Rising from rubble: Meet the inspiring Pakistani designer who overcame an earthquake

The turn of events would eventually lead her to build her own luxury bridal brand. (Photo courtesy: Rani Emaan)
Updated 12 February 2018

Rising from rubble: Meet the inspiring Pakistani designer who overcame an earthquake

LAHORE: With a life that has taken her around Pakistan, Farzeen Irtizaz of design house Rani Emaan had the upbringing of a child raised in the military due to her father's position as an officer.
“I come from Murree but grew up at the different stations (throughout the) four provinces of Pakistan,” she told Arab News. “Wherever my father was stationed, we (were there) to accompany him.”
Prior to 2005, Irtizaz found herself in the Bagh district of Kashmir due to her husband’s posting. It was there that the couple, along with their two young daughters, lived through the destruction of one of the most devastating earthquakes to hit that part of South Asia.

With a  magnitude of 7.6 on the Richter Scale and casualties that have been estimated to be close to 100,000, with similar numbers injured and catastrophic damage left in its wake, Irtizaz was forced to embrace a new life and did so with eyes newly opened.
“The quake defined the destiny of many lives and it thoroughly transformed my vision of life. For the very first time I felt being so ephemeral … here today and gone tomorrow.”
The destruction left Irtizaz with two fractured legs.
“Where (an) uncountable (number of) beings had to depart this world, I was thankfully fortunate enough to be a survivor and only suffered the fractures.
“The solid house that I passionately decorated was liquidized in fractions of seconds,” she said. “My two little girls along with my husband could not (find their way around the remains of our home). It was the soldiers around the house who (came) and pulled the whole family out from being stifled to death in debris.”
The unimaginable calamity required residents to be moved almost immediately. “After spending a disastrous morning, afternoon and evening in the vast ground that housed infinite dead bodies, army officers’ families were driven to the nearest safe place for them. For me it was Islamabad, my parental station.”
The turn of events would eventually lead her to build her own luxury bridal brand. “The stay at my parents’ place proved to be eventful as it (was the catalyst) for the establishment of Rani Emaan,” named after her first born daughter Emaan and that of her friend and partner Deeba’s, Rania.
“Rani Emaan’s first ever bridal gown was designed by me for a close family friend’s wedding while recovering in Islamabad,” she explained.
When asked if the brand itself functioned as a way of healing and rebuilding, the designer said: “Rani Emaan has always been a motivation for me. Beyond work, it supplemented my emotional strength and fortified my belief in my abilities and work ethic.”

Rani Emaan’s designs are known for their glamorous take on bridal wear without relying too heavyily on fleeting trends. There is a strong focus on elegance and keeping the cuts simple and focused on presenting the wearer in the best light. Her studios, both in Islamabad and in Washington, DC, where Deeba resides, are a mainstay stop for brides and wedding parties. When asked why she went with bridals initially, she said that designing bridals allows for her to tap into her appreciation of regal touches, throwbacks to times where royals influenced what kind of garments were worn on wedding days.
“(It is) thoroughly gratifying to have hands on experience for reincarnating (that) royal (feeling) in my work from the inception itself,” she said.


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.


Registration for 2nd phase of Saudi culture ministry fashion program begins

Updated 13 January 2021

Registration for 2nd phase of Saudi culture ministry fashion program begins

RIYADH: Registration for the second phase of the Ministry of Culture’s Fashion Incubation Program began on Tuesday.
It is designed to uncover, support and promote local creatives and entrepreneurs in the fashion sector.
The registration process will continue until Jan. 18 via https://engage.moc.gov.sa/fashion_bootcamp.
The program will start on Feb. 28 and continue until March 4.
The first phase starting from Jan. 14 is a three-day virtual “fashion hackathon,” which, according to the ministry’s website, will see participants split into small groups to “solve some specific challenges in the field within a short period of time.”
The winners will receive a five-day trip to Milan Fashion Week. The second phase is a “boot camp” — a five-day virtual event focused on fashion and entrepreneurship that will help participants to develop their ideas, network, and receive guidance from top fashion professionals.
The third phase — Is a longer-term incubator providing participants with the guidance and support necessary to “establish foundations and help them strengthen their product.”
 


The Saudi fashion designer inspired by her bedouin roots in AlUla

Updated 11 December 2020

The Saudi fashion designer inspired by her bedouin roots in AlUla

  • Jeddah-born Lama Al-Bluwi’s yearning for her heritage has found expression in a remarkable collection
  • Hand-drawn portraits printed on local fabrics in modern cuts speak to her family’s bedouin roots in AlUla

DUBAI: Growing up in Saudi Arabia’s coastal metropolis of Jeddah, Lama Al-Bluwi always felt somehow detached from her family’s bedouin roots in AlUla far to the north. Now her yearning for this rich cultural heritage has found expression in a remarkable fashion collection, which melds the traditional fabric designs of her ancestors with the latest modern trends.

Young Saudis across the Kingdom are looking deep within their own heritage for inspiration, and Al-Bluwi is no exception. The 23-year-old’s prizewinning collection debuted last winter, just months after she graduated in fashion design from Jeddah’s Dar Al-Hekma University.

“My inspiration was mainly bedouin heritage and I tried to depict heritage in a more fashionable and modern way,” Al-Bluwi told Arab News. A college prize for the Most Creative Fashion Collection motivated her to enter her designs for AlUla Season — a festival celebrating local creativity.

Born and raised in Jeddah, Al-Bluwi remembers traveling to the family’s farm in AlUla every winter while growing up. (Supplied)

What makes Al-Bluwi’s work distinctive are the hand-drawn portraits of the bedouin that she prints onto local fabrics, making her coats, jackets, crop-top hoodies and oversized T-shirts an instant hit on Instagram among customers tired of the more predictable high-street fare.

“I have always drawn bedouin portraits, so I mixed all my ideas to present a fashionable collection for my senior collection and my senior project at university,” she said.

Born and raised in Jeddah, Al-Bluwi remembers traveling to the family’s farm in AlUla every winter while growing up. She recalls with fondness the warmth of the local community and the proud culture of the bedu — nomadic Arabs who inhabit the region’s desert expenses. “I find something real in them and that sense of being, of authenticity and of realness inspires me,” she said.

“The simplicity of their life is what fascinated me. I find them very hardworking and very inspiring people in so many ways. They are very generous, and I love that. The way they appreciate their heritage is really touching and they find a lot of pride in where they come from.”

What makes Al-Bluwi’s work distinctive are the hand-drawn portraits of the bedouin that she prints onto local fabrics

AlUla is host to a breathtaking ancient walled city, packed with historic mud-brick and stone houses. Situated in the Madinah region of northwestern Saudi Arabia, it is also home to the Kingdom’s first UNESCO World Heritage site — the 2,000-year-old Nabataean wonder of Hegra, also known as Mada’in Saleh. Given AlUla’s increasing prominence as an archeological landmark on the Middle East tourist trail, the local population is naturally proud of their history and culture.

Despite the annual visits to her ancestral home, Al-Bluwi's childhood and early education in Jeddah left her feeling far removed from her heritage. Curious about her roots and eager to look beyond the cultural bubble of “the Jeddah scene” as she calls it, Al-Bluwi delved deeper into her origins.

This personal journey soon found creative expression. After an initial interest in the fine arts, encouraged by a love of sketching and family trips to European museums, Al-Bluwi discovered her passion for fabrics.

Fashion designer Lama Al-Bluwi’s creations salute her AlUla roots, above and inset, while hand-drawn portraits of bedouin, below, are a hit among customers. (Supplied)

“I used to beg my mother to go with me to a museum,” she recalled. “None of my family was interested but I made them go and they loved it, but I was the one who initiated it.”

And although AlUla and bedouin heritage form the foundation of her work, her designs were also influenced by a dash of Japanese culture, particularly the concept of wabi-sabi — the art of imperfection.

“Everything that is raw and imperfect is perfect, rather than being polished,” she said. “That was my main concept. When you see my garments, you will notice that the seams are inside out, and the edges are raw. I implemented the imperfections in my designs.”

A love of “weird, imperfect things” motivated her research. “I don’t like seeing something polished, so I started to go into the history of imperfection, and I came across this Japanese philosophy,” she said. “I read more about it, researched it and found it amazing.”

Lama Al-Bluwi's yearning for AlUla's rich cultural heritage has found expression in a remarkable fashion collection. (Supplied)

Al-Bluwi says there is no dearth of interest within Saudi Arabia in her creations, and many of her friends enjoy wearing them. “I love it when a product gives you a sense of identity or presents something to you,” she said.

At the same time, she hopes to make her mark beyond the Kingdom by spreading awareness of her culture and heritage near and far.

Despite the strain placed on small businesses and the fashion events calendar by the coronavirus pandemic, Al-Bluwi says her business is blossoming, with growing interest from abroad. “That people from other cultures find (my collection) interesting made me very happy,” she said.

Lama Al-Bluwi's designs were also influenced by a dash of Japanese culture. (Supplied)

Catering for an international client base will not only help Al-Bluwi build her brand but also broaden the global appeal and appetite for Saudi Arabia’s bedouin heritage.

“It is important for us as artists or designers to change our perspective on that,” she said, referring to an earlier reluctance to engage with the global marketplace. “We are doing that slowly, but a lot of people have seen my collection, so we are going in the right direction.”

Although she has missed out on promotional events this year, the pandemic has given Al-Bluwi time to hone her skills and to learn from others in Saudi Arabia’s burgeoning fashion industry. “I have learnt that it is very important to have a really good platform or website where everyone can see your work, and not be over-depend on events,” she said.

Young Saudis across the Kingdom are looking deep within their own heritage for inspiration. (Supplied)

With the Saudi government investing heavily in young entrepreneurs as part of its Vision 2030 economic diversification plan, Al-Bluwi is excited to see more designers spread their wings.

“I’m so happy to be alive at this time in Saudi Arabia. What they’re doing here is beautiful. They are supporting us in so many ways — not just in fashion but in a lot of sectors in the country,” she said.

“It’s a lovely thing to see. It makes us push ourselves even more in the best way possible and it makes me proud of all our talent because we truly all drive each other.”

Twitter: @CalineMalek

The rebirth of AlUla
Hegra, ancient city of the Nabataeans in Saudi Arabia’s historic AlUla Valley, is emerging from the mists of time to take its rightful place as one of the wonders of the world
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