Shahd Al Shehail has managed to preserve the craftsmanship and heritage of Saudi Arabia with her women-led sustainable brand Abadia. The designer chatted with EW about all things sustainability and mindfulness.
What does mindfulness mean to you?
Mindfulness to me, means being able to appreciate the beauty in the ordinary, to be grounded in the present and to be conscious of the fact that my thoughts, words and actions have a ripple effect in the world around me. Do you have any daily practices which help you stay mindful? Especially now, I find that having an overall structure for the day helps. It gives me a sense of purpose and clarity over the day. I love taking a moment to be silent, appreciate nature, and give gratitude to the little blessings of everyday life.
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How do you combine designing ethically with being commercially viable?
I don’t think that being ethical and commercially viable are mutually exclusive. We have proven with our work at Abadia, and also seen this through the work of many other brands making strides in the ethical fashion scene. We are mindful in every step of the process – from sourcing our materials, to engaging our artisanal community in a sustainable manner, to minimising waste and repurposing deadstock, and finally, to designing timeless products. We are not perfect, but we are committed to growing and incorporating the latest technologies and innovations in sustainability into our designs, and constantly evaluating our impact to make sure we are doing the very best we can.
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From the Ramadan edit, which is your most favourite piece?
It is hard to pick a favourite but if I had to, it would probably be the organza cardigan with Naqda embroidery.
A special feature in S/S20 is the inclusion of a new artisanal technique called Naqda. Naqda is a traditional embroidery technique that includes pulling thin strands of metallic thread through cloth. It’s an intricate and beautiful practice with history across the Arabian Peninsula. I love that the Naqda pieces have been well-received globally, again showing us that traditional craftsmanship can be artfully weaved into modern designs, for the global consumer.
As a Saudi woman, do you feel like you empower Saudi women through your designs?
I think ‘empowerment’ is a concept that is sometimes loosely used. I am not sure if we empower women, but we definitely are a tight-knit team run by women who are inspired to create excellence through work. Our artisans are women and our brand values ensure their talent is rewarded with financial security.
To read the full interview, pick up a copy of May’s ‘The Mindfulness Issue’ or download it here.
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