Meet the Saudi fashion star who makes her own rules

1 / 2
The clothing line is perfect for young, independent women. (Photos supplied)
2 / 2
The young designer has been interested in art and design since she was a child. (Photos supplied)
Updated 13 February 2018
0

Meet the Saudi fashion star who makes her own rules

JEDDAH: Mashail Abdullah Alhusaini is one of several fashion designers steadily gaining recognition in Saudi Arabia. Alhusaini claims to be the first Saudi designer to gain a Master’s degree in the Art of Fashion — she got hers from London’s City University in 2011.
Alhusaini’s much-anticipated ready-to-wear capsule collection combines traditional design with modern flourishes. In her website bio, she writes that she sees fashion as “a space where I can create my own rules and express my own feelings and ideas.” That is the inspiration behind her Masha Design brand, which she launched five years ago.
At first, Alhusaini concentrated on creating unique prêt-à-porter gowns, but over the years Masha Design has evolved. Aside from designing and selling accessories, Alhusaini has diversified Masha into three distinct clothing lines: “Couture” — custom dresses and bridal gowns; “Ramadan” — ready-to-wear themed collections including the sophisticated “Luna” and the casual, affordable “T-thobe” range; and “Masha Abaya” — delicately crafted off-the-rack abayas designed to suit young, independent women. “I design for bold, independent women who seek change,” she said.
Alhusaini credits the success of her “Ramadan” line with helping to establish Masha Design as a successful Saudi brand.
The young designer has been interested in art and design since she was a child, she told Arab News.
“Traveling played the most important and positive role in supporting my talent. I lived in France, Italy and London for years, which helped me to absorb the beauty of some of the most prominent European countries. Linguistically, this has been a great boon, making me a polyglot, a skill which furthers my ability to communicate with others and fulfill their demands,” Alhusaini said.

SOLD OUT #love #ramadan #mashadesign #ootd #goodvibes #tshirt

A post shared by Masha Design (@mashadesign) on

She attended Koefia International Academy of Haute Couture and Art of Costume in Rome, the Institute of European Design (IED) in Milan, before heading to London.
“I apply the skills and techniques that I have learned especially from the two schools (in Italy),” she said. “I use the old-school white color which is (popular in) the Haute Couture school to create night and bridal gowns. For the ‘Ramadan’ and abayas collections, I use the modern (ready-to-wear) faster techniques to create our very own patterns.”
Alhusaini said the world of fashion has shifted significantly since she launched Masha Design.
“A decade ago, consumers followed the designer. But today consumers hold the power. Fashion designers these days are forced to be hypersensitive to consumers’ needs and wants, due to the intense competition.”
When she started Masha, she said, her vision “didn’t involve anything traditional.” But she soon realized that to survive commercially, she would need to find a way to focus her creativity on classic regional styles.
“I was force to create thobe and abaya lines,” she said. “It was a huge success and helped me to get recognized in the market, but it was a huge challenge for me to create something that stands apart from others.”
Fashion is, Alhusaini feels, “one of the most competitive industries.”
“If you don’t have a thick skin, you won’t survive,” she said. “I believe we live in a constant race against the passage of time; we should overtake it before it overtakes us and leaves us striving for the ultimate modernity.”
Alhusaini keeps ahead in that race by regularly traveling to attend shows, reading a lot, and constantly checking the fashion forecasts. Social media is also an important tool, she said.
Alhusaini advised aspiring designers to ensure they have a solid knowledge of fashion — as well as talent — if they are to compete in the industry. They should, she suggested, try to innovate, and must stay strong and believe in themselves. Most importantly, she said, they must not be afraid to fail.
“I believe that everything changes in this life, whether it’s our ideas, our thoughts or we as humans. We must try to (stick with) our decisions and never give up, because you never know what you are capable of till you try and the outcome of this will surprise you. Nothing is permanent in the fashion world so don’t limit yourself,” she concluded.


SemSem’s Ramadan line has a charitable twist

US-Somali model Halima Aden has worked with SemSem in the past.
Updated 22 min 26 sec ago
0

SemSem’s Ramadan line has a charitable twist

Famed French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent once said that the city of Marrakesh taught him color. It seems that the Moroccan city has struck again, serving as the inspiration for SemSem’s bold Ramadan line this season.

With its mélange of cultural currents and cosmopolitan charge, the bustle of Marrakesh is manifest in SemSem’s red-based collection. A brassy fire-engine trench and gilded-blush maxi are among the highlights of the edit, available exclusively at luxury e-tailers The Modist and Ounass.

For those seeking bold, iftar-appropriate looks this season, SemSem’s berry-red jumpsuit or high-low hemmed jacquard top are both beautiful, souk-inspired statement pieces.  Floral prints appearing throughout the collection recall the Majorelle garden, Saint Laurent’s lush Marrakesh property. 

Separates, including tailored pants befitting the refined city-stroller, can be paired with the collection’s pleated tops or layered for dramatic effect. 

Self-consciously eschewing derivatives of slouched kaftans, the pieces all feature refined, structured cuts. True to the brand’s aesthetic, SemSem’s Ramadan collection is an unabashed ode to modern, metropolitan femininity.

 Founder Abeer Al-Otaiba, who originally hails from Egypt, says this year’s Ramadan edit was “deeply personal.

“I wanted it to be beautiful, impactful and reflective of my heritage,” Al-Otaiba said.  “I enjoy the sense of purpose Ramadan represents and I try to embrace all that it has to offer. Creating this collection is an extension of this time of introspection and celebration.”

A dedicated philanthropist with a degree in civil engineering and stints spent living across the Middle East, Europe and America, Al-Otaiba created SemSem in 2015 as a way to celebrate women and children across the globe. Bestowing the label with her daughter’s nickname, Al-Otaiba’s vision has allowed SemSem to mature in a few short years, emerging at the forefront of the luxury, ready-to-wear market.

With lines for both women and girls, the brand has become a favorite of multi-tasking mothers seeking balance and an elegant wardrobe with a charitable sense of purpose. Every season, Al-Otaiba teams up with a non-profit promoting the well-being of women and children. 

This year, 10 percent of the sales from the brand’s Ramadan collection sold at Ounass will go to causes supported by the Dubai Cares charity.

Previously, Al-Otaiba sought to raise awareness about maternal mortality rates and youth illiteracy, supporting organizations working across Africa to empower women and children. 

Insisting on the confluence of doing good and dressing well, SemSem has become a celebrity favorite, worn by conscientious Hollywood moms like Blake Lively and Kourtney Kardashian. 

Showing at Paris Fashion Week and regularly written up in Vogue, SemSem has brought a jet-set chic to mother-daughter wear. 

But the line’s ethos isn’t about red-carpet glitter. Encouraging mothers to instill a sense of global awareness and dedication to philanthropy in their daughters lies at the heart of SemSem’s mission. It’s a perfect conversation — and the perfect conversation-provoking ensembles— to have this Ramadan season.