery of the date palm tree which is native to both nations while the dot and square embellishments are a nod to British artist Paul Klee’s abstract paintings inspired by Tunisian trees and gardens.
Below, find out more about the collection and the collaborations from the designer herself.
1. What brought about the idea of creating misbaha as part of the collection?
I would always see both my grandfather and my father holding a misbaha. If I think of the culture and the tradition of the UAE, I always think of the misbaha – it’s a beautiful item that is worn and used by people I love around me. The misbaha is also an accessory that people love having and they like to talk about the different stones it’s made out of. It was very important for me to introduce this into the collection while giving it a modern twist. So, I used wooden beads and I created the tassel design which mimics the branch of a palm tree.
2. Why was it important to incorporate traditional crafts in this collection?
Personally, as a designer when I start designing a collection it’s very important for me to create a story behind each piece. Every garment produced has a different story to tell. Traditional crafts are something I value very much which is why I strive to have a touch of it in all of my collections. One way is bringing back amazing crafts and another is to support women all around the world.
3. What about artist Paul Klee inspired you?
In general, abstract paintings always tend to grab my attention. As I was researching the rich culture of Tunisia I found the amazing series of paintings that Paul Klee painted during his visit to the gardens of Tunisia. I loved the fact that he used brush strokes to mimic what he saw and incorporated all the colors in those gardens; colors of the flowers and the leaves. He even added brush strokes of tiny dots mimicking the pollen scatter. And not to mention the addition of the abstract trees in between those palm trees for the final finish of the painting, it’s just perfect.
4. What are your favorite pieces in the collection?
Well, I obviously love them all, but if I were to secretly choose one, it would be the off-white dramatic balloon sleeves with embroidered circles in shades of green and cream. I love this piece because of its beautiful cut, which we worked on with my team for over a month to perfect. The circles of embroidery symbolize the Henna pattern that my grandmother used to have drawn on her hands every Ramadan/Eid. I relate to it on a personal level.
5. How do you envision the pieces being worn?
I would like each and every person wearing those designs to feel that she’s wearing not only a kaftan, but an art piece with a story behind it. And to know that by wearing Shatha Essa, she is actually also supporting women all around the world.