Meet the designers who are taking Mideast fashion forward

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Utruj is a Jeddah-based design house.
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Utruj wowed crowds with its latest collection.
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Sadeem Al-Shehail’s collection has a nautical theme.
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Saudi designer Sadeem Al-Shehail showed off her latest collection at the event.
Updated 26 October 2017

Meet the designers who are taking Mideast fashion forward

Dubai Design District is hosting the 10th annual Fashion Forward (FFWD) showcase in the emirate, a celebration featuring runway shows, presentations, exhibitions, talks, shopping, music and film. Previously invite-only, the event — which runs Oct. 26 to 28 — is now open to all fashion lovers in the region.
One designer who will be showcasing his collection is Beirut-based Hussein Bazaza, who felt a desire for artistic expression from an early age. Having studied in Paris and with Elie Saab in Lebanon, Bazaza created his first collection in 2012. Through his designs, and with “every cut,” he works to reflect “a different story, a personal emotion that creates a one-of-a-kind experience. (It is) fashion with a soul.”
The story behind Bazaza’s SS18 collection revolves around “the battle between all five personas that make up one’s ultimate character, and in the end, the winner dominates it.” Composed of 40 looks in total, each of our five characters walk the runway in eight looks. The primary color is pink, but there are touches of different hues obvious in every character.
The collection is meant to be a journey. As Bazaza explains: “You can spot shimmering silvers at first, light pinks appear next, striking reds follow, then strong blacks make an entrance and, finally, vibrant golds end the show.”
Saudi designer Sadeem Al-Shehail is also at FFWD with SADEEM, a pret-a-couture brand. Designed for a woman “who is confident, elegant and sophisticated, a woman who is looking for timeless, well-made and versatile attire,” Al-Shehail’s collection is based on sustainable design and ethical practices. To that end, she only collaborates with companies that share the same principles.
Al-Shehail’s collection “NAUTICAL by Sadeem” cultivates a “luxury wardrobe that caters for a contemporary woman on a summer holiday.” Inspired by sailor suits, seashell shapes and the glamorous yachting lifestyle, the collection offers timeless silhouettes, from daytime chic to sophisticated soiree looks.
When asked what makes this collection disruptive, Al-Shehail said: “I’m proud that my company produces a sustainable and eco-friendly line, and all fabrics used are certified non-toxic materials made in Japan. Also, the garments were ethically constructed in Dubai’s very own Design District.”
Utruj, led by creative director Laila Abduljawad, is a design house based in Jeddah. The brand is named after a type of citrus fruit that is both bitter and sweet. Utruj espouses a new vision of contemporary modest wear that women today can truly identify with, and with Abduljawad at the helm, the brand can look forward to many more years of redefining design.
Utruj’s collection is called “Authentic Structure,” and it “depicts stories that merge imagination with reality. Each piece in the collection is a visual representation of a social construct — the structures reflect our societies and reflect ourselves as Middle Eastern.”
The collection’s focus is on the intricate shapes of traditional forms of art and architecture that “embellish the rural region of Saudi Arabia. It signifies a confident woman who values her traditions, but who wants to work practically and look modern.”
Showcasing their collections at FFWD is important to all designers as it is an international platform situated at the intersection of East and West. “Dubai has become the fashion capital of the Middle East, and FFWD is always great exposure,” said Bazaza.
“After showcasing many seasons… the FFWD family are dear to my heart. It’s now like a second home to me. They’re very well organized and incredibly professional with the entire process, from the very beginning until even after it ends.”
Al-Shehail said: “I’ve had the privilege of showcasing some of my previous collections in New York and Paris, and I was very happy about the positive feedback I received. But showing my collection in Dubai has had more of an impact. In my experience, emerging designers showing in Europe and the US always struggle to find the perfect agency that can properly represent them, as not many are enthused as the competition is very high. FFWD is the best platform in the Middle East and North Africa. It’s a joy to be part of it.”
The event allows designers to cater to the modern international visionary consumer, and Dubai provides just that platform. “We aim to universalize the abaya, and we want to bridge the gap between the Gulf and the rest of the world — we know that Dubai is a perfect place to push that,” said Abduljawad.
“It’s in the Middle East but has international and Western exposure. We’ve seen that Middle Eastern designers are afraid of the abaya, that it may not be well received. But we’re not afraid, we’re proud, and now — after showing this collection in Paris and Europe and receiving such strong, positive feedback — we can bring this collection back to Dubai.”

Shanina Shaik cameos as model Devon Windsor weds in Zuhair Murad gown

Shanina Shaik attends Devon Windsor's St. Bart's wedding. Photo: Instagram/@shaninamshaik
Updated 18 November 2019

Shanina Shaik cameos as model Devon Windsor weds in Zuhair Murad gown

  • This weekend, Victoria's Secret model Devon Windsor tied the knot with longtime partner Johnny Barbara
  • Among the A-list guests at the ceremony was Shanina Shaik, Georgia Fowler and more

DUBAI: This weekend, celebrities gathered on the Caribbean island of St. Bart's to attend Victoria’s Secret model Devon Windsor’s wedding at Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc.

Among the guests at the beach-front nuptials, where Windsor and her longtime partner Johnny Dex Barbara tied the knot, was Saudi-Pakistani-Lithuanian-Australian beauty Shanina Shaik who wore a single-shouldered, teal gown and a plunging black top paired with an emerald silk skirt to the multi-day-long celebrations.

Shaik also turned heads in a silky, cream-colored slip dress from Australian label Manning Cartel for a pre-wedding bash that preceded the ceremony. “Not raining on the bride’s parade,” she shared on Instagram, “It was an all-white party.”


Not raining on the brides parade.... it was an all white party Dress by @manningcartell

A post shared by SHANINA SHAIK (@shaninamshaik) on

Fans of the Melbourne native will recall her destination wedding to Gregory “DJ Ruckus” Andrews in the Bahamas in May 2018. However, the 28-year-old model, who was born to a Saudi-Pakistani father and a Lithuanian-Australian mother, recently filed for a divorce after one-year of marriage due to “irreconcilable differences.”

Models Georgia Fowler and Shanina Shaik attend Devon Windsor's wedding. Photo: Instagram/@georgiafowler

Meanwhile, for her big day, Windsor chose a custom lace creation by Lebanese couturier Zuhair Murad to tie the knot with her longtime beau. The blushing bride said “I do” wearing an off-the-shoulder mermaid gown that boasted floral lace detailing, illusion panels on the arms and a long train that swept out from behind her as she walked arm-in-arm with her father who led her down the aisle. The model teamed the sheer dress with a floor-training veil worn over her brushed out, bombshell waves. Simple yet elegant, the look was perfect for a chic, beach-front wedding.

Later on, the bride changed into a sparkling white romper with a skirt for her reception. One video posted by Shaik shows Windsor being carried in her new husband’s arms. “Congratulations @devwindor & @johnnydex (sic),” wrote Shaik, “So much love!”

The Caribbean island plays a significant role in the newly-weds’ love story. Windsor and Barbara have been engaged since 2018, after the newly-minted groom proposed to the 25-year-old model by flying her over St. Bart’s beach on a plane where she saw the words “Marry Me?” inscribed into the sand.

The bride said “I do” wearing an off-the-shoulder mermaid gown that boasted floral lace detailing, illusion panels on the arms. Photo: Splash

She wrote on Instagram at the time: “When you think you’re flying into a photoshoot and then you look down and see this...This was the best day of my life and I cannot wait to marry the best person in the whole universe! I’m the luckiest woman in the world!”

The wedding was attended by family and friends. Some of the A-list guests present at the nuptials included models Georgia Fowler, Nadine Leopold, Olivia Culpo and Hannah Ferguson, who have been documenting the sun-filled celebrations on Instagram.

There was also a special performance from Jamaican rapper and singer Sean Paul that had guests dancing the night away.