New-look abaya that blends faith, fashion — and function

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Traditional styles of abaya are giving way to new multifunctional outfits.. (Photo/Supplied)
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Traditional styles of abaya are giving way to new multifunctional outfits.. (Photo/Supplied)
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Traditional styles of abaya are giving way to new multifunctional outfits.. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 26 July 2018

New-look abaya that blends faith, fashion — and function

  • Saudi designers give traditional robes a makeover. The result? A stylish garment that fits today’s ‘woman-on-the-go’
  • The Abaya Factory offers their functional designs to all women-on-the-go, women who have a lot on their plate, and multitaskers

JEDDAH: Wearing an abaya — the loose-fitting, full-length robes that symbolize a woman’s religious faith — is part of  Saudi Arabian culture. 

But in a rapidly changing Kingdom, the traditional style of abaya is giving way to new experiments that meet both the garment’s religious purpose and the demands of 21st-century life.

Now Saudi branding stylist Zahar Al-Sayed and her artist fiance Ahmed Angawi have launched the Abaya Factory, which offers a multifunctional abaya that can be transformed into a jacket, changing the whole outfit effortlessly.

Al-Sayed holds a BA degree in graphic design and MA in graphic branding and identity from the London College of Communication.

The Saudi designer's husband Angaqi has come up with this new concept as an alternative solution for female travelers abroad who take off their abayas and tuck it in their bags. “Our abaya was a solution for people traveling from A to B without really thinking what outfit they have to change into,” Al-Sayed told Arab News.

Speaking of the inspiration behind the designs, she said that “real women inspire us. Women’s empowerment in general is one of our targets. We got our inspiration from women’s needs.”

The Abaya Factory offers their functional designs to all women-on-the-go, women who have a lot on their plate, and multitaskers. 




The designers focus on all the details in their brand to suit women from all sides — they tried to focus on linen and cotton as the main fabrics in designing abayas, to suit the hot weather in Saudi Arabia. 

The factory’s prices are affordable compared to the market, according to owner Al-Sayed, who said prices range “from SR800 ($213) to SR1,800 ($480). So, we think it’s affordable for what it is, and for what we offer.” 

As a Saudi designer, Al-Sayed said, working in the fashion industry is different today: “When we started out, there were a few people in the market and now I think it’s just very competitive. It’s a normal market and everyone (is) raising their game in branding.”

As fierce as the competition may seem, she appears optimistic about the Saudi fashion market: “They (designers) are actually taking care of all these details that add value to the brand itself, so I think everyone has a space in this market,” she said. 

“People are more exposed through social media, more aware of designing and they really appreciate the homegrown talents,” according to the designer .

The local brand’s owner wants women to feel confident, comfortable and proud when they wear their abayas.

The Abaya Factory has its own studio where people can buy its unique designs at the Homegrown Market in Jeddah or through the brand’s official website or WhatsApp service.

The designers’ next step is to develop their creations by adding more functions to their abayas. “Our future plan is to (have) showroom appointments (with customers) so people can come in and choose the fabrics, colors and create their own garments.”

Women have become more flexible in wearing their outfits. In 2007, Saudi designer Eman Joharjy designed an abaya that would freely allow her to practice cycling and was dubbed the “sporty abaya.”

Another concept was the driving abaya, which features a hoodie, tight elbows to prevent the sleeves from catching on the handlebars, and shorter lengths to make switching pedals easier.

Karl Lagerfeld: Looking back at his rise to fame and love of Arabian fashion

The designer died at the age of 85 on Tuesday. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 19 February 2019

Karl Lagerfeld: Looking back at his rise to fame and love of Arabian fashion

DUBAI: As tributes pour in from across the fashion world over the death of industry icon Karl Lagerfeld, we take a look at his storied rise to fame, as well as his controversial comments on Middle Eastern migrants and his love of fashion from the region.

The designer died at the age of 85 on Tuesday after he failed to make an appearance at the Chanel show at Paris Couture Week in January, prompting industry insiders to question the state of his health.

Reuters reported that Lagerfeld enjoyed the stature of a deity among mortals in the world of fashion, where he stayed on top for well over half of a century and up to his death, at an age almost nobody apart from himself knew with to-the-day precision.

The German designer was best known for his association with France’s Chanel, dating back to 1983. The brand, the legend now goes, risked becoming the preserve of monied grannies before he arrived, slashing hemlines and adding glitz to the prim tweed suits of what is now one of the world’s most valuable couture houses.

But Lagerfeld, who simultaneously churned out collections for LVMH’s Fendi and his eponymous label — an unheard of feat in fashion — was almost a brand in his own right.
Sporting dark suits, white, pony-tailed hair and tinted sunglasses in his later years that made him instantly recognizable, an irreverent wit was also part of a carefully crafted persona.

“I am like a caricature of myself, and I like that,” runs one legendary quote attributed to him, and often recycled to convey the person he liked to play. “It is like a mask. And for me the Carnival of Venice lasts all year long.”

Tributes pour in 

The world’s fashion elite took to social media to pay tribute to the hugely respected designer, with the likes of Victoria Beckham, Donatella Versace and Lilly Allen leading the pack.

Versace shared a similar message.

Singer Allen took to social media with a touching message.

Meanwhile, Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad also paid tribute.


In great honor and admiration of the iconic fashion legend Karl Lagerfeld - Rest In Peace

A post shared by Zuhair Murad Official (@zuhairmuradofficial) on

Model Gigi Hadid shared a message on Instagram Stories.

Controversial comments

His artistic instincts, business acumen and commensurate ego combined to commercially triumphant effect in the rarefied world of high fashion, where he was revered and feared in similar proportions by competitors and top-models.

Lagerfeld was as harsh with his fashion models as he was searingly critical of anyone he considered "not trendy".

He fired his closest female friend, former Chanel model Ines de la Fressange, in 1999 after she agreed to pose as Marianne, France's national symbol, without asking him first.

Occasionally his sharp tongue has stirred controversies, though he also had a flair for a good soundbite.

In 2017, he sparked outrage by evoking the Holocaust in an attack on Chancellor Angela Merkel over her opening of Germany’s borders to migrants.

“One cannot – even if there are decades between them – kill millions of Jews so you can bring millions of their worst enemies in their place,” the 80-year-old Chanel designer told a French TV show.

“I know someone in Germany who took a young Syrian and after four days said: ‘The greatest thing Germany invented was the Holocaust’,” he added.

Middle Eastern inspiration

Despite the abrasive comments, the designer went on to release an Egypt-inspired collection in December 2018 and sent models down the runway in a rich array of Ancient Egypt-themed outfits at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Gold shimmered all over the runway, as models strolled past the floodlit temple in everything from gold thigh-high boots to gold brimmed hats to glistening dresses with golden feather adornments, to shoulder-length gold earrings.

Singer Pharrel walked the runway during Karl Lagerfeld's Egypt-inspired show in December. (AFP)

It isn’t the only time he has looked to the Middle East for inspiration, however.

The designer made a much-reported-on appearance in Dubai in 2014 when Chanel staged its Cruise collection show in the city.

That collection was inspired by an Orientalist vision of hazy Arabian nights and featured harem pants, ghutra-pattern-inspired coats and diaphanous jumpsuits, along with a heavy use of mosaic-style patterns.

Karl Lagerfeld photographed at ‘The Island’ in Dubai during the Chanel fashion show on May 13, 2014. (AFP)

In 2018, he worked with Lebanese architect Aline Asmar D’Amman on the renovation of Paris’s Hôtel de Crillon and, in a win for the Middle Eastern fashion scene, he photographed Bella Hadid for Vogue Arabia’s first September issue in 2017.

In rare moments when he was not working, Lagerfeld retired to one of his many homes in Paris, Germany, Italy or Monaco, all of them lavish carbon copies of 18th-century interiors.