They are on course to win the Middle East’s biggest fashion competition. So what’s firing these young designers’ creativity? The finalists open up about their muses, background, and where their designs will take us.
Ibrahim Shebani: Born In Exile
“What’s inspiring me right now is that I really want this. I’m working so hard because this is one of the greatest opportunities I’ve had in my life. I know that I’m bringing something new to the table, something that hasn’t been exploited before. It’s virgin territory.
“The eternal muse of Born in Exile is Libya; the culture and the women of the country. But we are also influenced by politics, by the movement of people. When you migrate, you take your story, your skills, your experience, and your style with you. Then you influence the new society that you move to. I try to stay true to that. It’s where I come from and what built me as a human being first, then a fashion designer.”
“The support that we are getting as young Arab designers from the Vogue team is incredible, as well as the gathering of all these creatives at one event to celebrate each other’s dreams. My first muse was always my mother, as my first exposure to fashion was through her wardrobe. I have cut so many of her dresses and coats to repurpose them. And she’s still mad about it!”
“The latest big moment for me has been the crisis of Covid-19. It’s been a test for me as a creative and as a person, but one day I woke up and I said, this will not stop me from achieving what I have worked for all this time.”
Harith Hashim: Harithand
“Growing up in a family who loves art and painting made me engage with art at a young age. I was certain that I had so much to give, and the feeling I get when I create and sketch is something else.
“Every confident, smart woman is my muse, but whenever I want to design something, I imagine Queen Rania of Jordan or Olivia Palermo wearing it. They play a big role in developing my designs. I think what has kept me going in my career is the feedback from our clients. It makes you want to do more!”
Eric Mathieu Ritter: Emergency Room
“A lot of the brand is based on upcycling – what visually informs the creativity is what we find. We look at what’s available and the quantity and then that inspires the design. There’s lots of trial and error to see what works.
“I really like the whole Vogue Fashion Prize process because it makes you question what you’re doing and look in black and white at what you’ve done and what you’re going to do. It’s a process I enjoy.”
Mohamed Benchellal: Benchellal
“While I’m working on my craft I always look forward, never back. So what’s inspiring me about the Vogue Fashion Prize is that I’m taking everything a step slower, looking at what I’ve done and having an overview of what I’ve achieved in life. It’s a very inspiring element. I’m always busy with my new work, so to actually profile yourself in that way is very encouraging.
“This is the moment I’m most proud of in my career, especially with this prize being affiliated with the Arab world. It gives me a lot of pride and a lot of energy to go and do more.”
“I love to open a book and read a story, close my eyes and imagine the clothes and scenery. When I’m in Morocco and smell the scents, see the colors, and feel the textures, my mind flies into imagination and stimulates me to create and free my creativity. Morocco and the women I grew up with have always been a source of inspiration for me.
“The energy I’m feeling at the moment is inspiring me, the excitement and gratitude towards the Vogue Fashion Prize jury, being in the flow, and enjoying the good energy I have in me to take me further.”
Sarah and Siham Albinali: Lurline
“The fact that we get to be a part of this process with many talented MENA designers is so inspiring! Seeing a progressive initiative powered by NEOM on sustainability is very motivating for us to be innovative and mindful at the same time.
“Lurline’s general design aesthetic leans towards emboldened feminine silhouettes with a soft goth nature. We are greatly inspired by films; B movies in particular. We also love the evocative nature of the color red, which is Lurline’s favorite color.”
“I get inspired by women that I admire and feel connected to, whether artistically or morally. Music is my second passion and each collection has its own playlist and feel.
“I am humbled and excited for this chapter of my career. I feel closer to my goal than ever. It has been a tough year for everyone, but the Vogue Fashion Prize process is making me hopeful and I know it will push my creativity to design for the future.”
“I am usually inspired by people close to me. My mother is the ultimate example of strength, love, kindness, and sacrifice, and she still inspires me with every design and piece I make. Even when I am on the other side of the world, her essence stays with me when I am designing a collection.
“Everything I do and design starts with the feeling of passion; it is the fuel to my energy when working. The Yousef Akbar brand is about challenging convention in cutting and construction of garments while maintaining elegance and femininity. It is the voice I use to deliver my message and express in the form of fabric worn on the body.”
“Having lived my entire life in Egypt and graduating from the American University in Cairo with a film degree, I grew up in the ideal environment for pursuing design. I draw upon my family’s unique roots and my vibrant surroundings to create intricately handcrafted pieces with a modern female spirit in mind, empowering women to powerfully embrace and express their individuality with bold yet flattering pieces.
“I’ve done a lot of reflecting during this tough year and part of that reflection has been an increased awareness of myself and my surroundings, and my responsibilities towards the Earth. My commitment to ethical and sustainable practices is the main inspiration through the Vogue Fashion Prize process.”