Now more so than ever, there’s a global feeling to collections created by Middle Eastern designers. A mixed heritage, education in Europe, travel and popular culture can all play a part in steering designer musings but equally, there’s a greater interest from ‘outside’ – a spotlight on our regional design scene and modest dressing in general – that is influencing the way local collections are considered and curated.
When, in March 2018, the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman stated that women were no longer obligated to wear a traditional black abaya in Saudi Arabia, providing the attire is “decent and respectful,” the declaration echoed a feeling already embraced by some of the region’s designers and women worldwide who were finding new ways to dress modestly by layering readily available designer pieces or experimenting with coat-abaya styles.
Take for example Somali influencer Rawdah Mohamed, a regular at fashion week who has been redefining modest style codes by taking high-street and designer separates, and layering them chicly in what she refers to as an East-West mix. And she’s just one of many who are finding new ways to embrace a covered look without compromising on personal expression or creativity.
While creative layering remains popular, there’s no denying the practical merits of a key modest wardrobe item such as the abaya – especially during the summer months. Effortlessly elegant, there’s a throw-on-and-go ease that appeals from day to evening.
Deconstruction, artful embellishment, hybrid tailoring, a limitless color palette, and fabric experimentation has resulted in more choice than ever before, with brands including CHI-KA (artisan-made silk kimonos, kaftans and abayas), I Am Mai (minimalist capsules by Emirati designer Mai Albudoor), Hessa Falasi (traditional abayas with a modern twist), and The Kape (artistic prints and embroideries on high-quality fabrics), challenging conventions and offering abaya designs that are wearable and accessible to a wider community.
As temperatures across the region continue to soar, we’ve created an edit of abaya styles (shop above) in cool fabrics and lighter color palettes that are versatile, practical and timelessly chic…