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.


Stitch in time: Saudi fashion dresses for the future

The Saudi Cup showcased traditional outfits, with the Ministry of Culture’s fashion commission encouraging a dress code that required racegoers to highlight their heritage. (Supplied)
Updated 06 March 2021

Stitch in time: Saudi fashion dresses for the future

  • Traditional wear gets a modern makeover as designers keep the past alive

JEDDAH: As Saudi Arabia sets out to introduce its culture, history and social life to a global audience, fashion is finding it has a key role to play in the Kingdom’s “brand strategy.”

Traditional wear proudly worn by both Saudis and expats at the recent Saudi Cup showed how age-old cultural styles could find new life in a contemporary setting.
While fashions can reflect a specific era, they also can act as a transition to the future, with fabrics, cuts, motifs and embroidery designs, and even colors and layers, keeping the story alive.
The Saudi Cup showcased traditional outfits, with the Ministry of Culture’s fashion commission encouraging a dress code that required racegoers to highlight their heritage, and designers to showcase their exclusive works, mixing the contemporary with the old.
Although Western outfits dominate the world fashion market, Saudi Arabia is choosing to stay connected with its traditional dress.
Saudi designers are constantly introducing new trends in the way outfits are made or worn, finding inspiration in age-old styles or seeking to bring the traditional clothing of a region into the present.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Although Western outfits dominate the world fashion market, Saudi Arabia is choosing to stay connected with its traditional dress.

• Saudi designers are constantly introducing new trends in the way outfits are made or worn, finding inspiration in age-old styles or seeking to bring the traditional clothing of a region into the present.

• Mohammed Khoja, a fashion designer who uses traditional approaches in his contemporary work, believes that his collections help shed light on cultural elements that appeal to both local and international audiences. 

• International events, from Eid celebrations at Saudi missions across the globe to overseas university students celebrating an occasion, allow Saudis to don traditional clothing to represent their homeland.

• Omaima Kindassa, a Saudi designer and owner of a contemporary heritage boutique, said that events such as the Saudi Cup allowed Saudis to represent their own region and culture, as well as show the Kingdom’s rich heritage and diverse culture to the world.

• Princess Nourah Al-Faisal, the designer behind Nuun Jewels, hoped to represent the historical beauty and color of traditional Saudi clothing in a way that encouraged people to embrace and celebrate their culture.

Mohammed Khoja, a fashion designer who uses traditional approaches in his contemporary work, said: “Since the beginning of my fashion design career, cultural elements have appealed to me. I am particularly driven by being able to contribute in documenting and potentially giving cultural elements more importance.”
Khoja believes that his collections help shed light on cultural elements that appeal to both local and international audiences.

Traditional wear proudly worn by both Saudis and expats showed how age-old cultural styles could find new life in a contemporary setting.

The same elements have also helped him identify with his own contemporary identity, he said.
Omaima Kindassa, a Saudi designer and owner of a contemporary heritage boutique, said that events such as the Saudi Cup allowed Saudis to represent their own region and culture, as well as show the Kingdom’s rich heritage and diverse culture to the world.
“I’ve been designing and modernizing traditional Saudi wear for 10 years,” Kindassa told Arab News. “Now many younger designers are pursuing that as well because they have fallen in love with our heritage.”
She added: “If the current generation were to wear traditional clothes, they would find them overbearing and heavy, especially accessory-embellished designs and those adorned by stones. Modernizing these outfits makes them relevant to today’s generation and ensures our tradition keeps pace with fashion.”

The Saudi Cup showcased traditional outfits, with the Ministry of Culture’s fashion commission encouraging a dress code that required racegoers to highlight their heritage, and designers to showcase their exclusive works, mixing the contemporary with the old. (Supplied)

Kindassa specializes in traditional wear from the Kingdom’s regions but also modern clothing “that tell tales of the long past.”
“Each region offers its own rich heritage through its designs, from the geometric elegant shapes, the vibrant colors, the embroidery — it looks like a painting to admire,” she said.
International events, from Eid celebrations at Saudi missions across the globe to overseas university students celebrating an occasion, allow Saudis to don traditional clothing to represent their homeland.
Princess Nourah Al-Faisal, the designer behind Nuun Jewels, told Arab News that the Saudi Cup was a “great opportunity to present the variety, regionality and beauty that is Saudi culture.”


She was brought in as a consultant for the project, a link between the Saudi Cup and the Ministry of Culture, “to curate the event in terms of looks and feel.”
Princess Nourah said the idea to promote traditional Saudi fashion was not hers, but came from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The princess hoped to represent the historical beauty and color of traditional Saudi clothing in a way that encouraged people to embrace and celebrate their culture. She also wanted people to take ownership of their heritage, and see designers and communities using it as inspiration for future designs.
“So not just reproducing traditional cultural dress, but also taking it as a point of reference and moving forward into the future, recreating it, developing it and having fun with it by creating something completely new,” she said.
Impressed with the outcome, she hopes to build on this momentum where people celebrate culture every day.
“There are a number of entities within Saudi Arabia, organizations that are all about preserving our heritage; things like regional embroidery, jewelry, costumes, and really making sure that they’re archiving it, whether through photographs or through the actual pieces. I think that is something that we have been working on as a nation either in the private sector or the public sector for a while,” she said.

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Saudi fashions ‘tell the world a story’

Updated 28 February 2021

Saudi fashions ‘tell the world a story’

  • Eye-catching traditional pieces that women wear on key occasions highlight the Kingdom’s diverse heritage

MAKKAH: With Saudi Arabia’s diverse and colorful cultural traditions, fashion serves as a medium where foreigners and citizens can meet.
Fashion has always been an important part of how people define themselves and others, and Saudi Arabia’s traditional clothing is no different.
Those who watched the Saudi Cup horse race coverage would have noticed that many racegoers, including foreigners living in the Kingdom, donned eye-catching pieces from the Kingdom’s regions, while others made sure they showed off traditional fashion items.
For almost 12 years, Brandi Janow has made Saudi Arabia her home. Janow, who calls herself an “American Saudi,” caught the eye of photographers at the Saudi Cup with her striking red hair and gold coin headpiece while wearing a farwa (heavy overcoat) featuring a Sadu piece, or traditional embroidery of the region, on her coat lapels.
Janow told Arab News that she felt welcome and comfortable since moving to the Kingdom, and dressed according to the traditions of the land.
“The fashion scene was remarkable at the Saudi Cup. I am going to dub it the ‘Met Gala’ of Saudi Arabia in future. Saudi Arabia has such an old fashion heritage, so it was wonderful to be able to take a trip through history and to tell the world a story,” she said.

Saudi Arabia has changed immensely since 2009, and that is something I have appreciated witnessing.

Brandi Janow

“As a history lover, this is probably one of the best places that I can be to see so many remarkable sights with my own eyes,” she added.
Celebrating Saudi Arabia’s heritage, fashionable guests appeared in pieces that highlighted the Kingdom’s diverse heritage, including intricately embroidered daglahs for men and the heavily embellished zaboon worn by the women of Hijaz.
Janow calls Saudi Arabia her home and is “happy my journey brought me here.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• For almost 12 years, Brandi Janow has made Saudi Arabia her home. Janow, who calls herself an ‘American Saudi,’ caught the eye of photographers at the Saudi Cup with her striking red hair and gold coin headpiece while wearing a farwa (heavy overcoat) featuring a Sadu piece, or traditional embroidery of the region, on her coat lapels. 

• Janow told Arab News that she felt welcome and comfortable since moving to the Kingdom, and dressed according to the traditions of the land. She calls Saudi Arabia her home and is ‘happy my journey brought me here.’

The private sector worker is also the program director for art, culture, media and entertainment at the American Chamber of Commerce in the Kingdom and also manages Smuug, a small business where she designs and sells products based on her illustrations.
“Before I came to Saudi Arabia I had never traveled outside North America, so I was quite excited to see a new place. I cannot say that I ever experienced culture shock, but I was in awe of how different the country was from my own. It is really beautiful how big the world is, and how different (and the same) we all are,” she said.
“Saudi Arabia has changed immensely since 2009, and that is something I have appreciated witnessing. I really think that humanity cannot prosper without change, growth and evolution.
“This is the natural way of life. As someone who works in the creative industry, it has been such a pleasure to watch the blossoming of talent,” said Janow.


What We Are Wearing Today: Claw Socks

Updated 06 February 2021

What We Are Wearing Today: Claw Socks

  • The brand has launched a new collection inspired by popular outdoor activities inside the Kingdom

Claw Socks is a modern line of clothing from creative Saudi designers. The brand offers high-quality socks made of comfortable natural materials such as cotton and bamboo fabrics.
It has unique arty collections featuring food, animals, nature and famous characters, among others.
One collection features Saudi heritage designs with themes such as shemaghs, Arabic coffee cups, camels, incense, and ouds. It also features traditional Arabic sayings from all over the Kingdom.
The brand has launched a new collection inspired by popular outdoor activities inside the Kingdom. It offers the ideal look for your next road trip as it displays seven marvelous designs inspired by the mountains of Saudi Arabia, hiking, bikes and adventures.
The website also offers gift baskets, boxes, bouquets or cards in different themes. You can select several socks to send to your friends and loved ones.
For more information visit: https://try-claw.com/
 


Five-day fashion bootcamp to promote Saudi talent, entrepreneurs

Updated 14 January 2021

Five-day fashion bootcamp to promote Saudi talent, entrepreneurs

JEDDAH: A virtual bootcamp aimed at promoting entrepreneurial talent in Saudi Arabia’s fledgling fashion industry has opened for applicants.
The Kingdom’s Fashion Commission launched the second phase of its incubation program as part of an initiative to boost cultural entrepreneurship in the country with the support of the Quality of Life scheme.
One of 11 commissions established by the Ministry of Culture, the Fashion Commission’s program will run a series of workshops from Feb. 28 until March 4 addressed by top academic speakers, thought leaders, Saudi business figures, and international institutions involved in the fashion sector.
Virtual bootcamp participants will learn how to develop their business projects, network, build partnerships, assess the market, and benefit from prototypes to cost-effectively bring their ideas to fruition.
The program’s first-phase fashion hackathon started on Thursday and will run for three intensive days. Phases three and four will be announced over the coming weeks.
The fashion hackathon will see 150 participants — chosen from 1,500 applications — divided into 33 teams compete to win a five-day trip to the Milan Fashion Week.

Designer, Layla Moussa photographed by Dirk Bader for Vogue Arabia June 2018. (Photo courtesy: Vogue Arabia)

HIGHLIGHT

One of 11 commissions established by the Ministry of Culture, the Fashion Commission’s program will run a series of workshops from Feb. 28 until March 4 addressed by top academic speakers, thought leaders, Saudi business figures, and international institutions involved in the fashion sector.

Saudi fashion designer and founder of luxury brand Hindamme, Mohammed Khoja, told Arab News that the ministry backed program would help to give fashion talent access to business partners, intensive practical learning, and mentors.
“Programs such as this are vital in being able to build up the industry and in connecting the dots,” he said.

Designer, Arwa Al Banawi. Photographed by Dirk Bader for Vogue Arabia June 2018. (Photo courtesy: Vogue Arabia)

He pointed out that the fashion industry was still very new to the Kingdom and had not received the support it needed, which was why such programs were so important in helping to grow the sector.
“Within the Saudi fashion industry, we still face a number of challenges mainly due to this industry being relatively new and lacking structure.
“This program will support designers and prospective investors to find mutual benefits and offer clearer pathways for careers in the rapidly growing fashion industry in Saudi Arabia,” he added.
Applicants have until Jan. 18 to register for the fashion bootcamp via https://engage.moc.gov.sa/fashion_bootcamp.


Five-day fashion bootcamp to promote Saudi talent, entrepreneurs

Updated 14 January 2021

Five-day fashion bootcamp to promote Saudi talent, entrepreneurs

JEDDAH: A virtual bootcamp aimed at promoting entrepreneurial talent in Saudi Arabia’s fledgling fashion industry has opened for applicants.
The Kingdom’s Fashion Commission launched the second phase of its incubation program as part of an initiative to boost cultural entrepreneurship in the country with the support of the Quality of Life scheme.
One of 11 commissions established by the Ministry of Culture, the Fashion Commission’s program will run a series of workshops from Feb. 28 until March 4 addressed by top academic speakers, thought leaders, Saudi business figures, and international institutions involved in the fashion sector.
Virtual bootcamp participants will learn how to develop their business projects, network, build partnerships, assess the market, and benefit from prototypes to cost-effectively bring their ideas to fruition.
The program’s first-phase fashion hackathon started on Thursday and will run for three intensive days. Phases three and four will be announced over the coming weeks.
The fashion hackathon will see 150 participants — chosen from 1,500 applications — divided into 33 teams compete to win a five-day trip to the Milan Fashion Week.

HIGHLIGHT

One of 11 commissions established by the Ministry of Culture, the Fashion Commission’s program will run a series of workshops from Feb. 28 until March 4 addressed by top academic speakers, thought leaders, Saudi business figures, and international institutions involved in the fashion sector.

Saudi fashion designer and founder of luxury brand Hindamme, Mohammed Khoja, told Arab News that the ministry backed program would help to give fashion talent access to business partners, intensive practical learning, and mentors.
“Programs such as this are vital in being able to build up the industry and in connecting the dots,” he said.
He pointed out that the fashion industry was still very new to the Kingdom and had not received the support it needed, which was why such programs were so important in helping to grow the sector.
“Within the Saudi fashion industry, we still face a number of challenges mainly due to this industry being relatively new and lacking structure.
“This program will support designers and prospective investors to find mutual benefits and offer clearer pathways for careers in the rapidly growing fashion industry in Saudi Arabia,” he added.
Applicants have until Jan. 18 to register for the fashion bootcamp via https://engage.moc.gov.sa/fashion_bootcamp.