Meet the designers who are taking Mideast fashion forward

1 / 4
Utruj is a Jeddah-based design house.
2 / 4
Utruj wowed crowds with its latest collection.
3 / 4
Sadeem Al-Shehail’s collection has a nautical theme.
4 / 4
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.”


Dubai-based label keeps ‘Frozen 2’ star warm in NYC

Kristen Bell is currently in the midst of a whirlwind promotion tour for her forthcoming film, ‘Frozen 2.’ Getty Images
Updated 13 November 2019

Dubai-based label keeps ‘Frozen 2’ star warm in NYC

  • On Tuesday, Kristen Bell was photographed wearing a bold jacket from Dubai-based label Bouguessa
  • The look was one of three chic outfits that the actress donned that day

DUBAI: Kristen Bell is currently in the midst of a whirlwind promotion tour for her forthcoming film, “Frozen 2,” and has been serving look after look while doing so.

On Tuesday, the US actress was all smiles while she was out and about in New York for her press rounds wearing not one, but three chic ensembles. Among them was a two-tone coat from Dubai-based Algerian designer Bouguessa. 

Bell began her jam-packed day with an appearance at “Good Morning America” and for the occasion wore a bold, half-baby-blue-half-plum jacket that was plucked from the label’s Fall 2020 winter collection. She accessorized the outerwear, which has also been sported by reality star Kourtney Kardashian in recent weeks, with knee-length, crocodile-skin boots and oversized sunglasses. 

The actress wore a coat by Dubai-based label Bouguessa for a TV appearance in New York. Getty Images

The 39-year-old then switched into a burgundy trench coat paired with a coordinating sweater and stiletto boots. Meanwhile, the Broadway star was photographed sauntering out of “Good Morning America” (GMA)wearing a head-to-toe maroon look and a lilac coat slung over her shoulders.

During her appearance at GMA with co-star Idina Menzel, Bell and her on-screen sister shared some details about the hotly-anticipated “Frozen 2.” The actresses, who play Anna and Elsa in the cult Disney film, revealed that they felt they were in “really good hands” for the Disney’s first-ever musical sequel. 

Bell also spoke about a new show she is producing and hosting for Disney+. Entitled “Encore!”, the new series will invite former High School Musical castmates to perform their original musical in just six days. 

“It’s incredible, and I will say I’ve been proud of a lot of work I’ve done — I don’t know that I’ve done anything that makes me this proud,” Bell said, adding that it’s, “so heartfelt.”

Meanwhile, Bouguessa, which was founded by Faiza Bouguessa, is known for its modern abayas and stylish overlays.   The Dubai-based label has found fans in many A-list celebrities, including Indian actresses Priyanka Chopra and Sonam Kapoor. And who can forget the emerald, velvet robe Beyonce donned back in 2017? 

Born and raised in France to Algerian parents, the designer initially moved to Dubai as a flight attendant for Emirates before transforming her passion for fashion design from a hobby and to a full-fledged career. Having learnt to sew and knit from her seamstress grandmother at a young age, Bouguessa lent her skills to numerous internships at fashion houses before launching her eponymous ready-to-wear label in 2014.