Meet the Saudi fashion star who makes her own rules

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


Once a refugee, now a supermodel, Halima Aden takes on children’s rights

Supermodel Halima Aden, once a child refugee herself, is now an ambassador for UNICEF. She was the first model to sport a hijab at fashion weeks in New York and Milan.
Updated 13 August 2018
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Once a refugee, now a supermodel, Halima Aden takes on children’s rights

  • Aden was announced as a UNICEF ambassador in July this year
  • The 20-year-old was the first model to sport a hijab at fashion weeks in both New York and Milan

JEDDAH: Somali-American supermodel Halima Aden, an ambassador for UNICEF, is using her voice to advocate for children’s rights.

The former child refugee, who came to the United States during the Somali Civil War in the early 1990s, shared a video on her social media account on the subject with the hashtag AChildIsAChild, writing: “@unicefusa helps to keep children safe and protects their rights, no matter where they are. That work is more essential now than ever, with nearly 50 million children uprooted across the globe. Who do you hear?”

Aden, who has 680,000 followers on Instagram, was announced as a UNICEF ambassador in July this year. Aden has described her appointment as a “lifelong dream” and her “proudest accomplishment to date.” Her mission is to “put children first.”

As a refugee herself, she possesses a unique understanding of the needs, hopes and dreams of the 30 million children around the world who have been forcibly displaced by conflict.

The 20-year-old was the first model to sport a hijab at fashion weeks in both New York and Milan. She made history by being the first woman to wear a hijab at a Miss USA state pageant and was the first model to wear her hijab on the covers of major women’s magazines, such as Allure, British Vogue and Teen Vogue.

Aden was born in Kakuma, a refugee camp in Kenya, after her family fled civil war in Somalia. She lived there for seven years with her parents before moving to the US. Growing up, UNICEF played an important role in her life as it provided her with an education.

She has earlier stated her concerns about immigrant children who are being separated from their families at the US border.

The pioneering Muslim model’s passion for helping refugees, particularly children, has taken her to many places. The activist most recently visited her refugee camp in Somalia, where she shared her story with hundreds of children.

“Although the children here (in Kakuma) may be refugees, first and foremost they are children. They deserve every opportunity to flourish, to hope, to dream, to be successful,” she had said.

Earlier, she traveled with UNICEF Next Generation from Mexico City to Chiapas, the southern Mexico state bordering Guatemala, where she met with migrants living at local shelters and migrant women attending village schools.

In March this year, Aden inspired students at UNICEF’s Annual Summit in Washington, DC by speaking at the Women’s Empowerment and Leadership panel session.