Hip, Haute and Couture

Stephanie Rivers
Filed on April 23, 2010

Fashion DEsigner Zeena Zaki of Julea Domani takes us to school, and fashion has never looked so good

Can you walk our readers through your background in design?

I started when I was young by making a T-shirt for my best friend when I was a child. I used to watch my mother as she prepared for her fashion shows. I’d spend time talking to designers and the backstage team. From growing up with it, I then started to create my own brand. I didn’t go to university or college to study fashion, I learnt from my mother.

What was the defining moment in 2003 that put you on your designing path?

I opened a boutique in Sharjah with the support of my family and friends and complete belief in my own ability to stand out as a designer of immense potential; I was overwhelmed by the response with my client base growing rapidly and ladies really accepting my brand and placing multiple orders. It all happened so fast. I consider myself to be very fortunate and humbled by the whole experience but also extremely proud of my accomplishments.

As a child, were you always interested in fashion/clothing?

I used to watch my mother design, create and go on this amazing journey of artistic discovery and this fuelled my own desire to innovate. Add to that, my father’s spirit of adventure and artistic flair and there was only one path I was destined to take. It so happened that I loved designing clothes, so all my energy was channelled towards making this my lifework.

Are there any others, apart from your mother, that you feel have also contributed heavily to your design endeavours?

My husband has been a huge support and continues to be. He helps me run my business by managing my factory and staff. He is my strength in every way.

Have your designs been influenced by your upbringing in Copenhagen? The colour palette? The materials?

I was born there and moved two years later. I then continued to travel and moved around a lot from Romania to Kuwait, Iraq and then the UAE. I do think the many cultures I have met along the way have influenced my style and the way I design. The colour palette I design with is purely because I love these colours. The materials I use follow the same principle of utilising my vast exposure to many cultures and moulding that into my design features.

I read that your bridal show in 2006 was another great turning point in your career as a designer. Why do you think this is so?

This was the first time I showcased my bridal collection. I was so nervous as it was a huge step for me, but again it was well received. I think from talking to my clients and understanding what they want in a wedding gown, I managed to portray this on the catwalk and the response was overwhelming. The key was understanding the needs of the market and translating that into an end design or dress that resonated with women looking for uniqueness and creative flair.

Who is the Julea Domani customer?

She is an elegant woman who wears clothes with confidence and style. She carries herself with abundant energy and independence but at the same time respects and honours her culture and her background. She is a progressive individual, open to different ideas, cultures and lifestyles and comfortable in any surrounding. The clothes she wears display all her positive characteristics and project an image of a woman for the future.

Is your clientele mainly GCC based or international?

Mainly GCC based, but we are branching out next year to Europe and the USA.

Tell us about your Spring/Summer 2010 collection and the collection that you just recently presented at Dubai Fashion Week?

I love this collection. Again inspired by the Victorian Era and pastel colours. I have a particular dress that took me over four months to complete. I love it. I love the work and the lilac colour. It’s my favourite piece from my whole collection.

Who would be your ideal person, past or present, to design for or have designed for?

I love the way Marilyn Monroe dressed and how she wore her clothes. I also love Jennifer Lopez. She walks the red carpet so well and her curvaceous figure looks amazing in long fitted gowns.

Name three women that you feel are extremely stylish and always have great style?

Beyonce, Shireen Abdul Wahab and Princess Rania.

What are some ways a woman can look stylish, aside from wearing your designs, on a day-to-day basis?

I love elegant fitting suits and tailored jackets. For a casual look, a pair of jeans with a tailored jacket looks very classy.

What five items should a woman always have in her wardrobe?

Little Black Dress, one evening gown, designer handbag, black skirt suit and a pair of Christian Dior shoes (timeless).

What are your go-to pieces that can take you from the office, to dinner and beyond?

I love to wear my white fitted trousers and fitted top with long sleeves. It’s smart for work and then I put on a top for the evening, a long chiffon kaftan in pastel and finish it off with a white large buckled belt around the waist.

Favourite fashion film? And why?

Coco Chanel [2009]. I love how elegant she is and how daring she was to create a style that we still love today. I loved her adventurous side and how she took risks.

If you were not a designer, what would you be doing?

I would be more into retail and own fashion boutiques with multi-brands.

How do you recharge your creative batteries?

Relaxing on a beach with my family and eating at my father’s restaurants.

Rapid Fire Questions

· favourite colours: White and pastel colours

· favourite designers: Elie Saab, Valentino

· favourite shoes (style and fashion house): Gucci and Galliano

· favourite handbags(fashion house): Christian Dior

· beauty splurge: YSL products

· ideal fashion design collaboration partner: a) Tom Ford, b) Marc Jacobs, c) Sabyasachi Mukherjee, d) Manish Arora, e) Ritu Beri, f) Karl Lagerfeld. Tom Ford — in order for him to dress the men who would accompany the Julea Domani woman.

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