From fashion to accessories, female designers are taking the lead in the fashion industry.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day today, Emirates Woman speaks to six noteworthy designers based around the GCC on how they’ve made their mark and how they wish to continually inspire the next generation of women as they occupy unique positions in the fashion industry.

Lilian Afshar
@lilianafshar

Lilian Afshar

The internationally celebrated brand – L’AFSHAR, founded by creative director Lilian Afshar has gained worldwide popularity due to its minimal impact on the environment while designing meticulously crafted bags.

What inspired you to become a bag designer?

 

The love to create with the business part just following.

Who have been your mentors throughout your career?

My mother who runs the business with me has been a working woman since the age of 18 and her experience has been key in the growth of the brand.

Whom do you admire in the fashion industry?

Christine Centenera. I really admire her style, her work at a leading fashion magazine and her brand Wardrobe NYC.

 

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How do you think women can be empowered through the world of fashion?

There’s a lot the fashion industry can do to empower women for example creating jobs, mentoring other designers while also building skills and knowledge.

How do you show support to the women in your life?

By being there for them emotionally, as I think it’s really important to constantly lift each other up.

The message you would like to share this International Women’s Day?

I’d like to share a poem by Rupi Kaur:

“what’s the greatest lesson a woman should learn?”
That since day one, she has already had everything she needs within herself. It’s the world that convinced her she did not.

What do you hope to see change or progress for women in the next five years?

Gender equality in the workplace. I’m happy to be living in a country that enforces equal pay but there are a lot of countries that still need to implement this.

Safiya Abdallah
@dulcebysafiya

Safiya Abdallah

With chic modest fashion and tailored silhouettes for women to freely embrace themselves Dulce by Safiya was born.

What inspired you to become a fashion designer?

I was inspired by the world of fashion from a young age. My mom was a witness to the number of outfit changes I has per day. However, after wearing the hijab, I realised it was tricky to find the right clothing to express myself, especially with the limited options available in a shopping mall. I then began designing for myself, after which people around began to question my pieces and I was then convinced to start my own line.

Who have been your mentors throughout your career?

I’ve learned a lot through trial and error, more so than mentors. After hearing no a lot, more than I hear yes, I didn’t let this stop me from fulfilling my goals as I’m a firm believer that nothing and no one teaches me the same way experience can.

Whom do you admire in the fashion industry?

I admire many designers in the industry, however, the first regional designer I took inspiration from was Faiza Bouguessa, as her brand was showcased in the first regional show I visited in 2017, when Dulce was still in its infancy and I immediately fell in love with her work.

How do you balance your home and work life?

Currently, it’s a lot less balanced since the pandemic as I’m trying to be more connected to my children more so with them growing up so quickly but expect some new Dulce dropping soon. It’s been a slow process since COVID, however, I’m enjoying the slow pace so much more.

 

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How do you think women can be empowered through the world of fashion?

Women can be empowered through fashion by finding clothing that speaks to their soul. I know when I create something and the feedback I get is glowing it makes me proud and empowered by empowering another fellow female to feel great and look beautiful.

The message you would like to share this International Women’s Day?

Don’t be afraid to celebrate other women’s accomplishments. When I was younger I remember feeling alone and as though many people forgot me or just didn’t care to celebrate my accomplishments. When you find those rare gems of women who do celebrate you, don’t forget to appreciate them when they win! Remember God is good and never forgets those who can share positivity, love, and support!

Arwa Al Banawi
@arwaalbanawi

Arwa Al Banawi

Arwa Al Banawi proudly celebrates Saudi Arabia through her contemporary and edgy collections. Always looking ahead and creating for the next generation, her approach has not only hit the spot with the regional clients but also with the global fashion scene.

What inspired you to become a fashion designer?

I’ve wanted to be a designer since I was a little girl. I remember waiting for my mother in her dressing room, watching her get ready before she goes out, was fun for me as I played with her shoes and clothes. It was a dream of mine to make clothes for beautiful women to make them feel special when they would embrace by designs.

Who have been your mentors throughout your career?

My parents have mainly been my mentors. As my mother is an artist and a chef, she loves fashion and is an amazing stylist. She never goes wrong with all her style being inbuilt in her DNA. My father on the other hand is my mentor in business and entrepreneurship as he’s really my role model, while being an art and food connoisseur as he suits himself up in well-tailored clothes. My dad was my first teacher when it came to suiting, he knows the subject well and took me to many tailors in Italy to watch them in their charming ateliers. I travelled the world with my parents and became inspired with the more I saw and I also got inspired to always bridge east and west in my brand, it’s who I am.

 

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Whom do you admire in the fashion industry?

I admire a really special woman, Deena al Juhani Abdul Aziz, she was the first fashion icon to have come to my showroom in Paris and shown her support, You never forget the people who support you in your beginnings, I also really admire Firras from faux consultancy as he believed in my brand and I launched my debut under his agency consulting me the first few years and I’ll never forget those days those people that believe in what they saw in me cause in the beginning it’s always a rush of emotions and it’s scary but good scary of course and you are also discovering.

How do you balance your home and work life?

While being a hyper enthusiastic person by nature during the day along with being busy and also being relaxed on the end as I enjoy my cosy time with close friends and family. It’s important to set some personal time at least once a week and hustle on the other days as for me that’s my balance.

How do you think women can be empowered through the world of fashion?

The entire purpose of fashion is all about empowering women, there’s no segregation in the world when it comes to colour, figure, ethnicity as you open the pages as see a world filled with beauty from around the world with women from all walks of life as it’s all about their stories.

The message you would like to share this International Women’s Day?

I would say embrace your confidence, stop looking at other women you barely know and stop comparing yourself with them. Everyone has their own story. Before you turn 30, work on yourself as your 20s are about knowing yourself and your 30s are about applying that and sticking by it. It’s important to have your own set of principles, which differentiate you from the crowd in order to build a strong foundation with your core values as there’s nothing more attractive than confidence and nothing more inspiring than a gracefully intelligent woman.

Huda Al Nuaimi
@nuaimi_collective

 

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Huda Al Nuaimi is a luxury ready to wear and accessories label embracing change with each and every collection.

What inspired you to become a fashion and accessories designer?

My mother was a print designer for Liberties and while living with her in London, I grew up watching her go through endless fashion magazines, creating patterns and hand-drawn prints. Initially, I never understood her fascination, however, as I grew, I learned a lot from her and grew a passion for it. Despite getting a degree in fashion, watching her gave me the ability to become a cross border designer which means one who specializes in fashion, accessories and print.

Who have been your mentors throughout your career?

As design students, you focus a lot on showcasing your creative ability, which is sometimes unwearable. My teachers at London College of Fashion (LCF) are considered my mentors as looking back now I realise how relevant their advice actually was, especially as they taught me to balance design and wearability in the real world.

Whom do you admire in the fashion industry?

I admire many as fashion reinvents itself constantly with the times and I believe everyone adds value in their own way, therefore I could not put my finger on one, as it can be the creativity of young designers or the know-how of the established designers.

 

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How do you think women can be empowered through the world of fashion?

Fashion empowers women in many ways as it is the way you dress and present yourself, therefore fashion is a mode of communication to the world.

How do you show support to the women in your life?

I love to teach the new generation my know-how and experience, through intern programs and hope they can use it to be great designers.

What do you hope to see change or progress for women in the next five years?

There is room for everybody in the industry, every designer has their time to shine therefore it is vital to celebrate, respect, learn and support each other’s achievements to see the industry move forward.

Haya Jarrar
@Romani.official

Haya Jarrar

Our December cover star has her own brand Romani, where she embraces an element of 1960s-inspired vintage flair in each piece.

What inspired you to be a fashion designer?

It wasn’t something specific that inspired me to become a designer, it was something in me since a young age. However, a lot of things inspire me while I am creating.

Who have been your mentors throughout your career?

I went through the journey of learning things with ROMANI on my own – and it’s a beautiful journey to go through. It is such an empowering thing to experience because when you go through it on your own, you realize that what you need in life in yourself and your own story when it comes to success.

 

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Whom do you admire in the fashion industry?

I admire any person in the fashion industry that managed to make art while staying true to themselves.

How do you think women can be empowered through the world of fashion?

It’s more than fashion empowering women, it’s giving them the tools that will allow them to express themselves in a way that is comfortable for them and let their personalities shine.

How do you show support to the women in your life?

I praise the women in my life and encourage them a lot. I also love reminding them of their worth and their assets. You can’t imagine the power of a positive word.

The message you would like to share this International Women’s Day?

There is a lot of pressure on women nowadays. From perfect skin to perfect hair and bodies and also perfect motherhood and success, which is all portrayed on social media. These things don’t actually exist in real life and demotivate women. So now, more than ever, we need to support one another; the women in your life and even the ones you don’t know. Whether supporting them morally, emotionally, or physically. We need to support them personally and in business as well.

What do you hope to see change or progress for women in the next five years?

For women to be able to dress the way they want, speak the way they want, and portray themselves the way they want without fear of being judged.

Dima Ayad
@dimaayad

 

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Dubai-based Lebanese designer Dima Ayad has created pieces where you can expect a  multi-functional wardrobe brimming with timeless elegance.

What inspired you to become a fashion designer?

I would say, I inspired myself as I struggled to find clothes that would fit me every time I thought of a beach day or a gala dinner as I would panic instead of getting excited, mainly because nothing fit. With no such clothes insight.  Being on the healthy side, I rarely found pieces in the 18 – 20s range, hence, I started designing my own clothes and everyone would ask me where they were from, so I then dabbled with my own label and Voila Dima Ayad became a size-inclusive label.

Who have been your mentors throughout your career?

My mentors were always game-changers who never stood for the status quo. Women like Ashley Graham, designers like Rabih Kayrouz, Albert Elbaz, and really unique individuals such as Piccioli. In addition, my mother most certainly who drove me.

Whom do you admire in the fashion industry?

Stella McCartney, Piccioli from Valentino and Albert Elbaz from his time at Lanvin.

How do you think women can be empowered through the world of fashion?

To make women feel a sense of belonging. As there’s a strong sense of this when one feels that can be themselves in anything. In fashion, inclusivity shouldn’t just mean a runway moment for the standard beauty norms. It should mean that these sizes are available in stores and you do not need to hunt for them, making them not just available online. That all shapes and sizes of women are embraced, that fashion is thought of with all sizes in mind, and not just following a size graduation grid.

 

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How do you show support to the women in your life?

You do so by being there for them, listening and by also setting an example for however many women follow me. It’s always a struggle to find a plus-sized model for my shoots, but I insist on it every time as I want the women in my life to see and feel where they belong, while they envision themselves in one of my pieces by seeing themselves in it.

The message you would like to share this International Women’s Day?

Women supporting women is a phrase commonly used but rarely applied. To really support women is to stand up and knowing that doing so doesn’t take away from you as a woman. If you don’t like the direction your life is heading into, stand up and challenge to change it.

What do you hope to see change or progress for women in the next five years?

I hope we stop focusing on the first women achieving particular accomplishments and rewarding female achievements to simply achievements. It’s important to start thinking that we are in fact equal and moving in that direction. I really hope to see women really supporting each other – not just during the month of March, but all the way through.

Faiza Bouguessa

@Bouguessa 

What inspired you to become a fashion designer?

Aside from being surrounded by women in my family that introduced me to the world of fashion very early, I was always very sensitive to all sorts of arts as a child and I learned from my grandmother how to sew and knit from a very early age. My mother started buying me fashion magazines quite early in my teen years, I guess that she sensed a strong interest in me. I used to go through them over and over again. Growing up in France also had its impact as Fashion is an important part of the culture of the Country.

Who have been your mentors throughout your career?

Rolland Mouret has been a great mentor to me.
He once told me: “Your freedom starts where somebody else’s stopped”. It was resonating a lot for me at that time as I was wondering if I had taken the right decision to work on Modest wear.

Whom do you admire in the fashion industry?

Coco Chanel! I admire the way this little woman influenced ALL women from her era. She was dedicated in making them feel comfortable in what they wore. She created the timeless trend of all times.
Apart from her, Stella McCartney for the way she has managed to build an amazing brand and her approach to sustainability. Victoria Beckham because of the great businesswoman she has become and she really has defined a strong brand identity over the past years, and Karl Lagerfeld because I loved his personality and consistent success.

How do you balance your home and work life?

I think the best way to create balance in your life is to split your day in 3 times 8 hours. 8 hours of sleep, 8 hours of work and 8 hours of personal life.

How do you think women can be empowered through the world of fashion?

I like to think that fashion inspires and elevate the confidence of the women. In order for women to feel empowered, liberated by fashion they need to have the influence that fashion can be anything you want it to be and that way it will be something to celebrate.

 

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Any message you would like to share with the women out there on this International Women’s Day?

Know what you want to achieve, believe you can achieve it, and work night and day to achieve it. Do it with integrity and don’t forget to give back to others.

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