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.
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.