Prepare for Eid with Twisted Roots’ travel-inspired style

Twisted Roots is known for its clean, modern designs. (Supplied)
Updated 05 June 2018

Prepare for Eid with Twisted Roots’ travel-inspired style

DUBAI: It may not have released an exclusive capsule collection for the Holy Month, but Twisted Roots is modest and oh-so-chic that anything you put together from this label is great for any get-together this Ramadan.

The Dubai-based contemporary womenswear brand has released its Spring/Summer 2018 collection and we’re crushing hard on the pieces. Entitled “Tessellation,” the series was inspired by the Spanish city of Barcelona – mainly guided by the works of renowned architect Antoni Gaudí, arguably the world’s best-known practitioner of Catalan Modernism.

Taking cue from Gaudí’s highly-individualized, one-of-a-kind style, Twisted Roots designer Latifa Al-Gurg has crafted pieces featuring silhouettes with scooped hemlines and fluted sleeves in beautifully tailored tunics. Shirts also feature in the collection, which showcase tile-like cut-outs and patchwork in contrasting colors. Long-sleeved T-shirts and maxi dresses are made of Japanese Tencel, floaty designs are in Chinese silk, while more structured pieces are created out of Italian cotton.

“It was interesting to me looking at the shapes that Antonio Gaudí chose,” explained Emirati-Danish designer Al-Gurg, who works out of her studio in Dubai’s Al-Quoz district, in a released statement. “He decided to adorn his buildings with something that contracts his organic shapes. This juxtaposition inspired me to translate that into a garment.”

This season’s palette is “cool,” featuring shades of blue-ish greens, including the soft and subtle “mint ocean” contrasted with the more bold “aqua shades detailed in the brand’s look book. Neutral shades also make an appearance, mainly with the colors of stone and silver.

As for statement pieces, look out for the stand-out crop tile jacket and midi tile stripe coat.

Since its launch in 2014, Twisted Roots has been offering affordable luxury wear with contemporary classics. Here, the brand focuses on layering, while keeping true to its aesthetic that focuses on clean lines, elegant silhouettes and luxurious fabrics. The pieces are modern, easy-to-wear, and modest, earning the label a legion of hijabi fans.

Funnily enough, brand founder Al-Gurg initially didn’t set out to become a fashion designer, studying electrical engineering at the American University of Sharjah instead. Wanting to become involved in a venture that had more creativity, she switched fields later in her career and set up Twisted Roots.

“The concept was born in 2012. As an electrical engineer working in construction, I found myself struggling to find suitable clothes to travel with that were coordinated and of a certain quality,” Al-Gurg said in an interview with GulfBusiness.com. “I would always be running around finding tops from one place, trousers from another, and then struggling to find coordinating scarves. From that, the idea behind Twisted Roots came to be.

“(It) is a one-stop shop for a woman’s travel wear needs. A place where you can pick up a few tops, a couple of trousers, a jacket or two and matching scarves and be ready to go. The name has complex roots. It comes from my mixed heritage directly, but also indicates how, as we travel, we grow different roots that twist and become part of us. You can also think of it as a pun for Twisted Routes.”

As mentioned, all of her collections have been influenced by travel. For example, “Green Tea” was inspired by China and its tea ceremonies, as well as Chinese architecture. There have also been collections produced thanks to Savannah, Prague, and others locations around the world.

You can shop the collection on twistedroots.ae, a portal that mainly delivers within the UAE, although delivery to other locations is possible.


The truth behind the Middle East’s obsession with K-pop

Updated 14 July 2020

The truth behind the Middle East’s obsession with K-pop

  • Wholesome lyrics, positive messages and a dedicated translation service are just part of the appeal

DUBAI: In a strange parallel universe somewhere, 2020 has already seen two K-pop festivals in the Middle East — two Dubai gigs, 10 K-pop acts and a world free from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that only resorts to serious mask-wearing when it comes to Halloween.

Unfortunately, the reality hasn’t been quite so favorable to your average K-pop fan in the region. The much-anticipated Music Bank Show fell victim to a COVID-19 cancellation, and the K-pop Super Concert followed suit — both events part of a lost weekend at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena. But while live music might have succumbed, K-pop’s march into the hearts and minds of Middle Eastern fans remains pandemic-proof. 

It’s easy to forget that this is a genre that came about with shaky credibility and little appeal outside Korea. Now, the figures are staggering. K-pop kings BTS are lauded globally, and last year Blackpink became the first K-pop girl group to play Coachella — achieving the highest of cool points in the process.

Blackpink became the first K-pop girl group to play Coachella. (AFP)

Spotify dials things down like this: The big five MENA streamers of K-pop (January 2014-2020) are Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria, in that order. If you’re streaming, chances are it’s “Boy With Luv” by BTS and Halsey — the most streamed K-pop track in the MENA region for that time period. And while Saudi Arabia might boast the biggest market, Egypt is the most rapidly developing, with a 33 percent increase in K-pop streaming between January 2019-2020. 

But to limit the ways in which the Middle East loves K-pop to a simple playlist would be reductive. Look at the 60,000 fans that poured into Riyadh last year to see a groundbreaking show from BTS — also a signifier of greater cultural freedoms in the Kingdom. How about the hundreds of social media fan pages that beat algorithms to drive success for their idols? The BTS UAE Army, the band’s biggest collection of fans in the country, recently pushed an “All Kill” week in English and Arabic. The aim was to get a different song from the “Map of The Soul: 7” album to the number one spot in the UAE iTunes chart each day for a week. It worked, too. Still not impressed? How about this: Last year, so many people wanted to catch a glimpse of EXO in Dubai that they had to close the roads. 

The last time EXO were in Dubai, they had to close the roads. (Dubai Culture)

As K-pop has grown in the region, so too has a K-based fascination in other areas, with fans only too willing to immerse themselves in the culture from top to bottom. 

“K-pop isn’t just limited to just Korean pop music,” says Ren, an admin for @bangtanuae, the Instagram page for the BTS UAE Army. “It’s a mixture of food, fashion, language, traditions and the country itself. We really just want to learn about Korean culture.”

It certainly doesn’t take long to see that Ren, and others like her, are part of a movement in the Middle East. From supermarkets packed with kimchi to restaurants serving up a spin on the classic hotteok pancakes, Korean culture here is booming, and it has been ably assisted by official efforts to strengthen ties between the two regions, neatly signposted by last year’s Korea Festival in the UAE. You might think that Feb. 14 is Valentine’s Day, but you’d be wrong. It’s officially Emirati-Korean Friendship Day — and has been since 2015.

But while the strength of K-power in the region is clearly visible, the question of why it resonates so much might not be immediately obvious. Success for an artist who sings in his or her own language outside of that language’s region is no easy ride.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

YouTube data~ 13/07/2020 #BTS Stats Update : UAE ranks #42 worldwide for Top country viewers of @BTS_twt videos - Within UAE, Dubai ranks #1 with over 8 million+ views on BTS videos - Within UAE, BTS ranks #10 on the top Music Charts & Insights -UAE’s total plays(views) on BTS videos -First picture is from last 7 days, Second is from last 28 days. -The huge peak in the chart happened during Stay Gold MV release. Stats are overall good but let’s do better for next comeback! - ‎بيانات اليوتيوب في المركز ٤٢ على مستوى العالم من الدول الإكثر مشاهدة لفيديوهات بانقتان ‏- في الإمارات، دبي في المركز الأول مع أكثر من ٨ مليون مشاهدة ‏- فيديوهات بانقتان في المركز العاشر في الدولة في فئة Music Charts ‏إجمالي عدد المشاهدات لفيديوهات بانقتان ‏- الصورة الأولى للأيام السبعة الماضية. ‏- الصورة الثانية للأيام ال٢٨ الماضية. ‏القمّة التي في الرسم البياني هو من يوم نشر الفيديو لأغنية Stay Gold ‏بشكل عام الإحصائيات جيدة و لكن يجب أن نعمل أكثر للعودة القادمة! - Admin: BLU

A post shared by BTS UAE (@bangtanuae) on

Perhaps it all lies in the echoes between Korean and Arab life? In “The Korean Wave: Past and Present,” Mohamed Elaskary, a professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in South Korea, cites the author SW Kim to explain how the Middle East sees itself in K-pop.

“Cultural factors play an important role in the success of Hallyu (the Korean Wave) in the Arab world,” he explains. “Among these factors are the social habits and customs that Arabs share with Koreans, such as family bonds, love stories that are not explicit, friendship and altruism. Compared to Western pop music, with its nudity and obscene lyrics, K-pop fits well into mainstream Arab societies.”

When it comes to the language barrier, K-pop fans don’t really seem to mind that either. Those who don’t simply love it for the catchy melodies or elaborate dance routines just tackle the issue head-on.

“Within the BTS ARMY fandom we have lots of people who volunteer to translate everything the band releases,” Ren said. “Often in many different languages and almost instantly too!” 

And if you think an unofficial translation service is a sign of dedication, then others take it a step further. 

“A couple of years ago, I came across a Korean TV series called 꽃보다 남자, which roughly translates to ‘Boys Over Flowers,’” says Egypt-based Menna Mahmoud, who discovered her love of K-pop through the country’s other great export: K-drama.

‘Boys Over Flowers’ (Supplied)

“I liked how funny it was, but I didn’t like that it was dubbed in Arabic, so I decided to start learning Korean,” she said. “I did it for a couple of months and it was really fun. I certainly wouldn’t say I’m fluent, but I could probably just about understand the events of a TV series without resorting to the subtitles button.”

Mahmoud isn’t alone in this; Korean is now one of the most in-demand languages to learn across the Middle East. It’s worth noting that the cultural exchange can be a two-way process, and Korean boy band BIG now sing in both Korean and Arabic.

K-pop’s rise to global prominence has been no accident. In the midst of the Asian economic crisis of the late 90s, it was decided that Korea should attempt to diversify its export power. As a result, the former president, Kim Jae-Dung, was persuaded to use cultural output to help fuel his country’s resurgence. In that respect, K-pop is less an organic trend, more a concerted effort from a nation looking for a soft-power approach to better days. Either way, the move has paid off handsomely.

“K-pop and K-drama play a vital role in Korean imports and tourism to Korea,” explains Elaskary. “Hallyu products, such as K-pop, K-drama and K-beauty, are a driving force in an era of cultural economy products. Hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, travel every year to visit the places where K-pop songs and K-drama series have been shot, and Korean companies utilize the success of K-pop and K-drama to promote their businesses.”

While the hard-nosed capitalism behind K-pop’s rise might feel a little jarring, the wholesome message of the music remains at the root of its success in the Middle East — and in that respect, it has the power to change lives here, too.

“The music is just so empowering,” says Anne, an admin for the @unitedblinks, the Instagram fanpage for Blackpink UAE. “When I hit rock bottom, Blackpink’s words were straightforward, strong, and motivational. It’s like they were telling me that sulking won’t solve anything, that I should get up and fix myself, because the world doesn’t revolve around me.”