Six Middle Eastern Designers Share Their Tips On Breaking Into The Industry
From their first jobs to the inspiration behind their collections, they’re full of expert advice…
Whether it was being discovered on Instagram or using philanthropy to create a world-class bag collection, these six Middle Eastern designers tell us how they broke the mould and are now taking the world of accessories by storm.
Profession: Founder and Designer at Oscar Tiye shoes
I like to create shoes that have timeless, feminine silhouettes but still look innovative and fresh. This season I introduced a modern four-centimetre block heel that’s not very chunky – so it’s more sophisticated and cool.
I studied in Milan at the European Institute of Design. I wanted to be a fashion editor first and then to have my own shoe brand. I worked as a fashion assistant and then editor for publications including L’Uomo, Vogue US and GQ in New York City. I then went back to Milan and began my shoe designing journey. In the beginning I went to the renowned area for shoe making, Riviera del Brenta near Venice.
Zoe Saldana wore my shoes during Star Trek Into The Darkness movie premieres [in 2013] before I had even launched the brand. Having all of these gorgeous women wearing my shoes including Gigi Hadid and Kylie Jenner is such a huge compliment, but even more so, I love seeing women in other industries outside of entertainment wearing them because that tells me the brand is really loved.
My personal style is very eclectic. It varies a lot based on my mood. And as a Gemini I have a lot of moods. But it’s always pretty minimal and feminine, with a gangster touch, I’ll wear a hoodie with stilettos.
I always loved Nicolas Ghesquière. His era at Balenciaga is one of the things that made me fall in love with fashion. I also adore Miuccia Prada as she is constantly reinventing while staying true to the brand’s core.
It’s important to me to be well represented in the UAE. Level Shoes was the first ever store to buy my brand so it has a special place in my heart.
My advice to aspiring designers is to never give up. Sometimes things get hard and it’s important to try and stay positive. It’s been a bumpy road and a very long journey for me, people don’t see how hard it wasto get here or how many failures I’ve had before I reached my goals. I never stop and think, ‘Ok, now I’m successful.’ I am always looking ahead.
The collection is available at Level Shoes, The Dubai Mall (800) 5383573 and levelshoes.com.
Profession: Owner and Jewellery Designer of Donna Hourani
Every collection comes from a different inspiration. It can be a myth, a place, a single person or at times, nature.
Don’t try to wear something that’s not you just because you like it on others, it never comes off as attractive. You should always be comfortable with what you wear and definitely go for what you like without worrying about the trend or what other people are wearing.
My first showcase in Paris at the Faux Showroom last October 2016 was an exciting and eye opening experience. I learned the ins and outs of the industry and it gave me a broader picture of what I envisioned for my brand. It also made me appreciate that as an emerging fine jewellery designer, I am part of a movement that helps uplift Middle Eastern design talent on to the global stage.
I’m currently in the process of designing a cool new showroom in Business Bay, Dubai where I’m going to sell my jewellery and host people if they just want to hang out.
I mainly buy my clothes from other local designers and friends because I truly love their designs. My favourite designers include All Things Mochi, Kage, Madiyah Al Sharqi and Nathalie Trad. I believe in encouraging young designers and women in this region and industry.
The collection is available at donnahourani.com.
Profession: Owner and Shoe Designer of Andrea Wazen
My S/S17 collection is a homage to my Arab roots. As a designer from the Middle East we are often inspired by Western and foreign cultures. This time I took a closer look at what the Middle East has to offer in terms of history, architecture and art.
My shoe styles are a mix of simple cuts with an edgy twist. I really like to work around trims and lining details. I also aim to design shoes for working women, entrepreneurs and full time mothers who like to wear on-trend and fashionable pieces, but that are also comfortable and easy to wear for both day and night.
My favourite accessories this season are the really cool smart phone purses that everyone is wearing right now, how practical! I also love the trendy take on ankle bracelets.
I will be stocked Internationally by September 2017 – this will be a memorable time for the brand. This month also sees the launch of andreawazen.com which will ship worldwide.
The collection is available at andreawazen.com.
Profession: Owner and Fashion Designer of Huda Al Nuaimi
My S/S17 accessories line draws inspiration from eighties fashion and the late pop icon, David Bowie. The collection showcases glitter, pompoms, tassels, gunmetal and lots of colour.
Website matchesfashion.com really changed the game for the brand. As a label we have been established for six years, however a meeting with Ruth Chapman, the founder of the global fashion site, really established our brand internationally.
I truly believe accessories make an outfit. It is the piece that takes a look from simple to fun, from day to evening, or from casual to polished. It’s key to get the right balance and know how and when to accessorise.
It’s all about statement earrings this season. The most fun I have is when I accessorise with prints. The more you clash textures and colours against prints, the cooler the look gets.
We are expanding the accessories line with signature wallets and bags. This collection will also be showcased at London Fashion Week this September which we are very excited about as it will promote the brand further internationally.
The collection is available at matchesfashion.com.
Profession: Owner and Creative Director of Sarah’s Bag
The flamboyant energy and dazzling colors of the seventies discothèque era was my inspiration. The S/S17 collection embodies the bold attitude and flashy colorful palette with lots of glitter, shiny hand-beaded pieces and rainbow Perspex.
Inspiration can come from the most unlikely people and places. Me, my partner and sister, Malak and my design team play with various ideas before one sticks – for me, no idea is too farfetched. The Middle Eastern culture and the arts have featured strongly in our work and I’m sure will continue to provide inspiration for future collections.
I launched Sarah’s bag as a project to empower underprivileged women. In Lebanon we currently work with 200 women, some of whom are prisoners and ex-prisoners to give them a second chance. These women are our artisans and they create the signature handwork and decorative elements on our handbags and accessories.
I’m in love with accessories and I often build my outfits around them. This applies to jewellery, bags and scarves. I let my accessories do the talking and this is how I express myself.
I love Stella Jean for her eclectic mix and I also absolutely adore the disco vibes of Givenchy which go so well with our current collection.
I’m currently expanding our online shop sarahsbag.com. I’m creating an online platform that’s as close to a flagship store experience as you can get. There, shoppers can discover exclusive collections and create their own personalised bags.
The collection is available at Tryano, Yas Mall, Abu Dhabi. (800) 879266.
Profession: Owner and Creative Director of Nathalie Trad
My new collection is inspired by an imaginary sensory voyage across a fictional city. It’s a universe of fantasy and paradox where modernity and old-world glamour magnificently unite like a mirage. I brought the collection to life by infusing iridescent tones of mother-of-pearl with colours of tangy chartreuse, dusty rose, hammered gold accents and industrial steel.
I like to think of my creations as architectural works on a small scale. Louis Kahn, James Stirling, Walter Gropius, Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid are some of the architects whose aesthetic and philosophies have impacted my design thinking and some of my pieces.
I developed a strong penchant for asymmetric designs – that today forms the basis of my line – when I completed my degree at ESMOD International in Paris. In 2008, I relocated to New York to further pursue this vision. There, I obtained a BBA in Design and Management from Parsons The New School for Design and worked under the mentorship of an industry-leading accessories designer at Proenza Schouler.
Establishing the brand internationally came by luck. An image of one of our clutches posted on Instagram caught the attention of an Arabian princess from the region, who shared it with her friend who happened to be a buyer and boutique owner in New York. The rest is history. Our label is now sold in over 24 cities worldwide but I don’t forget we are still a young brand and still have a long way to go.
I love to shop directly from the designers in the region. Bouguessa, Sandra Mansour and Taller Marmo are just a few of my favourites.
Going hands free is the chicest accessories trend this season. Purses on belt straps seen at Stella McCartney and Louis Vuitton are playful and fun.
The collection is available at Tryano, Yas Mall, Abu Dhabi. (800) 879266.