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Inside the Two Dubai Workspaces of Renowned Syrian Couturier Rami Al Ali

Ultra-organized, full of life, and infused with the fragrance of jasmine. A renowned couture designer opens the doors to his world.

Photo: Rohit Sabu

Syrian couturier Rami Al Ali has long been mesmerized by the effect that appearance has on people. “I used to watch my mother getting ready to receive guests, observing how her personality changed, her posture transformed, and her confidence grew. And in return, I witnessed how we changed towards her – it was all because of the shift in her appearance, because of the dress she wore,” he reminisces. At the time, he didn’t know what fashion design meant, but he understood its influence. Today, Al Ali’s designs are worn by high-profile celebrities such as Aishwarya Rai, Beyoncé, Eva Longoria, Nawal El Kuwaitia, Jennifer Lopez, Mona Kattan, and Yousra, to name a few.

The Dubai-based couturier works in two separate spaces – his office, and his atelier, both located in the Dubai Design District. “My office is where I keep all my books, my MacBook, and sketching pads,” says Al Ali. It’s a quiet, isolated space on the ground floor where the designer does most of his research and lays the foundations for any new creation. “It’s primarily used for planning and is where I conduct meetings, build strategies, analyze numbers, and delegate tasks.” Al Ali’s second space is inside his atelier. In contrast it’s situated on the energetic, colorful first floor surrounded by fabric swatches, embroidery samples, and a mannequin for exploring draping techniques. “It’s where the execution happens. It’s where I bring my ideas to life, work alongside the rest of the team, and engage in creative activities,” he describes.

Photo: Rohit Sabu

Al Ali’s favorite place to work is his atelier. “It’s where I’m surrounded by all the references I need and feel energized by the creative atmosphere,” he elaborates. The designer prefers a minimalist space bathed in neutral colors to allow for any theme or concept to fit seamlessly with the environment. Al Ali shares, “I’m quite a classic case of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder); everything must be organized first for me to be able to focus. Believe it or not, I even find myself organizing public spaces sometimes without noticing, like restaurants or airport lounges, and even friends’ houses when I visit.”

The designer is quite loyal to his two workspaces and rarely creates elsewhere. “I like to be familiar with my surroundings to be comfortable while working. I like the same corner, position, and the way it’s organized.” He does carry a small sketchbook with him to write notes or make quick drawings while at home or traveling, but he will only elaborate on those ideas once settled in a familiar space. “I need a good Wi-Fi connection to use various apps for building mood boards and collecting references.” All Al Ali’s senses need to be engaged and stirred for him to work enthusiastically; therefore, “having my MacBook, fresh flowers with a pleasant aroma – like jasmine from my garden when it’s in season – and background music are essential for creating an engaging and inspiring atmosphere.”

Photo: Rohit Sabu


Photo: Rohit Sabu

Al Ali is most creative in the quiet mornings and late evenings when there are fewer distractions. Sources of inspiration for his designs come to him organically and naturally. “It could be a conversation with someone, a scene from a movie, or a sentence from a book – anything genuine that touches my emotions and provokes my feelings,” he says. The designer’s office is filled with books he has been collecting over the past 25 years. “These cover various topics, including fashion, art, crafts, and biographies. They all serve as constant sources of creative inspiration.” When Al Ali is outside, he’s always observing and absorbing. “The results of my outdoor experiences usually manifest later during my work process,” he shares.

Known for his exquisite couture, bridal, ready-to-wear, and kaftan pieces, Al Ali envisions the women wearing his clothing as “beautiful, glowing from within, confident, knowledgeable, and possessing a strong sense of individuality. She is intellectual in her own unique way.” Al Ali goes beyond his designs to honor women. In 2019, he took part in an exhibition with the aim to shed light on the women’s art movement in Syria, emphasizing the colossal role female artists play in shaping the nation’s cultural scene. A year later, he launched Ard Dyar, a space designed to support emerging Syrian talent across the world. He now oversees a mentoring program at the Esmod fashion institute in Dubai, with internships at the Rami Al Ali atelier.

Photo: Rohit Sabu

Each collection has taught Al Ali invaluable lessons and provided insights on what to do differently. “The more success you achieve, the more difficult it becomes to sustain and raise the bar. As creators, our biggest challenge is to continuously prove our originality and build trust bridges between ourselves, the media, and clients. With the abundance of offerings in the industry and clients being more educated, it’s not easy to provide something truly impressive,” says Al Ali. Not one to ever be discouraged, he adds, “As a designer, all my work is close to my heart.”

Originally published in the October 2023 issue of Vogue Arabia

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