Sakina Shbib: The new couture of romanticism

Updated 23 December 2016

Sakina Shbib: The new couture of romanticism

Sakina Shbib may be based in Paris, but her beautiful gowns manage to convey both Gallic tradition and a flavor of Middle Eastern luxury.
The Saudi-French haute couture designer is one of the rising stars in her field — and said it all started with her mother, a tailor by trade.
“She instilled in me a passion for fashion,” said Shbib.
“She taught me the basics for seven years and I assisted her everyday in bringing to life the wedding dresses of her customers. I owe my success to my mom who spent years teaching me the invaluable art of sewing.”
By the time Shbib was 14, she was making her own clothes. Everyday her schoolmates complimented her look and asked where she bought her clothes. This special feeling led her to choose fashion as her career.
“From then on, I thought seriously of becoming a fashion designer. When I was 18, I moved to Paris, determined to make it big in fashion. I graduated from the prestigious Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. It paved the way for me to get more deeply into fashion with wit and confidence,” she said.

From Alexandre Vauthier to Givenchy
Shbib could not have asked for a better experience than her 2012 internship with French fashion designer Alexandre Vauthier, during which she learned dress design.
“I stayed a year with him, doing the embroidery, beading work and ornaments of his haute couture dresses. This taught me to challenge myself and approach design through a strong set of skills,” she said.
Then Shbib went to work as a seamstress in the Givenchy studio where the work took her by surprise, but she was ready for the challenge. “I had to work on a full collection made of leather, which was something I had never done before. (Italian fashion designer) Riccardo Tisci had a very dark and modern vision for his collections, and I had to adapt accordingly. Working on different materials (leather, chains and spandex) helped me perfect my technique,” she said.
“I made dresses for Natasha Poly, Kim Kardashian and (American singer) Ciara, which was nothing short of a special time when I fulfilled my dream of dressing celebrities on a red carpet.”
Shbib also worked for the Chanel ready-to-wear team in 2014. By now, she had become more experienced and was able to work with a more critical eye. “My stint at Chanel made me aware of the demands of an elite clientele and its requirements regarding the quality of a garment. One of the striking things about Chanel’s work ethic is the belief that creativity should never wane,” she says.
Shbib reckons that while there is something timeless about Chanel, the house is in constant search for new experimental designs. “I saw them spending considerable amounts of time in the studio — drawing sketches, experimenting with colors, cutting new shapes. Every pattern changed from one collection to another. I was lucky enough to learn a very wide variety of techniques.”

Dawn of Sakina Paris
Working with the greats of fashion gave Shbib the much-needed courage to launch her own label in 2015.
“I decided to design my own collection because I felt I had something special to offer women,” she said.
“While working at the fashion houses, I realized their success was bound by an unwavering pledge to work as a team: A successful brand is made of many little tassels, each of them absolutely vital to the final success of the brand itself.”
Shbib’s brand gets rave reviews, offering proof that success comes when you find the mix of hard work, determination, passion, creativity and networking.
Merging of cultures
The Sakina Paris label is the story of Shbib’s personal life, which she wants to bring to a larger audience. She says, “I’m merging the delicacy of the French tradition with a sense of luxury of the Middle East. The French signature look is mostly elegance with a certain amount of minimalism, whereas the Arab signature look is a strong expression of beauty with a genuine power of seduction.”
Spending time in Saudi Arabia, where her husband lives, has helped Shbib find a better way to define her new vision of beauty, which reflects the magnificence of Middle Eastern culture. “Now I have a strong emotional connection and I wanted my collections to reflect a certain twist of mind,” she explains.
Whether French, Lebanese, Saudi or Kuwaiti influences, Shbib feels inspired by many cultures — because each of them possesses a very feminine vision of beauty. Her goal as a designer is to highlight this facet of beauty according to the varying traditions.
Her latest haute couture collection comes across as a celebration of burgeoning love. “I’m a hopeless romantic… The collection is full of flowers (encrusted, embroidered or appliqués). They are allegorical because they stand for the fragility and delicacy of all young women in love,” she said.
Shbib’s creations strike a chord with women. “I care a lot about my customers,” the designer said.
“When a woman comes to my atelier for the first time, I get to know her personality, listen to her and guide her as much as I can. This is a significant moment when we make an emotional connection.
“Knowing the right proportions is essential when it comes to designing a beautiful gown.”

Movie stars in designer’s work
No less enchanting is Shbib’s luxury ready-to-wear label SKSParis for which she likes to dive into art and old movies for inspiration because they portray women in an ideal light. But it also has that “wow” factor.
“Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Greta Garbo had a strong impact on my visualization of beauty. The proportions, the glamorous allure, and the structured silhouettes are what highlighted the magnificence of women in the past,” Shbib said.
The challenge for her as a designer is to retain this sense of feminine splendor in more realistic terms. “As women became more active and more emancipated, they wanted to wear dresses in keeping with modern life, but without losing their power of seduction. I’m glad my ready-to-wear line has that special spark,” she said.
For Shbib, fashion is both a work of introspection and a work of observation. “Timeless elegance is at the heart of my aesthetics,” she said. “I care mostly about making women beautiful rather than throwing myself into trends.”
Shbib thinks of fashion as an investment for customers who want a dress that will not lose its value over time. This drove her to “come up with a ready-to-wear line that is versatile — something all women can wear regardless of age, depending on how they use the pieces to make them their own.”
In Shbib’s view, the perfect woman for her collections is one who is self-confident and educated. “She is a woman who emphasizes her beauty without revealing too much. She is someone who is looking for something unique. In a sense, I believe that luxury is a matter of education rather than money,” the designer said.
Shbib mentioned several women who play active roles in business as being among her role models. “Queen Rania of Jordan is the perfect example of (women’s) empowerment. I feel at the summit of my creativity when I make a dress for a lady whose career I admire. I also loved and adored the style of Carla Bruni when she was first lady of France. She had that sense of natural elegance that is so true to my country,” she says.
Shbib has big plans to introduce new lines under her label, in order to target different groups. “I will start designing abayas next year. It’s a big project of mine,” said Shbib. “It’s all about expanding my vision across the Arab world where my heart is and will always be.”


Italy’s Salvini drops Nutella due to Turkish ingredients

Updated 06 December 2019

Italy’s Salvini drops Nutella due to Turkish ingredients

  • Matteo Salvini: I found out that Nutella uses Turkish nuts and I prefer to help companies that use Italian products
  • Ferrero is one of the world’s bigger buyers of hazelnuts, but Italian production is not enough to sustain Nutella’s manufacturing

ROME: Italy’s right-wing opposition leader, Matteo Salvini, says he is no longer a fan of Nutella after discovering that the chocolate-and-hazelnut spread contains Turkish, rather than Italian, nuts.
Salvini, who heads the nationalist League, has previously posted selfies on social media while enjoying slices of bread covered in Nutella, which is made by Italian company Ferrero.
But at a rally Thursday evening in the northern city of Ravenna, Salvini said he had changed his mind about the product.
“I found out that Nutella uses Turkish nuts and I prefer to help companies that use Italian products. I prefer to eat Italian and help Italian farmers,” he said after a woman in the crowd suggested he eat a Nutella sandwhich to stay warm.
Ferrero had no comment. The Alba, Italy-based company is one of the world’s bigger buyers of hazelnuts, but Italian production is not enough to sustain Nutella’s manufacturing.
Salvini’s League is known for its “Italians first” motto and its defense of Made in Italy products.