Streets of The Kingdom

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.

A former investment banker, she saw a void in the market for womenswear that is both professional and fashion forward for the young business woman. After studying at the London College of Fashion in Dubai, she launched her namesake brand in 2015.

saudi arabia fashion designer arwa al banawi interview

In September last year she unveiled capsule collection dedicated to The Kingdom and it’s growing support for the creative industries. Then last month she revealed a bold streetwear collaboration with non other than the famous KFC fast food chain, but we have to wait to see more. For now, here are some words of wisdom from the inspiring creative.

What were your favourite subjects at school?

Literature, chemistry and art.

What was your first job? 

I had a bakery when I was 21, I operated from home for deliveries.

saudi arabia fashion designer arwa al banawi interview

What inspired you to launch your own fashion brand?

It was something I always wanted to do ever since I was eight years old. I always knew what I wanted to do, it then became an obsession, I would get inspired by everything I saw or touched, whether it be sounds , colours , fabrics , words of poetry, music, or spaces it allowed me to tap into my creative side. I believe my travels with my family at a young age instilled that love and appreciation of fashion and art. I grew up in a home filled with art, my parents inspired me without me even realising; my father collects Middle Eastern art, so art was always a big part of my childhood. He also is an incredible suit dresser; I’d always go with him to his tailors in Italy. I’d sit on the chair and just watch the selections of fabrics, the tailoring techniques and it inspired me.

My mother is an artist as well. Growing up I remember her always painting or crafting, she is also a very chic woman. Whenever she was out, I used to play in her closet and get inspired. I still remember the first time I played with her Versace and YSL suits, I would walk around the house in them. When the time was right, I felt it and launched my first collection in 2015.

saudi arabia fashion designer arwa al banawi interview

What are the key elements of your role? Talk us through your daily routine.

Planning the year (setting goals and looking at the annual calendar to make sure I have it on track). When I am not in the office, I usually work from my study at home in Jeddah to sketch the new season or in my home in Switzerland. I find that when I’m away from all the noise I can focus on designs and reboot that creative energy. I spend time with my tailors at the Dubai atelier we make the new patterns and the new designs created.

I have a lot of meetings, so my routine is half professional businesswoman and half creative. I don’t have a big team, we’re a small team that work very closely together. I assign each department roles and goals for the month, so everything is aligned. We sometimes work all night in the atelier before a show and that’s normal as perfection in key. I can’t change my vision I’m a perfectionist but of course we take days off after, I know rest fuels creativity and is as essential as hard work.

saudi arabia fashion designer arwa al banawi interview

What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?

Set your purpose set your intention, you have to know deep down why you are here, and why are you doing this.  If that’s not strong as steal, you will get bored because creative jobs are tough and what keeps us going is passion. If u have that set, then start small and see how it builds.

Which fashion brands can we find in your work wardrobe?

I love vintage. I have most of my mom’s vintage YSL suits. I also have a lot of Gianni Versace especially from the men’s collection, such as blazers and vests I took from my father and then tailored them to my size but most people that know me also know I love the oversized look, so I like to maintain that.

I also love shoes my favourites so far are Amina Muaddi and Prada.

saudi arabia fashion designer arwa al banawi interview

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

“There is magic in action”

What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

Launching my debut collection and naturally challenges are going to arise, but you always just have to learn how to overcome them as you do in life.

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Image: Supplied