Meet the Dubai-based designer who wowed at London Fashion Week

Having spent her life in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Amira Haroon stunned stylish crowds in London this week. (Photos supplied)
Updated 17 September 2017

Meet the Dubai-based designer who wowed at London Fashion Week

LONDON: Designers from the Middle East made waves at London Fashion Week, the latest edition of which is set to wrap up on Tuesday.
Fashion Scout, the international showcase for fashion pioneers, is the UK’s largest independent, globally-recognized platform for emerging and established design talent during London Fashion Week. This year, they featured a Dubai-based designer who succeeded in impressing the style-savvy crowd.
The Dubai Design and Fashion Council (DDFC) and the FAD Institute of Luxury, Fashion and Style Dubai (FAD) chose to spotlight designer Amira Haroon at the event as part of their bid to provide Dubai-based designers the opportunity to be seen on the global stage.
For her SS18 collection, shown in the stunning surroundings of the Freemasons’ Hall in Covent Garden last Friday, Haroon drew inspiration from US pop culture and paid tribute to the great talent Whitney Houston, whose music and timeless style inspired many generations of musicians and designers alike.
Arab News had privileged access backstage as Haroon worked with her team to ensure that every detail was right in the run-up to the catwalk show. Amazingly, considering the pressure and hubbub around her – a creative blur of make-up artists, hair stylists, models and a general sense of urgency with the clock ticking down to show time – Haroon seemed to be an island of calm.
“It’s exciting and stressful but that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be,” she said.
She has been on a tight schedule with a plethora of tasks to get through.
“I’ve been here in London for two days and there were a lot of last minute things that needed to be done. We had to check that we had the right models, the rights shoes — we have been sponsored by Aperlaï, Paris, a fabulous shoe brand. There were a few last-minute glitches — new shoe sizes had to be arranged for some of the models — and we also changed some looks around,” she explained.
On the day of the show, London was on high alert due to a terrorist attack on an underground train. “I woke up to that news — a very sad and worrying incident for London but I should say that we are used to this as we are from the region in the world where these things happen,” she said.
Haroon was brought up in Saudi Arabia and currently resides in Dubai. She attended the Parsons School of Design and launched “The Amira Haroon RTW label” in 2011. The brand’s signature style fuses modernity with cultural influences and versatility. She has had several showings in the Middle East but this is her first in London.
“Everyone here has been very supportive. It is highly organized — everyone has their job list and are trying their best.
“DDFC and FAD have been very kind to allow me this opportunity. DDFC is taking a major interest in how the fashion industry in the region is developing. This was a selection process, there were eight designers shortlisted and then we presented to a jury. The jury was very scary because there were big names from the international fashion industry on the panel. It’s an honor to have been selected,” she said.
Thomaz Domingues, senior manager of strategy and industry development at the DDFC, explained the competition procedure.
“We give an open call to our members every season. They go through a judgment process and the selected designer gets to come here with a fully-sponsored show in partnership with FAD.
“We are tasked with helping to develop the creative industries in Dubai, the UAE and the MENA region.”
Shivang Dhruva, founder of FAD, shed light on the organization’s role, saying: “We have been engaging with Fashion Scout for the past four years. We incubate and promote talent from across the Middle East and Asia. In addition to training, we support our designers to showcase on international platforms and expand their retail and business profiles.”
Haroon’s collection was notable for the elegance of the designs and the wonderful color palette and detailing. The clothes somehow managed to look both classic and contemporary and it was easy to spot the influence of Whitney Houston in the designs and styling of the models. This was a triumph of a London debut for Haroon and her vision of strong, independent women who showcase their personalities through their style.


Saudis embrace curly look in post-pandemic hair revolution

Hessah Al-Sharif is a hair specialist and founder of Curl Boutique, the first salon in Jeddah to focus on natural, curly hair. (Supplied)
Updated 14 August 2021

Saudis embrace curly look in post-pandemic hair revolution

  • COVID-19 lockdowns sparked trend toward natural beauty in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic lockdowns have brought about many changes in daily health and beauty routines with many Saudis opting for a more natural look.

And the enforced closure of hair salons in particular has resulted in millions of people adopting new approaches to managing their tresses.
For many Saudis, haircare has become a source of therapy and experimentation, changing their relationship with their locks in ways they could never have imagined.
Ameera Hassan, 25, from Jeddah, told Arab News that she had been hiding her tight, springy, natural curls for the past 10 years with straightening chemical treatments.

Our image as people with beautiful natural curls is always used as the before picture in salon advertisements for chemical treatments, and these photos are being posted online over social media and on printed banners at salons. I wanted to reverse that, and that is what I’m doing.

Hessah Al-Sharif

“Not going to a salon for months was a terrifying experience for me. I have hated my hair from a very young age, but the global trend toward natural hair due to the pandemic gave me a sense of solidarity and the confidence to accept my big hair,” she said.
Another convert to the natural hair movement, Sarah Ahmad, 28, also from Jeddah, said: “The lockdown experience left me with no choice but having to deal with my natural hair texture, and working from home gave my oppressed curls a break from the flatiron.
“For many years I thought my hair was frizzy, however, it turns out it is just curly. I would never have discovered that without lockdown. I had never been alone with my natural hair for so long and it allowed me to experiment and discover different products, treatments, and routines for my hair texture. It’s been a learning curve for sure.
“I’ve learnt that it isn’t just hair, it is part of who I am, how I was truly meant to look,” she added.
During the past year, social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram along with regional online influencers have been the inspirational driving forces behind the curly hair style revolution.
And a shortage of hair products in local markets has prompted some entrepreneurs to set up their own internet businesses selling items such as brushes, microfiber towels, shampoos, conditioners, gels, foams, silk and satin pillowcases, and bonnets.
Many people have found the freedom of going natural to be more appealing and healthier for their hair, a trend that has brought about genuine diversity in the global and regional beauty industry, including in Saudi Arabia.

HIGHLIGHTS

• For many Saudis, haircare has become a source of therapy and experimentation, changing their relationship with their locks in ways they could never have imagined.

• During the past year, social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram along with regional online influencers have been the inspirational driving forces behind the curly hair-style revolution.

• And a shortage of hair products in local markets has prompted some entrepreneurs to set up their own internet businesses selling items such as brushes, microfiber towels, shampoos, conditioners, gels, foams, silk and satin pillowcases, and bonnets.

Hessah Al-Sharif is a hair specialist and founder of Curl Boutique, the first salon in Jeddah to focus on natural, curly hair.
She decided to move away from the straight hair standard offered by many salons and beauty centers in the Kingdom, preferring to encourage the younger generation to embrace their natural beauty.
After receiving professional training in cutting curly hair at the DevaCurl Academy in New York, Al-Sharif opened her boutique during the pandemic.
“I started with an Instagram page where I shared curly hair care tips, recommended products, and posted reviews; however, people kept asking me where in Jeddah they could get their hair cut and I didn’t have an answer.”
Similar to many other women with curly hair in Saudi Arabia, she found herself bombarded with recommendations for treatments to straighten her hair when visiting salons or was given the option of a wet cut which she pointed out was not the best way to manage big hair.
She said: “While a lot of businesses were badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, I was affected in a positive way. Around 70 percent of my current clients just started their transition journey to natural hair during the pandemic.
“Our image as people with beautiful natural curls is always used as the before picture in salon advertisements for chemical treatments, and these photos are being posted online over social media and on printed banners at salons. I wanted to reverse that, and that is what I’m doing.”
Al-Sharif also aims to make natural hair products and services affordable to all by promoting local brands.
And it is not just women who have been embarking on the curly hair journey.
Abdullah Sami, 30, said: “My experience is more intimate than going natural. I was going through the anxiety about what was happening during the pandemic and the stress it had imposed on my professional, educational, and personal life. So, exerting effort on taking care of my hair was an attempt to ensure that I had everything under control and an escape to overcome everything.”
And he would never go back to having short hair. “My hair now is an extension of me, of who I am, of my personal experience, and I wouldn’t ever accept cutting it again. It gives a completely different impression when you start growing out your hair. It’s a personal statement,” he added.
Sami’s hair transition experience encouraged his sisters to try out new hair styles too.

Related


Chalhoub Group’s Fashion Lab to award Saudi fashion newcomers

Updated 11 July 2021

Chalhoub Group’s Fashion Lab to award Saudi fashion newcomers

  • Local entrepreneurs offered the chance of winning $15,000 in funding to help establish their fashion brand

JEDDAH:  Luxury retailer Chalhoub Group has set up an initiative in Saudi Arabia offering local entrepreneurs the chance of winning $15,000 in funding to help establish their fashion brand.

The Fashion Lab, a first-of-its-kind in the Kingdom, is focused on sustainable fashion, contemporary design, streetwear and accessories, and nurturing new designers who are set on disrupting the fashion status quo.

Applications are now open and successful participants will get to take part in a two-week “boot camp,” which will help them navigate through different elements to develop their brand, including marketing, supply chain management, content creation and media exposure.

FASHIONFIX

Fashion sales in the GCC amount to around $50 billion a year, according to a McKinsey report in December 2019, with the average spent per capita amounting to around $500 in Saudi Arabia.

With online fashion sales booming as a result of people stuck at home during the pandemic, Statista estimates that the Kingdom’s online clothing segment will be worth $1.484 billion in 2021 and is forecast to grow at an annual rate of 5.19 percent for the next four years.

Namshi, the online e-commerce site owned by Dubai’s Emaar Malls, told Arab News in February it had seen 50 percent growth in revenues from Saudi Arabia in the last year and is set to expand into a new warehouse facility in Riyadh to capitalise on surging sales. While parent company Emaar Malls recently reported a 24.8 percent fall in revenues for 2020 to AED3.51 billion ($960 million), Namshi saw sales increase 28 percent to AED1.316 billion over the same period, with the Kingdom representing 70 percent of sales.

On top of the $15,000 funding, applicants may also be offered equity partnerships after the program finishes at the end of the year, and may also access the Chalhoub Group’s online and in-store retail network to sell their products.

Dina Sidani, chief innovation officer, said that she believed the Fashion Lab “will have long-term positive impact in promoting innovation in the fashion industry locally, while creating young fashion champions from the Kingdom for the world.”

Based in Dubai, the group has been a major operator in Saudi Arabia for more than 50 years. It is active in 14 countries, with around 700 stores and 12,000 employees.

Up to five brands will be selected to take part in the Fashion Lab and the deadline for submissions for the first cohort is July 25, 2021.

FASTFACT

Applications are now open and successful participants will get to take part in a two-week ‘boot camp,’ which will help them navigate through different elements to develop their brand, including marketing, supply chain management, content creation and media exposure.

The initiative is part of a wider push to develop the Saudi fashion sector and nurture homegrown brands. On Wednesday, the Kingdom’s Fashion Commission announced the finalists chosen to take part in its yearlong Saudi 100 Brands program. The initiative will include training, advice and mentorship from experts in the fashion sector.

A shortlist of 400 was whittled down from an initial 1,348 applicants.

The program offers a one-year brand development initiative with training and mentoring, individual and group consultancy and advisory sessions, and virtual and in-person training workshops.


Indian Miss Universe runner-up’s peace dream inspired by Kuwaiti childhood

Updated 08 June 2021

Indian Miss Universe runner-up’s peace dream inspired by Kuwaiti childhood

  • Adline Castelino tells Arab News about growing up in Arab environment with Pakistani friends, her belief in future for India, Pakistan built on mutual respect

NEW DELHI: Indian model Adline Castelino believes that coming third runner-up in the recent Miss Universe pageant in Florida will provide the springboard to follow her dream of becoming a peace envoy.

The 22-year-old beauty queen recently told Arab News about her childhood years growing up in an Arab culture, the need for peace between rival nations such as Pakistan and India, and her plans to spend time with family and enjoy food when the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic subsides.

Born and raised in Kuwait, Castelino returned to her homeland as a teenager to study in Mumbai and pursue a career in modelling. Instagram

She said: “I would love to don the role of an ambassador of peace. If that opportunity comes to me, I would be the first one to grab that and make the most of it, because I believe that’s what the world needs now.”

Born and raised in Kuwait, Castelino returned to her homeland as a teenager to study in Mumbai and pursue a career in modelling. The multicultural experience of growing up and having the “most comfortable and loving childhood” in the Gulf state has never left her, instilling a deep respect for others.

She represented India at the Miss Universe 2020 pageant where she finished 4th among contestants from 73 countries. Instagram

“I am very grateful to have had the experience of growing up in an Arab culture and I learnt a lot. The amalgamation of both cultures made me the person that I am. I think people over there give lots of importance to children and they really sacrifice a lot for children. I remember how we were so protected from the start,” she added.

With that sense of safety and protection, Castelino, a native of Mangalore in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, could grow up Indian, although away from India. “Even though I was very far away from my motherland, I always had the values and tradition intact.”

Castelino works with a welfare organisation called ‘Vikas Sahayog Pratishthan’ (VSP). Instagram

She was also able to make friends with Pakistanis whose country has long been a bitter rival of India, the two nations having been involved in periods of armed conflict since the independence and partition of the former British-ruled subcontinent in 1947.

Castelino said: “I don’t think this enmity, this animosity needs to continue. There is such a wonderful relation we could share, because of our history, because of where we come from.

“I truly feel that they are part of our family. I have a family in Pakistan, and I really want to tell them that I see a future there where both countries actually join hands and to have very mutually respectful relations. Because we share the same history, because we have shared the same pain and struggle at one period of time.

She became only the second Indian in two decades to achieve major success in the Miss Universe competition. Instagram

“In Kuwait, I have lived alongside Pakistanis, Bangladeshis. And they have been my best friends, they are my family, people who have cheered for me and had my back,” she added.

Her main source of support, however, has been her parents. When she became only the second Indian in two decades to achieve major success in the Miss Universe competition – after actress Lara Dutta won it in 2000 – Castelino immediately called her parents who still live in Kuwait.

As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic has been brought under control, she will be off to Kuwait to see her parents and friends. Instagram

“They were very supportive even though they were not there in the entire journey, they were always supportive and trying to guide me. I called up my mom soon after the crowning. It was early in the morning. She was excited and so proud of me,” she said.

As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic has been brought under control, she will be off to Kuwait to see her parents and friends, and to enjoy her favorite and “amazing” Arab dishes.

“When I go back, when I think of going back, that’s the first thing I think of after my family. I am going to have amazing shawarma; I am going to have amazing falafel. I am just waiting for the opportunity to go back to Kuwait,” Castelino added.

Related


KSA Fashion Commission backs luxury designs with 100 Saudi Brands program

Updated 04 June 2021

KSA Fashion Commission backs luxury designs with 100 Saudi Brands program

  • The authority invited those wishing to take part in the program to register before June 20
  • The program offers a one-year package of training and guidance programs

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Fashion Commission has launched the “100 Saudi Brands” program, which aims to support the business development of 100 Saudi designers and luxury brands, providing Saudi fashion products with international competitive standards.
The authority invited those wishing to take part in the program to register via the website https://saudi100brands.com before June 20.
The program offers a one-year package of training and guidance programs, and includes sessions for groups and individuals, along with virtual and physical training workshops to develop competitive business advantages in the Saudi fashion industry.
Course topics will include brand review and mentoring, training in defining brand concepts, sales performance strategies, public relations and marketing strategies, methods for finding and identifying particular clients, innovations, technology and leadership skills.
The program’s stages include activities presented to the consumer to encourage sales in the local market, the first of which will be held in Riyadh in December, the activation of electronic sales outlets in January, and a campaign targeting wholesales in order to activate international sales in February.
The program will help build 100 Saudi brands that are able to compete regionally and internationally, within the framework of the Fashion Commission to develop the fashion sector in the Kingdom in all its legislative and regulatory aspects, and to support and empower its workers, including creators and investors.


Princess Diana’s wedding dress goes on display in London

Updated 03 June 2021

Princess Diana’s wedding dress goes on display in London

  • The taffeta-ruffled white dress has a 25 foot (8 meter) sequin-encrusted train
  • Prince William and Prince Harry have loaned their mother’s wedding dress for the exhibition

LONDON: The dress Princess Diana wore at her 1981 wedding to Prince Charles went on public display Thursday at the late princess’s former home in London.
The taffeta-ruffled white dress designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel, with its 25 foot (8 meter) sequin-encrusted train, helped seal the fairytale image of the wedding of Lady Diana Spencer and the heir to the British throne.


Reality soon intruded. The couple separated in 1992 and divorced in 1996, with both acknowledging extramarital affairs. Diana died in a car crash in Paris in 1997 at the age of 36.
Her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, have loaned their mother’s wedding dress for the exhibition “Royal Style in the Making.” The exhibit also features sketches, photographs and gowns designed for three generations of royal women, including Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother. It runs until Jan. 2, 2022.