Fashion forward

18 Emirati students of Sheikh Zayed Private Academy to showcase their designs along with leading international designers at the Abu Dhabi Fashion Week

By Vijay Dandige (Contributor)

Published: Sat 15 Mar 2008, 1:48 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 3:29 PM

IT IS an international fashion show but with a marked difference. Reputed and recognised international fashion designers will be showcasing their autumn/winter collections during Abu Dhabi Fashion Week, from March 15 to 18 at Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi.

Along with the big names this time, however, 18 Emirati designers, all female students of 11th grade at Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Private Academy, will also display their creations before an international audience on the opening day. These designers are distinct. They cherish their Arabian culture and traditions, and are eager to acquaint the world with the UAE. Their collection was inspired by the Gulf - its inhabitants, traditions, culture and environment. Incorporating a selection of diverse local materials - from palm fronds to fishing nets - the designers are reinterpreting the past, and investigating the harmony between tradition and innovation. Together, they have created over 20 outfits for the show, under the guidance of their teachers, Georgia Kostakis and Kirsty Begg. A unique feature of their show is that all of them have decided to raise money for charity through their creations. On the eve of their debut, City Times spoke to two of the student designers, Sheikha Sheikha bint Saeed bin Saif Al Nahyan and Fatima bint Mohammed Al Qubaisi.

Sheikha Sheikha bint Saeed bin Saif Al Nahyan

How did you get into fashion designing?

We're in grade 11 at school and we have a fashion designing class. So it was part of our curriculum. We learnt the basics of fashion designing at school and we added our own creativity. Also, it was a great opportunity for us, giving us a chance to show our work in an international fashion show.

What was the inspiration for your creations?

My inspiration to work on this fashion show was that we were presented with the challenge to combine cultural elements into a modern look. That was the main reason why I wanted to participate: to show the world the UAE traditions and culture and to show how an Emirati woman can merge culture with modern fashions.

What did you create for the show?

I have created two outfits for the show. For the first outfit I was inspired by the palm tree, because it is the symbol of the desert environment of the UAE. And the second one was inspired by the women of the UAE, as I admire the women of my country and their ability to cherish our traditions and values in the changing world.

What do you try to project through your designs?

In most of my designs I try to show my perspective of our traditions and culture. In my first outfit, which is inspired by the palm tree, I added the element of traditional tal'li and I also used a traditional embroidered fabric which is usually part of the traditional dress called the kandoora. The second outfit, which is inspired by the women of the UAE, is a dress with a face of a woman, and a burga, the mask that ladies wear. Her hair is braided into a belt, because traditionally we braid our hair.

What is your view of Emirati fashion designers?

I feel that Emirati designers are just beginning to merge into the fashion industry and what they have done until now is great. I hope they will be able to present themselves globally.

How do you feel about Abu Dhabi emerging as an international fashion centre?

I think it's a great opportunity for Abu Dhabi to be a part of the international fashion industry, in the same way as cities like Paris, Milan, New York etc. Abu Dhabi is a very cultural city, well known for its creative abilities. For example, part of the great museum Louvre is being opened here and we have various cultural events continuously throughout the year. I think fashion is a part of art. It is a creative pursuit which adds to the image of the city. Abu Dhabi is a one of the centre points for culture in the Middle East and will be the artistic hub of the entire region. Abu Dhabi has great plans.

Through your creations, what kind of image do you seek to project of the Emirati woman?

Through my creations what I want to project about the Emirati woman is her ability to hold on to her traditions and values even when the country is developing in many different ways. Even though we are designers I feel that we should design outfits that are appropriate to what our culture encourages.

Can you tell us about the charity that is linked to your programme?

We're 18 girls who created the outfits, with some creating more than one, like I did. And we decided that we either keep the outfits or give them to charity. So, most of us voted to auction off the dresses and donate the money to charity. We have not decided on which charity but most probably it would be the Red Crescent, an organisation that works for several causes.

How was the experience of taking part in an international fashion show?

It was very exciting and challenging. It was a great learning experience to work with industry professionals and we had a lot of fun expressing ourselves in a creative way.

Behind the Burga

This outfit was inspired by the women of the UAE. I admire the women of my country and their ability to hold on to their traditions and values while still being able to work in this ever-developing country. The outfit is made out of pieces of fabric, string and sequins. Braided hair has adorned women for centuries and has been included in the design of the belt. The other traditional elements are the shayla, and the burga - a kind of mask made of fabric that women used to wear in the past and some continue to wear in the present.

Palm Tree

This outfit was inspired by the palm tree. Palm trees are a symbol of the desert environment of the UAE. It is made out of traditional tal'li and traditional embroidered UAE fabric. The outfit consists of a vest coat, a long and puffed sleeved blouse and jeans. The main colours of the outfit are gold and emerald green. I chose to use gold in my outfit as it is one of the most coveted colours used in the past. This outfit is suitable for an evening out, worn by a woman with a dynamic fashion personality.

Fatima bint Mohammed Al Qubaisi

How did you choose fashion designing?

I opted for it but I thought I wouldn't be interested in it. But as I got through the course, I realised that fashion industry is not just about clothes or designers or models. I appreciate now that it is an enormous industry and affects people all over the world.

What role did you play in your group?

I was in the production team. I was there for the whole process. The production team's tasks included exhibition design, liaising with the designers, video footage, and writing copy for external publication. We have a wide variety of designs, from traditional to modern outfits. We combined modern and traditional, not only in clothes but in the accessories as well. We not only have clothes but also symbols of the UAE like the falcon, palm tree etc. Our aim was to try and give a new fact to fashion, to introduce a new perspective.

What is different about your group's creations?

Each creation is unique. We are inspired by many aspects of Emirati culture. Pieces have been designed which transform our everyday traditional garments into a modern and fashionable look. For example the masculinity of garments such as the egal and sifra have been incorporated to create a feminine appeal. I love individualism, something that is special because then you have something that is worth showcasing. I like that about the fashion show. And I think that the uniqueness has been achieved in many of the outfits that we are going to display.

Do you plan to pursue fashion designing as a career?

We've been part of the show and we were deeply involved in it. So, whether I would pursue fashion designing or not as career, I would still be very much involved in it. I will always maintain my interest in the fashion industry.

What sort of designs in fashion do you opt for?

I'm an admirer of change. I support change in many ways. I like to have a sense of fashion that is unique and at the same time, that unites what we were and what we are; where we came from, where we are right now and where we are going. I feel that is the message that we will project when we showcase our creations.

From your experience, what is the most striking thing you learnt about fashion industry?

I have been part of the show and I have seen the process. I don't think the world has any idea of how much effort goes into making the outfits, how much embroidery is involved in creating fashions. When you go to a shop and buy something, you never really imagine what is behind it, the production process etc. I saw it all and now I have learnt to appreciate that. I admire our team members who created their outfits. I'm proud of them and I'm proud to belong to this group and what our group has achieved.

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