The battle for diversity on the Mideast fashion scene

The battle for diversity on the Mideast fashion scene
Some of the region’s fashion glossies have come under fire for choosing the likes of Gigi and Bella Hadid to grace their covers, but is it unfair criticism? (Photos courtesy: @gigihadid/ @bellahadid)
Updated 13 September 2017

The battle for diversity on the Mideast fashion scene

The battle for diversity on the Mideast fashion scene

DUBAI: As the glitzy fashionistas of this world flit between New York, London and Paris during the ongoing fashion week season, some critics in the Middle East are zeroing in on the apparent lack of diversity when it comes to the models who grace the region’s magazine covers.
Some of the Middle East’s most coveted fashion glossies have come under fire online, with social media users kicking up a fuss over what they claim is a lack of Arab representation.
With the launch of Vogue Arabia in March, the cover seemed like a slam dunk, with the magazine scoring US model Gigi Hadid as its first-ever cover star. Even though Hadid herself proudly shared the cover photo on Instagram, saying: “I think the beautiful thing about there being international Vogue (editions) is that, as a fashion community, we are able to celebrate, and share with the world, different cultures,” not all responses were positive. The issue was exacerbated when, in September, the magazine chose to feature Gigi’s sister Bella on the cover, which sparked backlash again. Similarly, when Kim Kardashian West graced the cover of Harper’s Bazaar Arabia in September, some fans were not happy.
Social media users took to Twitter to share their thoughts on the various covers, asking magazine editors why foreign stars were chosen for the high-impact cover shoots.
“Why don’t (you) photograph actual Arab models instead! There are so many beautiful young Arab women that deserve to be on this,” one user commented on Facebook, in reference to the Harper’s Bazaar Arabia cover.
Back in March, many asked why Gigi, who is in fact half-Palestinian, was on the cover instead of an Arab model from the region. In response to the controversy, Vogue Arabia’s Special Projects Director Mohieb Dahabieh explained the importance of the magazine cover in an editorial piece.
“The time has come to open our eyes and embrace our own ancestry and let go of a hindering common approach that praises the foreign and ignores the home-grown. This cover is the first step on that journey,” Dahabieh wrote.
Similarly, Vogue Arabia’s Editor-in-Chief Manuel Arnaut defended the choice of Bella as the magazine’s September cover star in an interview with The New York Times.
“Bella Hadid is one of the most celebrated models of the time, plus she has a link with the region, being half-Palestinian (and) also a Muslim,” he said.
The struggle for fashion magazines in the region is to balance the popularity of well-known Western celebrities, who can guarantee sales, with more bespoke regional models who are well-known for their contributions to Muslim and regional fashion, style and progress. Although the Hadid sisters claim to be proud of their Palestinian heritage, it must be said that the trend of American models gracing Arab magazine covers could lead to the promotion of purely Western beauty ideals in a region that has its own heritage, culture and beauty standards.
Sarah Williams, deputy editor of Dubai-based La Femme Magazine, agrees that representation is critical. “I think it’s really important in today’s very polarized political climate for Muslims to be well-represented in fashion, film and the public eye.”
The larger question for these models relates to the price of fame. Do these young stars suddenly end up on a platform, having to be a spokesperson for a religion or culture they never sought to represent? “Young Muslims like Gigi and Bella Hadid and Zayn Malik have kept (largely) quiet about their faith — maybe because they don’t particularly practice, or possibly because it simply hasn’t occurred to them, at their tender age, that they (are) representatives of the faith and culture. I’m not sure. (However), both Bella and Zayn have recently been open in interviews about their faith. While Zayn says he is not practicing and doesn’t want to be judged by his cultural or religious background, he is, at the same time… very proud of his background,” Williams said.
For her part, Bella recently opened up to US-based Porter magazine, saying: “I am proud to be a Muslim.”
From the perspective of fashion magazine editors, the benefits of portraying diverse models include more than just the issue of representation — the Muslim population’s expenditure on beauty and fashion is significant. According to Forbes Magazine, “Muslim consumers spent an estimated $243 billion on clothing in 2015. Modest fashion purchases by Muslim women were estimated at $44 billion that year, which was approximately 18 percent of the total. Muslim consumer spending on clothing is expected to reach $368 billion by 2021, which would be a 51 percent increase from 2015.” The power of the young millennial Muslim consumer would be foolish to underestimate. According to Allure magazine, in Saudi Arabia alone, the spend on cosmetics has almost doubled in the last 10 years, from $280 million in 2005 to $535 million in 2015 and “the average employed woman in the Kingdom spends between 70 to 80 percent of her earnings on beauty products.”
But even with this financial incentive, the controversy on representation remains. However, with this backlash and buzz comes increased exposure and platforms for Muslim youth. It is the conversation sparked by the first cover of Vogue Arabia that was an impetus for the diverse coverage that the magazine is now setting as standard.
As Landon Peoples, fashion writer for Refinery 29, noted: “It’s worth mentioning that Vogue Arabia has done a better job at diversifying its cover talent than most international editions of the publishing monolith. In its short existence, it’s featured the two American-Palestinian sisters, Dutch model Iman Hamaam, Indian model Pooja Mor, Muslim-American model Halima Aden and Jourdan Dunn (the magazine’s first Black British model). It goes without saying that all of these women come from different geographical and cultural backgrounds and hold their own when it comes to representing the widespread diversity of the magazine’s circulation, which spans across 22 countries.”
Representation as a trend is slow but definitely on the up and up. The battle is making diversity more than a trend — it has to be the norm. The responsibility for that lies with the gatekeepers to fashion’s most public platforms — the editors and journalists who are curating the faces and features that will define the next generation.
Williams shared her thoughts on the burden of responsibility placed upon fashion journals. “As a journalist and a fashion editor, it’s my responsibility to make sure that my readers feel represented, whether they’re Asian, European, African or Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim. I think we as fashion editors need to be open to feedback… I think editors here are particularly well-placed to tell the truth about our Muslim fellow humans and to make sure that we spread the word that, at the end of the day, we’re all much more alike than we think we are.”


Gigi Hadid is collaborating with Buddy Valastro from ‘Cake Boss’

Gigi Hadid is collaborating with Buddy Valastro from ‘Cake Boss’
The 26-year-old model spent the entire day as a baker’s apprentice. Instagram
Updated 20 June 2021

Gigi Hadid is collaborating with Buddy Valastro from ‘Cake Boss’

Gigi Hadid is collaborating with Buddy Valastro from ‘Cake Boss’

DUBAI: Gigi Hadid spent an entire day interning at Buddy Valastro’s — star of America’s reality TV hit “Cake Boss” — Carlo’s Bakery in New Jersey this week.

“Best. Day. Ever,” the part-Palestinian model wrote alongside an Instagram carousel featuring piping bags and a selfie with Valastro. “Somethin’ coming soon from Cake Boss Buddy Valastro and his biggest fan/newest Carlos Bakery intern. Thank you to the whole famiglia for the warmest welcome. Big, big love,” she added.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

Valastro reposted the selfie on his personal page and wrote about his newest pastry chef: “You may know Gigi Hadid as a world-famous supermodel, but she’s also the sweetest person ever and one amazing cake decorator, too!”

While neither the catwalk star nor the Cake Boss offered up details about their collaboration, the two have a longstanding relationship.

The self-proclaimed biggest fan of “Cake Boss” revealed that she’s been watching the show for a decade and that there almost isn’t an episode that she’s missed.

Valastro memorably made the mother-of-one’s “everything bagel cake” that brought her to tears for her 25th birthday.

She wrote at the time that she “10/10 would be a Carlo’s intern whenever needed.”

Hadid also commissioned the famous baker to make the cake for her partner, former One Direction star Zayn Malik’s 28th birthday in January in the shape of a Bradford Football Club jersey.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)


Moroccan-Italian model Malika El-Maslouhi is the face of a new fragrance

Moroccan-Italian model Malika El-Maslouhi is the face of a new fragrance
The 22-year-old is the face of La Perla’s signature scent. Instagram
Updated 20 June 2021

Moroccan-Italian model Malika El-Maslouhi is the face of a new fragrance

Moroccan-Italian model Malika El-Maslouhi is the face of a new fragrance

DUBAI: La Perla, one of the most luxurious womenswear labels, is starting its own cosmetics collection, La Perla Beauty. Launching next month, the new offering consists of four body-care products, five makeup products for the lips and eyes and nine fragrances, with Moroccan-Italian model Malika El-Maslouhi as the face of its signature scent.

“Proud to be the face of the very first signature fragrance by La Perla Beauty,” wrote El-Maslouhi to her 30,600 Instagram followers, alongside a campaign video for La Perla’s new signature fragrance shot by director Massimiliano Bomba where the catwalk star answers a series of rapid fire questions.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by MALIKA (@malika.elmaslouhi)

El-Maslouhi, who was born in Milan to a Moroccan father and an Italian mother, first teased the exciting news on social media back in May. The model posted a couple of behind the scenes snaps of herself clutching the glossy black and white fragrance bottle, captioning the carousel of images: “You have no idea how excited I am for this one!”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by MALIKA (@malika.elmaslouhi)

In the four years since she started out, the 22-year-old has racked up an impressive number of campaigns.

The breakout model has lent her face to a number of renowned fashion houses, including Calvin Klein Swim, Zadig & Voltaire, Off-White, Ralph Lauren and Lanvin.

She has graced the runways of fashion houses that most models can only dream of, such as Dior, Chanel, Valentino and Jacquemus.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by MALIKA (@malika.elmaslouhi)

When she’s not modeling collections, she’s helping to design them.

She recently teamed up with London-based retailer Ishkar on a range of necklaces handcrafted by jewelers in Kabul, Afghanistan.


Moroccan-British model Nora Attal turns heads at Dior Cruise 2022 collection

Moroccan-British model Nora Attal turns heads at Dior Cruise 2022 collection
Nora Attal showed off a sporty look during the Dior 2022 Cruise collection show in Athens. Getty Images
Updated 19 June 2021

Moroccan-British model Nora Attal turns heads at Dior Cruise 2022 collection

Moroccan-British model Nora Attal turns heads at Dior Cruise 2022 collection

DUBAI: French fashion house Dior this week returned to live audience shows with an extravagant presentation of its partly-sports inspired 2022 Cruise collection in Athens’ Panathenaic stadium, the 4th-century site of the first modern Olympic Games, 70-years after an iconic Dior shoot at the Acropolis.

Dior’s Creative Director Maria Grazia Chiuri enlisted models, including Moroccan-British star Nora Attal, to showcase the sport-infused designs that made up the collection in the presence of celebrities that included film star Catherine Deneuve, model Cara Delevingne and “The Queen’s Gambit” actress Anya Taylor Joy, as well as Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou.

Nora Attal showed off a sporty look during the Dior 2022 Cruise collection show in Athens. Getty Images

Dior also broadcasted the event live on social media, television and in public areas in Greece.

For Chiuri’s first focused foray into athleisure, Attal wore a striped, waterproof unitard with an attached hood, paired with matching shorts and futuristic sneakers. A pair of scuba-inspired goggles, studded wristbands and an oversized bowling bag completed the look.

“The Queen’s Gambit” actress Anya Taylor Joy was one of the stars in attendance. AFP

The 22-year-old, who made her runway debut in 2017, is a catwalk fixture at the house of Dior. She has walked in plenty of shows for the Parisian maison, including the most recent Fall 2021 ready-to-wear show in March. 

She also turned heads at the French maison’s socially-distanced Spring 2021 ready-to-wear show in Paris, as well as at the brand’s Spring 2019 couture, Spring 2018 ready-to-wear and Fall 2018 couture shows, among others.

Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri focused on athleisure for the cruise collection. AFP

The Dior Cruise 2022 collection — which featured a color palette of mostly black, white, grey, gold and blue — also boasted suits inspired by jackets and pants worn by iconic German-American actress Marlene Dietrich.

Peplos, the robe traditionally worn by women in ancient Greece, was also a major source of inspiration for the show’s eveningwear components.

The work of Greek artisans was featured in the collection, including a tailor and embroiderer from Argos in the Peloponnese, a silk factory in the northeastern town of Soufli, and a maker of fisherman’s caps from the port of Piraeus.

The work of Greek artisans was featured in this collection. AFP

Additionally, after receiving the green light from Greece’s top archaeological advisory body to have photoshoots in some of the country’s cherished ancient sites, such as the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the temple of Poseidon at Sounio and the temple of Zeus at Nemea, Dior presented the photographs from the shoot during the runway show.

 


French fashion house Balmain seeks inspiration from Arab divas for Resort 2022 line

French fashion house Balmain seeks inspiration from Arab divas for Resort 2022 line
Balmain resort 2022. Supplied
Updated 19 June 2021

French fashion house Balmain seeks inspiration from Arab divas for Resort 2022 line

French fashion house Balmain seeks inspiration from Arab divas for Resort 2022 line

DUBAI: Balmain Creative Director Olivier Rousteing grew up not knowing who his birth parents were. He was adopted by a French couple from the region of Bordeaux when he was a baby. It wasn’t until very recently that the young designer discovered his genetic heritage. His mother is from Somalia and his father is Ethiopian. His parentage is set to be explored in a forthcoming Netflix documentary, “Wonder Boy,” launching on June 26. It will follow Rousteing’s 10-year tenure at Balmain, in addition to his search for his biological parents.

Due to the pandemic, Rousteing has been unable to visit Somalia or Ethiopia, though he has been vying to go. Instead, he has taken to researching the Horn of Africa and was particularly moved by a visit to the exhibition “Arab Divas: From Oum Kalthoum to Dalida” currently taking place at the Arab World Institute in Paris for Balmain’s Resort 2022 collection. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by BALMAIN (@balmain)

The exhibition’s influence is palpable throughout the new collection, which Rousteing has dubbed “perhaps his most personal offering to date,” especially when it came to the jewelry.

The designer also reflects on his Ethiopian and Somali heritage in the collection by way of loose silhouettes, strong patterns and rich textures.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by BALMAIN (@balmain)

The offering comprises 60-looks, and offers both womenswear and menswear in the form of roomy ponchos, silky kaftans and mini dresses for women as well as bomber jackets, loose trousers and sharply-tailored, embellished blazers for their counterparts.

The new collection marked the 75th anniversary of Pierre Balmain’s debut presentation with Balmain’s 2022 Resort Collection.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by BALMAIN (@balmain)

In celebration of the milestone, the designer chose to revive the archival labyrinth print, invented by Pierre Balmain and reintroduced by Rousteing, splashing it on oversized hobo bags, floor-length coats, palazzo pants, wrap skirts and crop tops. “The clients really like it, so we played with it even more,” he said.

Another highlight of the collection is a pair of fur shoes that are notably cruelty free– the footwear consists of a mix of faux fur and long-haired goat fur sourced from the goat-milk industry.


Lebanese label Azzi & Osta dedicates its Fall 2022 couture collection to perfume

Lebanese label Azzi & Osta dedicates its Fall 2022 couture collection to perfume
Azzi & Osta Fall 2022 Couture. Supplied
Updated 19 June 2021

Lebanese label Azzi & Osta dedicates its Fall 2022 couture collection to perfume

Lebanese label Azzi & Osta dedicates its Fall 2022 couture collection to perfume

DUBAI: Perfume has the special ability to conjure up cherished memories, stimulate emotions and transport you to faraway locations. So powerful is scent, that Lebanese design duo Assaad Osta and George Azzi decided to pay homage to the art of perfumery for their joint label Azzi & Osta’s Fall 2022 couture collection.

It all started with a visit to France. The couturiers took a trip to a perfume museum in the French town of Grasse, known for its long-established perfume industry. There, they discovered a vast universe of essences, that included everything from Osmanthus flowering plants from Japan, pine needles from Canada and sandalwood from India.

Azzi & Osta Fall 2022 Couture. Supplied

The design duo were especially struck by all of the different territories, civilizations, talents and cultures that can intersect in a single bottle of perfume. Thus, they decided that their next collection would be dedicated to fragrance.

The idea was to utilize different materials and shapes in order to evoke the lightness and volatility of perfume.

Azzi & Osta Fall 2022 Couture. Supplied

They embroidered precious ingredients including orange blossom, peach bud, patchouli, magnolia, fig, neroli and myrtle, that compose a typical fragrance, with subtle petals of fabric molded and colored by hand, accompanied by ribbons of tulle stitched together edge-to-edge in frills.

The 23-piece offering also boasts custom-made floral fabric, printed in 3D with verbena and patchouli; a corset inspired by the 1950s from which the embroidered flowers of a dress pour out and dresses cut in the shape of a vase.

Azzi & Osta Fall 2022 Couture. Supplied

In an effort to incorporate eco-conscious practices into their designs, the couturiers opted for faux fur and feathers in the collection. Adding to this conscious practice, the couturiers also utilized raffia, a natural and renewable woven fiber, in the looks.

The collection culminates with three striking wedding gowns.

Azzi & Osta Fall 2022 Couture. Supplied

One is made of tightened velvet ribbons and tulle and features a skirt embroidered with myrtle flowers.

Another is embroidered with tuberose on Chantilly silk, under a layer of lace dotted with organza flowers and spangled with crystals, while the third wedding gown boasts a sprinkling of sequins and organza feathers on the shoulders that would make any bride say “I do.”