Homeward Bound

New to the schedule or returning to the runway – RS spotlights six regional names about to make their mark during Season Two of Fashion Forward (FFWD)

By Claire Carruthers
Oct 06, 2013

Background: As daughter of the ruler of the emirate of Fujairah, Al Sharqi grew up immersed in high fashion – all those society events and royal functions require couture clobber – and, as a child, soaked up the design process like a sponge. Hence, a stint studying fashion design and pattern making at ESMOD French fashion university, followed swiftly after graduation by an internship with revered Lebanese designer Abed Mahfouz.

Inspirations: Al Sharqi regularly seeks creative stimulus in the past; previous collections have referenced Marie Antoinette and Sixties air hostesses.

Collections & Signatures: Snubbing Middle Eastern clichés of crystal embellishment and festooned cocktail wear, Al Sharqi favors a cleaner (and leaner) silhouette. Rich autumnal hues dominate Fall 2013’s Art Deco-inspired offering – Al Sharqi’s generous column cuts, lace paneling and regal sensibility remain her moniker.

Background: This three-year-old label, founded by Omani sisters Lubna and Nadia Al Zakwani, has a strong heritage-focus. “Our father is pure Omani, and our mother is a mixture of Indian and Portuguese,” says Lubna, “so we’ve been exposed to different cultures and traditions.” ESMOD alumni Lubna studied fashion design and pattern cutting (draping, shape and structure are her forte), while Nadia focused on the business side of things, with an eye for finishing details, embroidery and embellishments.

Inspirations: Local heritage, nature and history are frequent reference points for the designer sisters. “I admire Middle Eastern designers who have managed to make it internationally without letting go of their identity,” says Nadia.

Collections and Signatures: Kaftan-inspired eveningwear in engaging colorways and the classic abaya, reworked and reimagined with ornate embellishment and embroidery, are Endemage assets.

Background: Born in Abu Dhabi to Indian parents and raised in Sharjah, Essa is a stalwart of the local fashion scene. He honed his craft the traditional way, by watching Dubai’s pattern cutters and tailors at work, and during a lucrative 20-year career, he has succeeded in cultivating a loyal core clientele; his eveningwear – feminine, romantic, and appropriate ­– continues to seduce those pillars of high society whose lifestyle the designer himself is so intimately acquainted with.

Inspirations: Essa’s reworkings of the classic kaftan and use of vintage fabrics suggest an appreciation of local heritage, coupled with a desire to tread new design ground through progressive tailoring techniques.

Collections & Signatures: Essa went back to the drawing board for Fall 2013, so to speak, with a nod to the technical mastery of Japanese designers and a dark, controlled aesthetic that whiffed of the avant-gardists – Rick Owens et al. It remains to be seen which ‘hat’ Essa will sport for Season Two.

Background: Diminutive Qatari native Lama El Moatassem cut her teeth at Central Saint Martins in London, before gaining design experience at the likes of Chloe and Matthew Williamson. She launched her own label, Toujouri (meaning “treasure chest” in Arabic), in September 2009 when she was still just 24 years old.

Inspirations: Travel to India is a regular occurrence for El Moatassem, whose collections are rich in color and embroidery – the emphasis is always on handcraftsmanship and storytelling colorways.

Collections & Signatures: On a typically eclectic El Moatassem design, intricate beadwork might form extended cuffs on a billowing abstract print kaftan (think Florence Welch). Unexpected textiles, embroidery and beading remain house signatures.

Background: Childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh launched KAGE in 2009, having studied in London and Boston – Abdelhadi pursued a fashion course at Central Saint Martins, while Ghazaleh secured a degree in sociology. Back in Dubai, both shifted career path to luxury-fashion PR, fueling their interest in the business of design.

Inspirations: Abdelhadi and Ghazaleh extract references from anything and everything, while a fondness for travel (particularly ancient cities) and vintage clothing informs the mood of their collections.

Collections & Signatures: Local socialites and fashion’s youngest-ever buyers, identical twins Sama and Haya Abu Khadra, are frequently snapped in KAGE’s bohemian-meets-Upper-East-Side peplumed dresses, polka-dot playsuits and sculpted blazers.

Background: Emirati sisters Lamya, Shaima and Fatma Gargash (whose childhood nickname, Fatam, inspired the label’s title), founded House of Fatam (HOF) two years ago.  “HOF initially started off as a project that Fatma created during her time at ESMOD,” says Lamya. “Shaima and I joined in as a means to support our sister. Our roles in HOF are related to our expertise: I am the creative director, Shaima is the business developer and Fatma is the fashion consultant.”

Inspirations: “I create collages in my sketchbook,” says Shaima. “Anything from furniture to textiles; if I love it, I cut it out.” Art (I’d love to collaborate with Stephen Sprouse,” says Fatma), photography and music, “from the classical pioneers like Edvard Grieg and Debussy to the more eclectic mixes of Arabic jazz,” says Lamya, can inform the direction of a collection.

Collections and Signatures: Experimental dressing is very much part of HOF’s mantra, hence reversible robes, jackets and abayas – key pieces that promote a mix-and-match approach.