81 Designs: A social enterprise that marries art with women’s empowerment

The women recreated art by Hassan Hajjaj. (Photo courtesy: 81 Designs)
Updated 09 July 2018
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81 Designs: A social enterprise that marries art with women’s empowerment

DUBAI: It started with a desire to bridge art and humanity. Emirati art graduate Nadine Malouf always wanted to do something charitable and art-related. Being half-Palestinian, setting up an enterprise that helps women affected by the refugee crisis in Palestine seemed an obvious choice, so she founded 81 Designs together with her mother, Nesrine El-Tibi Malouf, in 2016.

The brand oversees a group of refugee women as they recreate the works of leading Middle Eastern artists in the traditional “tatreez” style of cross-stitching.
The results created using this painstaking technique are as innovative as they are beautiful.

“I wanted to modernize something that has existed for hundreds of years and its legacy was fading because of the commercial uses it is being applied for,” Nadine explained. “The way the craft is usually applied (in run-of-the-mill accessories and poorly made handicraft products) is a short-sighted approach.
But we are providing a wider platform for it.”

The first capsule collection debuted at Art Dubai in 2017, in partnership with renowned artist El Seed, and sold out. This year, Moroccan contemporary artist Hassan Hajjaj worked with the women to have 14 signature pieces from his funky, nostalgia-infused “Graffix from the Souk” collection recreated in the form of embroidery art. The collection was released at the 12th edition of Art Dubai to a very warm reception — each piece was uniformly priced at $8,000.

“I think the fact that we are able to give these women structure in their lives, that they have full-time employment in such a volatile environment, is something to be proud of,” Nadine said. “Plus, by giving them the opportunity to create something, be part of something — it gives them a feeling of self-esteem, a sense of joy.”

From allowing them to get medical treatment for their families to giving an autistic child the opportunity to secure meaningful employment, the impact 81 Designs has had is significant and far-reaching. And it continues to grow, as they develop their next collection with textile label Bokja by designers Maria Hibri and Huda Baroudi.


Cool down in Zayan Ghandour’s summer-ready kaftans

Updated 18 May 2019
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Cool down in Zayan Ghandour’s summer-ready kaftans

  • Zayan Ghandour has now unveiled a Spring/Summer 2019 collection that is perfect for the month of Ramadan
  • Ghandour’s contemporary ready-to wear line features signature hand-embroidered motifs and custom-illustrated prints

DUBAI: Dubai-based designer Zayan Ghandour is showing off her latest line at the Fashion Forward Dubai pop-up in Jeddah department store Rubaiyat this Ramadan.

Fashion Forward Dubai, which recently announced it will be back with another showcase of regional talent in October, unveiled plans to present a special collection by twelve regional designers in the department store last week.

The Stars Avenue mall pop-up store will be open until June 3, just in time for fashion-savvy shoppers to snap up a new ensemble for a Ramadan gathering or Eid Al-Fitr celebrations.

“Fashion Forward Dubai is thrilled to continue expanding our partnership with the prestigious Rubaiyat. Our first two editions have resulted in several success stories for our designers. We are confident that this momentum will continue as we tap into new talent and markets with our growing roster of fantastic designers,” Bong Guerrero, CEO of Fashion Forward Dubai, said in a released statement.

The line-up of up-and-coming, as well as established, regional designers will showcase their Ramadan and Spring/Summer 2019 apparel and accessory collections at the pop-up store.

One of those designers is Ghandour, who launched her own quirky, feminine brand, Zayan the Label, at Paris Fashion Week in 2011 and has now unveiled a Spring/Summer 2019 collection that is perfect for the month of Ramadan.

The summery collection features vibrant shades of red, pink and orange with fresh whites and baby blues.

With a mix of dresses, kaftans and two-piece ensembles, all the holiday-ready outfits are cool and billowing — which is essential as temperatures in the Gulf climb.

The Mina Kaftan is particularly delightful, with its pattern of printed berries and lemons on white. The kaftan features batwing sleeves with yellow scalloped edges and a V-shaped neckline.

A soft pink kaftan with emerald green racing stripes in 3-D beading, the Veronica Kaftan is ideal for a laid back iftar.

Ghandour’s contemporary ready-to wear line features signature hand-embroidered motifs and custom-illustrated prints, all of which are visible in her latest collection where detailed embroidery and colorful embellishments are visible on almost all the pieces.