Native Dubai: A new luxury handbag brand in town

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Native Dubai’s luxury handbags and shoes.
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Rachna Malkani.
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3) Colored lashes.
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Updated 26 August 2016

Native Dubai: A new luxury handbag brand in town

Dubai is indisputably a paradise of luxe sophistication that’s just waiting to blow away the visitors and leave an indelible mark on them. With its enviable modern infrastructure and perfect planning. The city has succeeded in positioning itself as one of the world’s most happening places to see today. And if we talk about where fashion fits in all of this, then its influence has certainly been greater and is quite worthy of praise, but with an indigenous twist of its own.
This is where India-born Rachna Malkani, founder and creative director of Native Dubai (a high-end local accessories brand making luxury handbags and shoes) is turning heads with her beautiful designs and emerges as a pioneer who along with her husband gave the UAE its first genuine leather manufacturing facility “Leather Crafts” in 2007.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, we sat down with her to discuss what triggered her overall interest in designing luxury fashion products particularly handbags and shoes, what she takes in from this and much more.
Before Malkani became part of this glamor industry, she enjoyed a successful career as a financial consultant in the corporate world. This switchover took place as her husband’s rapidly expanding trading business created space for a whole new venture “Corporate Gifts & Promotional Items Division” which needed someone like her. She happily took up this challenge thanks to her business acumen.
Running this division so successfully for a decade now, she was looking forward to take a shot at another exciting project with her man. And it was something long overdue that no one ever had considered before i.e. formation of UAE’s first leather manufacturing plant.
It proved to be a big blessing for local entrepreneurs because they now had this astounding facility close to home where they could produce their branded versions of top quality leather goods.
“Since we were over the moon for having created a world class manufacturing genuine leather luxury goods facility for the first time here in the UAE, we wanted to celebrate its success with a home-grown luxury leather brand,” she says. “That’s how the idea of Native Dubai was born. Our goal with it is to assert Dubai’s stake as a leader when it comes to designing its own luxury fashion stuff in the international market.”
Realizing that it’s their brand and vision, Malkani had to take the lead role. So it came instinctively to her that the expression of designs is something that should come from her entirely in order to express who Native truly is and what it feels. “I believe this is one way to express our purpose of life by continuing to dig in the core of Native,” she says.
She has never taken any fashion or designing courses formally. Her knowledge and know how all came from experience and hands-on learning approach.
Behind any marvelous creation lies a great deal of creative work which is going to make it a winner. Native designs are no different. When asked what she finds most demanding part of her job, she explains, “You know it’s the whole process from the point of conceptualizing the idea, trying to put it into technical aspect, getting resources together to bring it to life the way I imagine and see it, all of it is challenging because we are dealing with leather and not necessarily what we conceive can be put into practice keeping in mind the nature, look, fall of the leather itself.”
These are precious handbags made of luxe leather skin like camel, cow, French bull plus exotics like python, ostrich and crocodile (Porosus). “We are working toward bringing in more kinds of creative leather work in future too,” she says.
Native bags are rich in color. It’s something very important for Malkani. “When I do my colors, I mostly visualize nature and human mind. I believe these two are the most amazing creations of the universe and they never stop amazing us with their depth and variations. While mixing colors, I always have the thought of them complementing each other and neither of them getting overshadowed by the other,” Malkani says.
Malkani makes sure each of them has a personality and holds its ground, just like how our society should be and how we as people should empower each other and not try to put down any mindset. And that’s how she works with colors as well.
These incredible bags fit a woman who isn’t afraid to be what she wants to be in life. She isn’t constrained by the conditioning of the society and always speaks her mind. “She is strong and independent while keeping the strengths of her feminine side of love and compassion within her. She sets her own path and walks it relentlessly. She doesn’t follow. More or less, she sets the trends unequivocally,” Malkani points out.
In everybody’s life there are role models or muses they often look up to for impetus. And Malkani too has someone like Queen Rania for a great human being that she is, the late Princess Diana who was elegance and compassion personified, Julia Roberts and Jennifer Lawrence. “Even from our very own Bollywood, I have two actresses as a perfect example mainly Deepika Padukone and Kangana Ranaut — I admire the way they have fought their own battles and conquered the work field as well, and they aren’t shy to speak about it, to me that’s true strength and beauty,” she says.
Native is one of the rare brands worldwide that boasts of having this amazing multiple skin combinations. “We have loyal media influencers and celebrities who are in love with our bags like Lebanese singer Madeleine Matar to Moroccan singer Jamila El Badaoui, Moroccan actress Mayssa Maghrebi, Dubai TV presenter and social influencer Rahaf Al-Tawil, MBC TV presenter and social influencer Lojain Omran, famous Belgian socialite Kristina Bazan, renowned Kuwaiti bloggers Dalal Al-Doub and Ascia AKF,” she says. “They all love Native bags because they are genuine and colorful.”
Celebrity endorsement is another important part of Native strategy with regard to making itself more popular. “It definitely matters because they are the women who have achieved and have become the leaders, influencers and the trend setters in their fields, so it’s important to develop that relationship with the buyers through them,” Malkani says.
With its growing popularity, Native wants to make a difference socially as it considers using real life heroes (who have so much to say) in its future campaigns. “This is something we are currently working on in order to show our respect for their journeys and accomplishments too,” she says. “While working on the business aspect we also love to stay connected to our Native beliefs.”
Telling stories with every collection is Malkani’s way of spreading happiness in society. “So far we have and would love to continue to do so. I feel it’s one of the best ways of expressing and sharing oneself and our experiences and learning of life and if it can be expressed through designs, then why not,” she says.
Her latest collection titled “Beauty beyond the Obvious” is one such collection inspired by her own journey with autism. “It’s my way of expressing the emotions it evoked in me as a mother of a child dealing with this problem. It’s a collection that is pure from the heart, it is the joy of being who you truly are within, being comfortable in your own skin regardless of what the conditioning of the world wants to make you believe,” she says. “This collection looks at these kids with sheer amazement especially their inner strength and beauty — the only tool that helps them fight their own battles with themselves and the outer world.”
The collection comes with three models with each one of them carrying a story in the form of embroidered design and crystal work done on it to truly enhance their beauty.
It’s only a tip of the iceberg as more Native wonders are to be unveiled in the coming months. “We will soon be launching Native Elements which is primarily a collection of basic day-to-day carry bags and small leather goods. Having said that, the recent soft opening of the House of Native has already given us a platform to showcase a much bigger range and quality of Native bags and shoes,” she says. “It’s also an opportunity to encourage lots of upcoming fashion designers to be able to showcase their talent by having their collections displayed in the House of Native as we do have a dedicated floor catering to fashion in the boutique.”
So it’s time you stirred your senses with the brilliant craftsmanship of Native Dubai! We bet you will definitely get hooked to it.

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The MENA fashion designers dressing up social causes

Updated 24 August 2019

The MENA fashion designers dressing up social causes

  • How designers in the MENA region are making a different kind of fashion statement
  • The ethical fashion movement is spreading to the Middle East and North Africa

CAIRO: Fashion is about far more than just trendy outfits. The growing demand for ethical clothing is one example of how designers are seeking to leave a legacy beyond the runway.

The ethical fashion movement is spreading to the Middle East and North Africa. Recent initiatives include Talahum by UAE-based designer Aiisha Ramadan, who created coats that transform into sleeping bags for disadvantaged and refugee communities living without proper shelter.

In 2016, Cairo hosted ICanSurvive, an event to commemorate World Cancer Day. As part of the project, 32 cancer survivors were paired with fashion designers to help them create the outfit of
a lifetime.

“I consider this to be one of my biggest achievements,” said Egyptian couturier Ahmed Nabil, 28, one of the volunteers at ICanSurvive. “I still can’t let go of the moment I saw her crying from happiness when she got to wear her outfit at the event.”

Though a transformational experience for Nabil, this was not his first attempt at thought-provoking designs. He was only 23 when he launched his company, Nob Designs, in 2014 to begin a journey of exploration by designing clothes for unconventional causes and experimental concepts.

The company sells a diverse set of fashion pieces with designs that aim to inspire conversation. Nabil’s creations are much like art pieces at a gallery, but instead of being displayed on canvas, they are exhibited on t-shirts, tops, dresses and abayas.

His latest collection combines street fashion inspired by underground culture with Arabic calligraphy. The Halal Project endeavors to blur the lines between conservative and edgy to demonstrate that fashion designs can be accessible to anyone.

“It’s all about the idea of accepting one another regardless of differences,” Nabil said. “My main aim for this project is a call for all people to peacefully coexist.”

Nabil added that the shift towards tolerance is not something that just the general public needs to work on. Fashion designers themselves are sometimes biased in their perceptions.

Many millennial designers, particularly in Egypt, remain wary of exploring modest fashion, despite the trend’s rising popularity. Sometimes it is because they want to avoid defining themselves as conservative instead of being considered modern and trendy.

Fellow Egyptian designer Sara Elemary, who has been running her Sara Elemary Designs label for nearly a decade, agrees.

“Modesty is a big thing in Egypt. I can’t understand why they are neglecting it,” she said. “A woman doesn’t have to be in a headscarf to wear modest clothing. There are so many famous designers for whom modesty plays a big role in
their work.”

Meanwhile, events such as Dubai Modest Fashion Week have been promoting the concept and encouraging budding designers in the region to consider this trending domain.

“I believe that there’s a problem with modest fashion, but over the past two years, that issue has started to diminish as designers have incorporated more modest designs in their collections,” Nabil said.

The next step for him is getting into the couture domain with his long-awaited project, Nob Couture. The look of the new collection is still a mystery, but he seems determined to continue sending messages and starting discussions through his designs, which he said are inspired by his life experiences.

As for designers in the region, the time is ripe for them to start supporting the causes they believe in through their work. Whatever topic or fashion style they decide to pursue, they need to be fearless in triggering conversation in the Arab world with their creations.