Modest fashion hits the catwalk during London show

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An appreciative audience applauds designers.
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Models give observers an idea of fashionable modesty.
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Sara Al-Madani of Rouge Couture, left, with a model.
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Muna Abu Sulayman
Updated 03 March 2017
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Modest fashion hits the catwalk during London show

Looking at the throngs of well-dressed women who flocked to the London Modest Fashion Week there was one individual who stood out. She was the one and only woman dressed head to foot in black and covering her face. It was her choice to wear the niqab but at this “modest” event the young, British-born woman with a London accent managed to draw all eyes.
It seemed that everyone else was happy to wear the hijab or an elegant turban. This was an opportunity to see some of the very best designers from around the globe presenting their collections. There was as much glamour and style in the audience as on the catwalk. All who attended were dressed in a modest way but modesty does not mean dull. Some of the outfits were quite stunning and beautifully cut; the range of colors and fabrics made for a fantastic spectacle.
The two-day event held at the Saatchi Gallery, Chelsea, was organized by Romanna bint Abubaker, founder or modest fashion website Haute Elan.
Forty design brands participated, including Art of Heritage and Foulard from Saudi Arabia, Rouge Couture from Dubai and Leenaz from Bahrain.
Sara Al-Madani of Rouge Couture, who serves on the board of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and UAE SME Council, gave a workshop in which she urged women to take control of their lives and not wait for someone to give them permission to follow their dreams.
“I don’t wait for acceptance — take the walls down and create your own life,” she said. She added: “I can be modest, Arabic and Muslim and be myself.”
A single mother of a one-and-a-half-year-old son, Al-Madani revealed that she had had to overcome the near collapse of her company caused by alleged fraud committed by a business partner. “I woke up and found I had zero in my bank account — I lost everything, but I had 39 employees depending on me and I didn’t want to declare bankruptcy,” she said.
She was equally determined not to turn to her parents for help.
Instead she committed to rebuilding the business, which was tough going as she made no money for the first two years of the fight back. “It took me until 2016, just last year, to become steady again,” she said.
Al-Madani looks back at those testing years as an important learning curve.
“Failure pushed me to want to do something — failure is a must,” she said.
To those who say to her “You are so lucky,” she has a message.
“I’m not lucky. I have got to where I am today through blood and sweat. Hard work is essential.”
She urged women to find whatever they are passionate about and commit to the sometimes difficult journey in realizing their goals. “You have to search for it — it is not canned — it is not a hobby,” she said.
At the end of the workshop, Al-Madani said she had something she especially wanted to say. It was a message about being helpful and kind to others who are trying to make their way in the world.
“Help people — show kindness without expecting anything in return,” she said.
In the audience listening to Al-Madani was Muna Abu Sulayman from Saudi Arabia. Arab News asked for her reaction to the workshop. “It was an inspirational and effective talk,” she said.
Asked about her view of the event, she said: “It is important to represent the lifestyles and value options of women who dress demurely.”
Muslims make up a majority of the population in 49 countries around the world. It is estimated that by 2050 the number of Muslims worldwide will grow to 2.76 billion, or 29.7 percent of world’s population.
Industry experts forecast that the modest fashion sector will be worth $327 billion by 2020.
The Art of Heritage show gave the audience a chance to appreciate the traditional designs and adornments of the Saudi culture. The Art of Heritage charitable foundation has some 100 women working permanently and more than 40 working from their homes. To raise income and awareness they create museum standard reproductions and new interpretations of traditional garments and gifts that are all handmade, unique pieces.
Seasonal collections include beautiful thobes and kaftans based on traditional designs from all over the country. The charity also runs Yadawy Pottery, providing employment, training and income for disabled Saudi women who hand make pots and craft items. Art of Heritage was awarded the prestigious Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak award for best charity organization in the Gulf and Middle East region in 2015.
London Modest Fashion Week was an opportunity for some young talent to showcase their designs. Saleha Bagas from Bolton, a town in Greater Manchester in northwest England said: “I feel so at home here — it’s a big, modest community. I’m in my element. This type of event empowers women.”
Anosha Anwary, who comes from Afghanistan and has lived in the UK for 16 years, said: “I hope this event will open many other doors for modest wear designers. I hope it will show Western society that our religion does not limit us from achieving our goals.”
She has a clear vision for her brand. “It is for strong, beautiful and powerful women — that’s how I want them to feel when they wear my clothes,” she said.
Art was also featured at the event with a charity auction of the work of Siddiqa Juma. Guided by the Qur’an and Islamic tradition, Juma creates art that celebrates a rich religious and cultural heritage.
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Startup of the Week: Coco Sabon’s natural skincare

Coco Sabon. (Supplied)
Updated 21 May 2019
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Startup of the Week: Coco Sabon’s natural skincare

  • Coco Sabon’s customers are mostly Arab women aged between 20 and 40, “though we have many loyal fans that span different age groups and come from all over the world”

RIYADH: The healing and relaxing powers of nature are at the heart of Coco Sabon’s philosophy.
Launched by Dr. Cynthia Mosher — an American living in Riyadh — the skincare firm is committed to sourcing high-quality, natural oriental ingredients that provide the skin with gentle care and nourishment.
“I launched Coco Sabon in November 2015 at Alfaisal University’s first bazaar,” she said.
Mosher, who completed a bachelor of science in natural health sciences, said she hoped to do something more than simply diagnose illnesses and prescribe treatments. She also wanted to have time for other important things and people, so now she is working as an educator, training a new generation of medical students.
She encourages people to make healthy choices when it comes to ingredients they use on their bodies.
“I fell in love with formulating and creating beautiful, natural skincare products. I continued my creative journey while pursuing my medical degree, which deepened my commitment to develop ‘do no harm’ skincare based on natural ingredients,” she said.
“Layered with my admiration of Arabian culture, the rich regional ingredients, and my passion for integrative medicine, I developed a deep sense of holistic self-care that guides my formulations. My love for the fragrances, natural remedies and skincare routines of the Middle East are the heart and soul of Coco Sabon.”
There is a growing demand for Coco Sabon products. “After years of requests from family and friends to make and sell my products, I tested the waters, so to speak. We sold out of everything that day.”
She added: “About six weeks later we were invited to participate at the Gathering in Al-Bujairi in January 2016. We had a crowd of customers nonstop for three days and again sold out of everything. It was a decisive weekend. Coco Sabon was born and we have not looked back since.”
Mosher’s family and friends offered encouragement, but one of her strongest supporters was her best friend, Audrey Wilkinson. She said: “Audrey was my supporter, helper and adviser. She now works with me, formulating and producing our candles, cremes and face care line.”
Coco Sabon’s customers are mostly Arab women aged between 20 and 40, “though we have many loyal fans that span different age groups and come from all over the world.”
The brand offers a wide range of products, including soap, bath bombs, scrubs, cremes, face and body oils, perfumes and candles.
“Everything is produced by hand in small batches here in Riyadh using natural, safe and organic ingredients, sourced locally wherever possible,” Mosher said.
Coco Sabon believes in supporting local businesses and in sourcing the best ingredients possible. The store also designs its packaging and hand packages, labels and wraps each item, selling through an online store (cocosabon.com), Instagram, WhatsApp, and local popup shop events.
Mosher has also started offering workshops on making her products.
“Some might think that to be unwise because I could very well teach a future competitor,” she said. “Well, that’s true for the medical students I teach now. Should I withhold my knowledge for fear of them becoming better doctors and doing better? Of course not. The more knowledge we put out there, the better our society will be. The workshops also help build community.
“I connect with people who are curious, who want to learn how to create and how to make good choices for their health. I welcome workshop students young and older (my youngest so far was just 6 years old), and I encourage them to take what they learn and use it to improve their lives and that of others around them. If they make a business out of doing so, then good for them. We all have something to offer the world,” she said.
Mosher is happy that she created a job she loves. “Sometimes I miss practicing clinical medicine, but I remind myself that I am helping people make healthier choices for their bodies, their minds, their souls and the planet,” she said.
“That’s a special kind of medicine that I believe can help heal the world.”