Find out why designer Nasiba Hafiz is taking Saudi fashion to new heights

Nasiba Hafiz is a Saudi designer with a difference. (Photograph by: Iman Al-Dabbagh)
Updated 20 December 2017
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Find out why designer Nasiba Hafiz is taking Saudi fashion to new heights

JEDDAH: Jeddah-based fashion designer Nasiba Hafiz is a rare gem in Saudi Arabia. Her bold prints, asymmetric designs, colorful motifs and minimalist approach have all combined to form the foundation of a fresh take on fashion in the country.
Gone are the days of excess colors, florals and sequins, fashion in the country has taken a more modern, simple and sophisticated turn — and some fashion insiders believe Hafiz is at the helm of the ship.
Arab News sat down with Hafiz in her wonderfully-eccentric living room, the walls of which were covered in an unconventional array of beautiful pictures and posters garnered from her travels abroad. Her avant-garde home is a reflection of her style, as well as her art-and-fashion-savvy family’s influence.
“I design what I feel. It’s a process that isn’t easy, especially with the growing market, but I take into consideration what is missing here. You’ll always find pieces suitable for the growing teen, the 20-something, the 30-something and even the 40-something that are looking to find comfortable, chic pieces for their wardrobe. I’m in tune with my designs and they reflect what I sense around me. I experiment with everything, I’ll never restrict myself,” Hafiz told Arab News.

Throw back Tuesday #nasibahafiz #بوكادوت

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Her take on fashion is a reminder that a designer’s main purpose is to reflect their personal style in their creations.
“You lose your sense if you follow what clients want. Abayas and kaftans sell fast here but that’s not what I want. I can play a small role in adding to this category in my own way with my Moroccan line and the ‘Love’ abayas, but that’s about it. That’s not what I can do. A good designer will not succumb to the pressure, you simply accommodate with the standards you’ve set for yourself. You have to find a balance and the best part of being a designer is having a good support base who look for your designs, who want to purchase them because they’re different, because they’re unique.
“If you’re a slave to the industry then you’re going to have to do what everyone wants you to do,” she added.
She is a firm believer in making the best of what you have. Instead of relocating abroad to a country where the fashion design base is more established, she decided to stay, not only for family reasons, but also because she believes that local support is what will make designers strive. This has not stopped her from creating her own pop-up fashion displays in Tokyo, Los Angeles, Dubai and London, showcasing some of her lines, however. She has also had a number of collaborations with various designers throughout the years — a fun way to spice things up and create even more interesting garments.
One aspect of Hafiz’s designs that is particularly interesting is the fact that she enlists the help of women tailors from non-profit center, Nesma Embroidery. The entity employs and trains Saudi Arabia-based women, many of whom have special needs requirements or are speech and hearing impaired. Their mission is to create a local industry that employs women in sewing and embroidery, something that Hafiz feels strongly about.
What makes Hafiz’s collection fun is how exceptional each piece is — you can always find a garment to suit your current mood and spirit. The fabrics are light and versatile and have a feminine feel to them, making them wearable and easy to pair with other items of clothing.
Given that the interview took place in Hafiz’s home, you can see how she became intrigued and interested in the world of home décor as well as fashion. She has a keen eye for detail and her home features some rare items. Her furniture is a representation of her eccentric style and love for vivid colors. From the black-and-white tiles to the iconic Martinique wallpaper depicting banana leaves, famously seen at the Beverly Hills Hotel, her Greek-Mediterranean style outdoor pool area and classic china coffee cups, everything is perfectly curated. There is a strong love and appreciation for vintage pieces apparent in both her fashion label as well as her home, but she has a special place in her heart for one particular type of home accessory.
“Home décor has been a hobby of mine for a long time and candles are significant to every home. They add a sense of calmness and spice to any home. A person’s scent is one of their own and while perfumes are special, candles are, and have always been, a staple of any home. I want to continue creating home items and adding something of my own creation in people’s homes, as well as their closets,” she said of her homeware line.
Hafiz’s taste in fashion and styling is a fresh, more laid back and easy style than what is typically found in Saudi Arabia. It takes a creative and innovative designer to go bold and break the rules, as well as bravery and lots of love to achieve and accomplish what this creative powerhouse has done with her fashion house.


Some like it haute: Elie Saab and Zuhair Murad come up trumps in Paris

Updated 11 July 2018
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Some like it haute: Elie Saab and Zuhair Murad come up trumps in Paris

  • The event, which featured shows by 34 designers in total, celebrates all things haute, widely considered to be the highest form of fashion
  • Elie Saab and Zuhair Murad displayed their latest collections

DUBAI: One week, two Lebanese design heavyweights. Paris Haute Couture Week (Fall-Winter 2018), which ran from July 1 to July 5, saw two of the region’s most-acclaimed fashion designers, Elie Saab and Zuhair Murad, displaying their latest collections, and they certainly didn’t disappoint.

The event, which featured shows by 34 designers in total, celebrates all things haute, widely considered to be the highest form of fashion. And according to Mimi Raad — image consultant at MBC Group and curator of the Instagram page @mimiraadstyle — this edition really went back to the 160-year-old roots of the art form.

“Haute couture was originally all about the custom-made, impeccably fitted dress, where the subtle yet elaborate craft is almost invisible,” she explained. “Lately, it’s been equivalent more to ball gowns, which are too easy a terrain to let the imagination run. But (this edition of Paris Haute Couture Week) marked a real effort to return to dressmaking. Sartorial prowess and couture were glorified. Two major qualities in couture were observed; rigor and restraint.”

“Couture is all about making beautiful outfits that make women beautiful and refined,” Raad continued. And that’s certainly something that could apply to Saab’s Fall 2018 line — and the Lebanese designer’s work in general.

Saab has often stated that, for him, the woman always comes first, which goes some way to explaining why he continues to secure the business of numerous high-profile personalities, including Queen Rania of Jordan, Jenifer Lopez, Angelina Jolie and Emily Blunt. In fact, he’s been dubbed the ‘King of the Red Carpet,’ and became the first Lebanese designer to dress an Oscar winner: Halle Berry in 2002.

Shown at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Saab’s latest collection brought something new and edgy to the proceedings — a couture collection inspired by renowned Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí.

Entitled “Of Forms and Light,” his show explored “the relationship between light, natural forms and structures.”

Key looks in the collection come in the form of tailored suits #OfFormsAndLight

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“Saab sailed from Beirut all the way across the Mediterranean and anchored in Barcelona for inspiration,” Raad said. “His embroidered ball gowns recalled the ceramic fantasy of Gaudí.

“Throughout this collection — with the brocade and gazar cocktails dresses, exaggerated collars, abundance of ruffles — he references Gothic shapes, and the arches of the Sagrada Familia cathedral. Each piece, from fitted gowns to full skirts was a piece of wearable art.”

She continues: “Saab is known for romantic silhouettes, with rich textiles and intricate details, the couture’s core. True to his style, he delivered delicate gold embroidery and swathes of sequins, and that’s his signature fairy-tale aesthetic.”

However, there were some designs that were a little too much for the fashion expert: “[I wasn’t a fan of the] ‘ruffle-mania,’” she said. “I couldn’t help but prefer the looks that were the most restrained.”

Elsewhere, Murad was channeling Imperial Russia in his fall-winter couture collection; think textures and patterns from the period and a nod to military suits.

Victoria’s Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio opened the show — her first time walking for the designer — in a plunging black, red and gold Tudor-style with dramatic cape.

“Murad transported us to a grand ball in St. Petersburg with regal colors, heavy fabrics and Fabergé motifs,” said Raad. “Every look was lavish. It wasn’t all about the balls, tsarinas and Fabergé eggs, though, Murad widened his scope, adding masculine elements borrowed from military uniforms, twisted to enhance femininity.”

Raad was a fan of the color palette Murad presented this month.

“The dark palette along with elaborate embroideries, and floral and arabesque motifs applied in bronze, gold and silver, transported us to a mysterious world,” she said. “From bright blue, rich red accents, to pale hues of green, grey, blue and ivory, the colors served as a luxurious backdrop for elaborate beadwork.

“Rich fabrics like velvet, duchesse satin, lace and chiffon were used in a harmonious palette,” she continued. “With this profusion of opulence, this collection looked more womanly than girly.”

Most fashion media agreed that both collections were beautiful, presenting something for every exclusive client of theirs. All that remains to be seen is who is going to be walking the red carpet or attending events in one of Saab’s or Murad’s creations this awards’ season.

What’s clear, though, is that one of the keys to the pair’s success is that they’re never afraid to push boundaries and create something new.

And sometimes, it’s okay to go big.

“I guess, for some designers, more is more in couture,” Raad concluded.