Arwa Al-Ammari makes waves in Saudi fashion scene

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Updated 08 March 2016
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Arwa Al-Ammari makes waves in Saudi fashion scene

Women in Saudi Arabia are making waves in the fashion world in striking ways. They are relying on their indigenous dressing style and adapting it to the modern outlook.
For one Riyadh-based fashion designer Arwa Al-Ammari, founder of ArAm, it’s not only an art but also a way to express her views without stinting. In fact, she is a woman of many talents which showcases her sparkling potential. She has been in love with arts in its many forms since her childhood. “I play music, paint and sculpt too. I learned to take professional photos and also participated in several school theater plays. In the middle of it all, I stumbled upon a whole new magical form of art — fashion design to make my mark in,” she says.
From then on, there was no looking back for Al-Ammari. She kept moving ultimately designing her own outfits which, all of a sudden, captured the eyes of people around her who later showed interest in buying her creations and the circle began to grow as a result. “At that point it occurred to me that I must refine my talent and passion by enrolling at a prestigious fashion academy,” she says.
Though Al-Ammari studied public policy, planning and financing and holds a Master degree from London School of Economics and Political Science in addition to an MBA from University of Leicester, UK, she changed her direction and delved into exploring the artistic genes that she inherited from her parents who are quite passionate about art. More or less, Al-Ammari started bonding with art at an early stage thanks to her parents. “Every summer they used to sign me up for art courses abroad. I took courses in different schools in the US and UK and got to learn about oil painting, sculpting, sketching, photography and so on,” she says.
As fashion was engulfing her heart and soul and to make her foothold in the fashion industry, she joined a French fashion school “ESMOD” where she studied fashion design. “The courses that I did earlier along with my passion for arts also helped in the development of my artistic vision and taste,” explains Al-Ammari.
Since the launch of her brand ArAm two years ago, it has become an influential name on the Saudi fashion circuit in a big way. Describing what makes her designs stand out, she said, “My brand is characteristic of four elements that give it a huge advantage. The designs are feminine, classy, contemporary and memorable. With this philosophy, I’m trying to portray femininity in a contemporary and classy form through exotic cuts and color combinations that are catchy and memorable,” she says.
The other thing Al-Ammari’s dresses are famous for is that their roots are deeply etched in her heritage. “Being a Saudi designer who comes from the heart of this region and having lived in Dubai gives me an advantage in terms of being able to understand the norms, culture, heritage and social fabric of the people in the region,” explains Al-Ammari.
Being highly exposed to the global village as an avid traveler who visited more than 25 different countries in 4 continents and living abroad enabled her to appreciate other societies, legacies, backgrounds, civilizations, and their arts and history. “This is what I’m trying to reveal in ArAm’s designs,” she says.
Talking about her latest collection and how it came about, she replied, “The latest collection of mine titled “The Ottoman Treasures” is inspired by the fascinating Islamic art of the Ottoman era; the majestic architecture of the Ottoman buildings, the breathtaking details of ceramics and sophisticated netting and carpeting. The collection was structured to create pieces that embrace the artistic patterns and art elements of that period in a contemporary style.”
She knows the type of women who will fall in love with the dresses after seeing her collections. “Women whose only priority is to look elegant and turn heads while moving in a crowd are my prospective clients. I’m always flattered to hear my clients’ feedback. When they wear my designs, they feel absolutely feminine and get compliments even from those who don’t know them yet admire their looks,” she says.
Each individual on the planet takes delight in things that inspire them endlessly. So Al-Ammari is no exception with a great taste. “My greatest sources of inspiration are travel, architectural and historical landmarks, and art pieces,” she says. “I get moved by paintings and sculptures. I absorb the natural sceneries; assimilate the color combinations and preferences of different societies along with other cultural aspects such as music and heritage that one often comes across in my designs.”
When it comes to fabrics and colors, Al-Ammari makes sure they really go with the theme of her collection. As she puts it this way, “Personally I like strong colors that have a statement. With regard to my designs I prefer to work with colors that serve the topic I’m discussing. For example: In the Ottoman Treasures, the color theme is rich and strong reflecting the nature of this era of powerful rulers and Sultans. Colors of the orient included the royal blue and green, deep red, aqua and turquoise.”
She would love to see her designed pieces worn by a variety of fashion icons who match her fashion dreams in every way. To start with, the first name that comes up on top is Sheikha Moza followed by Carla Bruni, Michelle Obama, Sarah Jessica Parker and Lupita Nyongo. “To me these wonderful ladies match my view of being fashionable in terms of femininity and elegance,” she says.
People in the Gulf and the Middle East have a high regard for fashion. They just can’t live without it. They love to dress up and follow the latest international trends. Besides, many of them are shopping at smaller boutiques hunting for pieces that aren’t accessible to all. “They are craving for new styles but at the same time have the willingness to pay more to dress fashionably and uniquely,” says Ammari. “This is where the Ottoman Treasures collection comes in.”
As the brand takes the Middle East by storm, she is considering about introducing other items like leather goods but shoes in particular. She wants ArAm to be seen as an international brand. “This is what I’m planning to reach over the coming years.”

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UAE-based designer creates modest fashion at a modest price

Updated 21 August 2018
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UAE-based designer creates modest fashion at a modest price

DUBAI: For many modest fashion designers, it was the difficulty of finding stylish, high-street staples that played a role in why they initially set up shop. For Mosika Zeid, it was during her transition to hijab that she had her very own “a-ha” moment.
“[It] was honestly a fashion disaster,” the designer says of her time when she first started to wear a headscarf. “Being someone who was very fashion-conscious, and who loved to keep up with the latest trends and always look their best, I was shocked that I could not find everyday, on-trend modest fashion that had a reasonable price tag.”
Zeid, 33, is founder and CEO of the UAE-based modest fashion brand Desert Cove. It was as a lawyer that the Australian designer of Palestinian descent made her foray into the world of fashion.
“I was exposed to the fashion industry when I first started working as a lawyer over 12 years ago in Sydney and had some of the largest luxury fashion houses as my clients,” Zeid said. “When I came to the UAE, I consulted for some of the largest retailers. Through this I got an even greater insight into the business of fashion, as well as apparel production, sampling, fabrics and the whole process. And I just loved it.”
In July 2016, Desert Cove was born.
“This was a very soft launch,” Zeid said.
“The idea was just to test the market response to the concept.”
Receiving “an amazing response” encouraged Zeid to continue, and now she’s working on her third collection. Most recently, her team headed to Indonesia to show at Jakarta Modest Fashion Week. “It was an amazing experience to connect with our South East Asian customers and to confirm that our sisters in that region are interested in Desert Cove,” she continued.
Another location that’s exciting to the designer at the moment is the Kingdom. “Saudi women have an impeccable sense of fashion and style. They are world class, so their requirements for fashion are also world class,” says Zeid.
“The fashion scene in Saudi Arabia is undergoing huge changes [and] this means that women are looking for day-to-day fashion inspiration, which meets their amazing fashion sense, while still not compromising on their modesty requirements.”
For Zeid, Desert Cove’s unique selling points are two-fold. “Firstly, we are one of the few brands dedicated to providing hijabis modest versions of the hottest mainstream fashion trends. Plus, we have a $50 price promise on our main collection items, and $100 on our exclusive retailer collections.”
Looking ahead, Zeid is now focusing on Desert Cove’s upcoming spring-summer 2019 collection, as well as distribution deals and Dubai Modest Fashion Week at the end of 2018. “We have just launched in House of Fraser in Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi and will be having a launch event in store in early October, which we are very excited about,” she revealed.
Needless to say, Zeid doesn’t have any regrets about setting up. “I am so happy that I did launch Desert Cove, as I really do feel that I am contributing to solving a problem that women are facing, helping them to feel better about themselves and lead their most active and productive lives that they can.”