Meet Rafeea Al-Hajsi, the world’s first Emirati runway model

Rafeea Al-Hajsi is a revolutionary figure on the local fashion scene. (Photo supplied)
Updated 05 September 2017
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Meet Rafeea Al-Hajsi, the world’s first Emirati runway model

JEDDAH: UAE-born Rafeea Al-Hajsi is making strides along the catwalk and has been hailed by the international press as the first-ever Emirati model and a revolutionary figure on the local fashion scene.
The ambitious young beauty set her heart on becoming the nation’s first catwalk model and has worked hard to represent her country in a manner that fits with her ideals and customs.
It has been a bit of a struggle being in the spotlight, she told Arab News, adding that she chose to model only traditional Emirati attire for a number of years.
“I wanted to show how beautiful Emirati traditional costumes are and can be. I was basically introducing them to the world but I reached a limit in the choices I had as a model so after a number of years, I decided to progress and move on to newer projects.”
Those new projects included modeling for internationally renowned brands such as Ziad Nakad at Paris Fashion Week in 2016, acting in a Kuwaiti drama series and presenting a TV show on Abu Dhabi TV as well as hosting TV show “Arab Casting.”
“It was the most fun time I’ve had. I’ve always wanted to embark on such an adventure — to be able to dance and get dressed in costumes and be a part of something big. My co-host Daniella Rahme and I refused to sit idly by as we watched the beautiful costumes and all the segments that were played out by the participants so we headed straight to the director and demanded we be included, lightheartedly of course. We were given the green light and it was a great time,” Al-Hajsi said.
Recalling one of the best moments she had on the show, she remembers a segment with Kuwaiti actor Tariq Al-Ali in which she played an Emirati bride and he played the groom. “The episode (was based) mostly on Emirati wedding traditions, there was a lot of dancing and celebrating and I played the bride. I’m quite tall and add the heels, it boosts you up a few inches more and that was difficult for Tariq since he was shorter than I was and it was hard to keep a straight face when he was trying to take in the difference in height without bursting out laughing. It was one of my favorite scenes and having it performed with Tariq Al-Ali made it even more special.”
Staying true to herself
The model has shown respect for the various designers who hired her to walk for them during the latest edition of Arab Fashion Week in Dubai. Many altered their designs so the model would not be forced to walk the runway in revealing clothing.
“I feel like when designers listen to the model and respect her wishes, it shows that the designer isn’t only thinking about the designs, they’re also thinking about (how they can keep) the model happy. She is the one wearing the design at the end of it all. It shows integrity and I feel respected.”
However, her rise to fame has not come without its pitfalls. Her presence on social media, for example, has opened the model up to some stinging remarks posted by online trolls. Al-Hajsi admits that the support she has received from those closest to her helped her get through the difficult times and continue her mission with a new, assertive attitude.
“I am comfortable now, more than I have been. I still want to reach higher in the industry and I owe it to myself to become the best role model for myself and other young Emirati women out there who want to become models as well — breaking social barriers that are outdated, but with respect to who we really are. We Emiratis are kind and we are very ambitious so it’s not surprising to find us wanting to conquer many different aspects of society, all within the realm of respecting the cultures and traditions that make us who we are.”

I'm honored to be the one presenting the opening show of the talented Italian designer @laura_mancini_ #Laura_Mancini in sync with the outstanding opera music presented a collection in tribute to #Maria_Callas One of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the 20th century .. #ArabFashionWeek .. @arabfashioncouncil .. Photo credit @dlphoto Thank you .. أثناء #أسبوع_الموضة_العربي وأفتتاحي لعرض الازياء الخاص بالمصممة الإيطالية المبدعة #لورا_مانشيني على أنغام موسيقى الأوبرا تكريماً لأشهر عمالقة مغني الأوبرا في فترة مّا بعد الحرب العالمية الثانية #ماريا_كالاس وكان شرفاً لي تأدية دور عملاق في عالم الأوبرا والفن العريق . .. ‎#rafeeaalhajsi #رفيعه_الهاجسي #FirstEmirtiModel ‎#أسبوع_الموضة_العربي #emirateswoman #modeling #fashion #emirates #uae #dubai #rafeea_al_hajsi #رفيعة_الهاجسي #دبي #الامارات #اسبوع_الموضة_العربي #MariaCallas #lauramancini

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It could still be difficult for some of her co-nationals to accept an Emirati model as one of their own, but as Al-Hajsi explains it: “New things need time and Emiratis have had their time and accepted my choice in life. I am an Arab before I’m an Emirati, I will always respect the customs and traditions and will always take steps… to uphold them. If… I don’t, I go back, rethink and strategize again to reach the goal that I want with respect to those around me. I think that is the key to my success, respecting who I am and respecting the society that made me who I am today, an ambitious and rambunctious model (who is) ready for anything.”


Fashion capital New York considers banning sale of fur

Updated 17 April 2019
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Fashion capital New York considers banning sale of fur

  • Lawmakers are pushing a measure that would ban the sale of all new fur products in the city
  • “Cruelty should not be confused with economic development,” a sponsor of the legislation said

NEW YORK: A burgeoning movement to outlaw fur is seeking to make its biggest statement yet in the fashion mecca of New York City.
Lawmakers are pushing a measure that would ban the sale of all new fur products in the city where such garments were once common and style-setters including Marilyn Monroe, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Joe Namath and Sean “Diddy” Combs have all rocked furs over the years.
A similar measure in the state Capitol in Albany would impose a statewide ban on the sale of any items made with farmed fur and ban the manufacture of products made from trapped fur.
Whether this is good or bad depends on which side of the pelt you’re on. Members of the fur industry say such bans could put 1,100 people out of a job in the city alone. Supporters dismiss that and emphasize that the wearing of fur is barbaric and inhumane.
“Cruelty should not be confused with economic development,” said state Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, a Democrat from Manhattan, who is sponsoring the state legislation. “Fur relies on violence to innocent animals. That should be no one’s business.”
The fate of the proposals could be decided in the coming months, though supporters acknowledge New York City’s measure has a better chance of passage than the state legislation.
The fur trade is considered so important to New York’s development that two beavers adorn the city’s official seal, a reference to early Dutch and English settlers who traded in beaver pelts.
At the height of the fur business in the last century, New York City manufactured 80% of the fur coats made in the U.S, according to FUR NYC, a group representing 130 retailers and manufacturers in the city. The group says New York City remains the largest market for fur products in the country, with real fur still frequently used as trim on coats, jackets and other items.
If passed, New York would become the third major American city with such a ban, following San Francisco, where a ban takes effect this year, and Los Angeles, where a ban passed this year will take effect in 2021.
Elsewhere, Sao Paulo, Brazil, began its ban on the import and sale of fur in 2015. Fur farming was banned in the United Kingdom nearly 20 years ago, and last year London fashion week became the first major fashion event to go entirely fur-free.
Fur industry leaders warn that if the ban passes in New York, emboldened animal rights activists will want more.
“Everyone is watching this,” said Nancy Daigneault, vice president at the International Fur Federation, an industry group based in London. “If it starts here with fur, it’s going to go to wool, to leather, to meat.”
When asked what a fur ban would mean for him, Nick Pologeorgis was blunt: “I’m out of business.”
Pologeorgis’ father, who emigrated from Greece, started the fur design and sales business in the city’s “Fur District” nearly 60 years ago.
“My employees are nervous,” he said. “If you’re 55 or 50 and all you’ve trained to do is be a fur worker, what are you going to do?“
Supporters of the ban contend those employees could find jobs that don’t involve animal fur, noting that an increasing number of fashion designers and retailers now refuse to sell animal fur and that synthetic substitutes are every bit as convincing as the real thing.
They also argue that fur retailers and manufacturers represent just a small fraction of an estimated 180,000 people who work in the city’s fashion industry and that their skills can readily be transferred.
“There is a lot of room for job growth developing ethically and environmentally friendly materials,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who introduced the city measure.
New Yorkers asked about the ban this week came down on both sides, with some questioning if a law was really needed.
“It is a matter of personal choice. I don’t think it’s something that needs to be legislated,” said 44-year-old Janet Thompson. “There are lots of people wearing leather and suede and other animal hides out there. To pick on fur seems a little one-sided.”
Joshua Katcher, a Manhattan designer and author who has taught at the Parsons School of Design, says he believes the proposed bans reflect an increased desire to know where our products come from and for them to be ethical and sustainable.
“Fur is a relic,” he said.