Arab Fashion Week: Day four roundup

(Arab Fashion Council)
Updated 14 April 2018

Arab Fashion Week: Day four roundup

RIYADH: Arab News takes an exclusive look at the catwalk action from the fourth day of Arab Fashion Week. What stands out is ready couture from designers who are aware of where fashion trends are heading and have a deep understanding of Saudi female consumers.
. SWAF from Saudi Arabia: Alia Al-Sawwaf’s “The Royal” collection is a tribute to the luxury and extravagance of Riyadh. “The collection is inspired by the dazzling city of Riyadh and its fashion-forward trends," she says. Majestic whites, golds, and blues, luxurious organza and chiffon, and ruffled textures are used to create garments that cater to Saudi preferences but also have an international appeal. Ruffles and ruched fabrics feature heavily — running down the backs or sides of red- or yellow-colored evening gowns — reminiscent of Belle from the Disney classic, “Beauty and the Beast.” The romantic pieces catch our attention: dovetailed dresses, ranging from a color palette of tiffany blues to beiges, are finished off with a dusting of glitter.

Beatrice Schoenbrunn, a spectator, said she “greatly enjoyed the SWAF collection as there is a range of colors and designs, from feminine and delicate pieces to the more dramatic ones with long, beautiful tails.” Pleased to have watched a show by a home-grown label, Schoenbrunn said, “It goes to show that Saudi designers now have opportunities to showcase their talents in their home country.”

. Mashael Alrajhi from Saudi Arabia: Mashael Alrajhi’s flair for combining couturewith sportswear appeals to the style sensibilities of many young Arab women, perhaps making it the most anticipated show of the evening. Mashael Alrajhi was launched in 2013 as a contemporary luxury brand and has gone on to become synonymous with experimental street style. In 2016, Alrajhi was selected as the first Saudi designer to represent the Kingdom at the International Fashion Showcase during London Fashion Week and was also the first Saudi nominated for the 2016-2017 Woolmark Prize. More recently, her collaboration with the Nike Pro hijab
(debuted at Fashion Forward Dubai) made regional headlines. Taking center stage atthis evening’s collection is the pop of color — bright red buttons down the sides of pinstriped trousers, or blue ruched trimmings at the back. Androgynous silhouettes, feminine pleats, crystal ruching, quilted fabric, stark stars and crescents, and customized Nikes made for some powerful statements.
. Basil Soda from Lebanon: Established in 2000, Basil Soda fashion house is a prominent player in the Middle Eastern and international fashion industry, known for intricate detailing, perfect cuts, and fit. It’s no secret that architecture is a constant source of inspiration for the atelier. “Hopelessly romantic, yet mysteriously dark,” says his website. Having dressed the likes of Katy Perry, Emily Blunt, and Marion Cotillard, Basil Soda now brings his European aesthetic to Saudi Arabia in his “Return to the Runway.” The collection featured luxurious evening dresses, peplum dresses, and pant suits beautified with intricate sequins, thread, gold, and crystal
beading. Cinched at the waist with detailed belts, long peplum tails over straight-fit patterned dresses, beaded pant suits, sheer cape sleeves, and billowing silk and chiffon ensembles are sure to make any woman feel like a red-carpet celebrity.
. Yulia Yanina from Russia: Established in 1993, Yulia Yanina is inspired by a line of Russian poetry — “All moves by love’s glow” — and is known for its luxurious evening and wedding dresses. Yanina Couture displayed the haute couture, spring-summer 2018 collection as a guest of honor at AFW. The stunning collection featured cocktail dresses, evening dresses, and jumpsuits. Nude net and tulle fabrics served as a canvas for dramatic black applique work, complete with elaborate black beading and feathers. Velvet jumpsuits with beaded capes casually thrown over the shoulder, sashaying shoulder fringes, and headpieces made of black feather and velvet were reminiscent of “The Great Gatsby.” Other motifs featured heavily in her designs include daffodils, grape vines, and palm trees.

Musical truth: Palestinian singer Maysa Daw blends the personal with the political

Updated 18 September 2018

Musical truth: Palestinian singer Maysa Daw blends the personal with the political

  • Maysa Daw is a young Palestinian singer
  • A guitar-driven singer-songwriter, Daw is a bundle of indie energy

DUBAI: Maysa Daw is a hard person to pin down. The young Palestinian singer has been busy dashing from gig to gig, completing an album and preparing to participate in a musical collaboration called the Basel-Ramallah Project, which is due to take place in Switzerland on Oct. 6. When we meet, she is in Chicago, about to go on stage at Palipalooza.

“We’ve been working on our solo show and I’m trying to write a few new songs but time isn’t exactly on my side at the moment,” she said with a laugh. “But writing always comes in-between things, you know. I’m always having these new ideas and I write them down, or new melodies and I write them down. At some point I’ll just gather them together and a lot of things will come from there.”

A guitar-driven singer-songwriter, Daw is a bundle of indie energy. Her live performances are raw and honest, her music a primarily personal reaction to the world around her. As a Palestinian living inside the Green Line, this can sometimes mean a world of conflict and complication.

“I always write about what I’m experiencing, what I’m feeling, or the anger that I’m feeling,” said Daw, whose debut album “Between City Walls” was written while she was living in Jaffa.

“It was a very different world for me. I grew up in Haifa, which is a lot more chill, a lot more relaxed, and suddenly I move to Jaffa and study in Tel Aviv, and everything was so intense. Everything was so new. It produced a lot of stuff. Love songs, break-up songs — political songs, too.

“There’s also one of my favorite songs, “Crazy.” I was so frustrated when I started writing this song. I was thinking of so many things at the time and I just wrote everything down. It’s exactly the way I was feeling, the things that I was asking myself. It talks about religion, it talks about death, it talks about politics — it talks about a lot of things.”

“Between City Walls,” which was released in June last year, may be indie in its sensibilities but its eight songs embrace a variety of sounds, not all of which are musical. Alongside samples of classical Arabic songs and Spanish guitar there are bursts of radio static and live voice recordings of people in the West Bank. As such, reproducing the album on stage, with drummer Issa Khoury and bassist Shadi Awidat, has not been easy.

“We’ve been trying to put material for a five-piece band into a three-piece band,” said Daw. “As such, we’ve been using more electronics and it’s been a very interesting challenge for us. But it’s got us to a place that I’m definitely very happy with.”

Daw is very much a product of Haifa. Born into an artistic family — her father is the actor Salim Dau — she immersed herself in the city’s independent Arabic-music scene, performing at venues such as Kabareet and collaborating with Ministry of Dub-Key, a Galilean group that fuses the sounds of hip-hop and dancehall with traditional Palestinian dabke.

She also recently finished recording an album with Palestinian hip-hop group DAM, who she joined about five years ago. Due to be released early next year, the as-yet-untitled album is her first full-length collaboration with the group. Prior to this, Daw and DAM recorded two tracks together, including the feminism-infused “Who You Are.”

Although Daw’s work gravitates toward the personal, much of it also can be viewed as intrinsically political. The song “Come with Me,” for example, is about two lovers kept apart by the separation wall, while “Radio” features the voices of refugees living in the West Bank. In snippets of their conversations you can hear them talking about the wall, the effects it has on their lives and their desire to tear it down.

“I do talk about politics but only because it’s a big part of my life, whether I want it to be or not. And believe me, I don’t,” she said. “But it is a part of my life.

“I started loving music way before I even understood what politics is. I only wanted to make music but with time I understood more about the responsibility that I could accept to have.”

She paused and corrected herself: “Not exactly a responsibility but a sort of a privilege. I have this voice that I can use and it has the potential to reach a lot of people. It made me realize that I can use this to talk about things that many other people can’t talk about.”

Daw once said that despite the perceived mundanity of everyday events, “everything we do here as Arabs is connected to politics.” As such, there is a vein of resistance running through much of her work. She sings of love under occupation, equality, society and religion, with freedom the ultimate objective.

“A lot of the time I write for the purpose of trying to tell somebody something, or trying to express my opinion about something,” she said. “And sometimes I just feel this thing that’s blocking me, that I need to release in any way, and my way of releasing it is through music.

“Sometimes I release something just for myself. I write it, I turn it into a song and I don’t release it to the world, because sometimes some things are too private. I still do it, I still work on a song and I still do it in a way that I absolutely love the song, yet it will never be heard by anybody else.”

One song on her debut album is sung in English, titled “Live Free.”

“You know, when I started making music and writing my own songs I started writing in English,” she said. “I didn’t feel comfortable doing it in Arabic. And at some point I realized that it was a little bit strange for me, because the whole personality of a person changes when you change language.

“I wanted to start writing in Arabic to see what it would bring, and it brought a very new side of me that I didn’t know. Everything was different: the melodies, the type of words I used, how I built sentences — something just clicked. Arabic feels a lot more like home when writing music.”