A pre-Ramadan exhibition brings together local designers impacted by the pandemic

Celebrate the spirit of Ramadan in style with Sawa Exhibition

By Somya Mehta

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Published: Thu 8 Apr 2021, 8:21 PM

Along with glorious festivities and the spirit of togetherness, Ramadan also signifies a period of deep reflection and bringing people closer to their purpose and aspirations. The Sawa initiative, a labour of love for the Emirati jewellery designer Salama Khalfan and The Modist founder Ghizlan Guenez, brings this very spirit alive. Sawa, which translates to ‘together’, gathers local designers that have been unfavourably impacted by the pandemic, to showcase their creative collections and bring in the celebratory season — in style.

An endeavour that shaped over a dinner table conversation was executed in a short span of three weeks, from ground-up. “Traditionally, Ramadan has always been a time where people get excited about dressing up, getting together and spending time with their loved ones. Whether it’s buying new clothes or home accessories, Ramadan has a spirit of its own,” says Khalfan. “This period is generally very important in the trade show business, for small designers and entrepreneurs. So, we thought it would be best to launch Sawa as a pre-Ramadan exhibition, to capture the very essence of the festivities,” says Salama.

With businesses — big and small — being severely impacted by the pandemic and the changing landscape of global economy, Sawa comprises a mix of small business owners, unable to participate in large exhibitions due to the high costs attached to renting spaces, as well as established designers, with a following that can draw people in to the exhibition. “Sawa is a platform to bring everyone together, at a nominal fee, to enable, rather than disable, these individuals to commercialise their creations,” mentions Salama, acknowledging the struggles faced by people in the fashion industry through her own experience as a creative entrepreneur.

The Modist founder, too, emphasises the need for people to uplift each other at a time when society, as a whole, is being impacted by the pandemic. “Whether it’s for creative entrepreneurs or any other industry, this is probably the most important time in our lives, to come together, help each other and uplift our ecosystems.”

When asked about the challenges of setting up this initiative during Covid-19, the duo says that when two women in business set their mind to something they strongly believe in and are buzzing with energy, nothing can stop them. “Salama and I are entrepreneurs. We’re used to coming up with an idea and just going ahead and executing it — making it happen, defying any obstacles that might come our way. We relied on the support from our community,” adds Ghizlan.

The founders hope to expand the reach of this initiative going forward, to empower more up-and-coming designers to get a platform to showcase their hardwork and find a suitable consumer market. “At the exhibition, you can find a wide-spectrum of offerings, keeping in line with the theme of Ramadan, ranging from kaftans, to abayas, to Ramadan accessories, to footwear and more. Many exhibitors are even launching special capsules, exclusively for Sawa. There will be something for everyone!”

Sawa exhibition is taking place at Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue, from April 7 to 10, featuring over 30 local fashion labels, accessories, jewellery and lifestyle.

Dima Ayad (@dimaayad)

What inspired you to create your brand?

I always struggled to find evening wear that fit me. So, I decided to take matters in my own hands and design clothes for all shapes and sizes. Feeling excluded made me want to be included — and include everyone else for that matter.

How has Covid-19 impacted your label?

I think the vanity aspect of fashion faded during Covid-19. Practically too, women just weren’t interested in fashion so much. My brand was all about bling. It suffered tremendously during the pandemic. It’s a luxury not a necessity, so, I think we were one of the industries that got hit the most.

What do you hope to get out of the Sawa initiative?

It’s a very refreshing approach to what defines supporting talent in the region, giving us an opportunity to take part at a very reasonable price. This also creates a lovely community, a sense of togetherness, and a harmonious environment that is synonymous to Ramadan.

What is the one fashion trend to lookout for, this Ramadan?

The beauty of Ramadan is the sense of individuality that everyone expresses and in the elegance and comfort. But I’m all for a little bit of sparkle.

Sheikha Amal AlMaktoum (@azzalia.ae)

What inspired you to create your brand?

I always had a passion for designing my own fashionwear, on my own terms. The brand is named after my two daughters, who have been my greatest inspiration.

How has Covid-19 impacted your label?

Covid has definitely had a major impact on our business but we managed to survive, by re-strategising our collections. We started creating smaller capsule collections, with a stronger emphasis on serving the changing needs of our clients.

What do you hope to get out of the Sawa initiative?

We’ve been waiting for something like Sawa and we are grateful to the founders who’ve put this together. It shows how people in the UAE support each other, hand in hand. It will assist a lot of designers to get the right exposure, at the right time.

What is the one fashion trend to look out for this Ramadan?

Azzalia has its own ways of looking at trends. We study international fashion trends but we also put our touch to them. Our collection Hot Jungle uses bright colours, to freshen up the mood of our consumers, especially after the tough times during the pandemic, which is essential for this season.

Mona Ead Mikati (@mounaylabel)

What inspired you to create your brand?

I wanted to create timeless pieces that stay in our wardrobe for many years. The essence of Mounay is in the mélange of the feminine with an edge, creating a contemporary ready-to-wear label that seamlessly empowers the modern woman.

How has Covid-19 impacted your label?

When Covid hit our region, it was the beginning of the pre-Ramadan season, which is our bestselling season. We had all our fabrics ready, events planned, stock produced and ready to be shipped to stores. With the lockdown, the season was completely gone and we faced big losses. However, despite all the setbacks last year, we always felt safe and well taken care of by the support of the government.

What do you hope to get out of the Sawa initiative?

Sawa is such a fresh breath of air, which was much needed this season. We are really hoping for a successful event and are grateful for the organisers to give us such a platform.

What is the one fashion trend to look out for this Ramadan?

Colourful kaftans! I think we all need the positive vibes we get from fresh, bright colours, after a long, tough year that we’ve all had!

Amal Murad (@byamalmurad)

What inspired you to create your brand?

Back when I started my venture, the abaya was very classic, with A-line cuts and no embellishment. I thought that the young generation might not be able to relate to the abaya as an identity. So, I decided to create a new style of abayas, with drapes, different cuts and a burst of colours, to create something the young generation could be proud of.

How has Covid-19 impacted your label?

I always believe that difficult situations are about pushing us to think outside the box, and bring the best out of ourselves. We learned how to make quick decisions and minimise costs by creating simple cuts and silhouettes.

What do you hope to get out of the Sawa initiative?

Sawa has been a pleasant surprise, especially with the costs of exhibiting being so reasonably priced. They have really made a statement with this initiative, making it so accessible for local business to exhibit their collections.

What is the one fashion trend to look out for this Ramadan?

Ramadan look is all about being simple and adding traditional accessories, wearing light kaftans. After a long day of fasting, you need to wear something comfortable yet aesthetic.


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