LONDON: A Miss England contestant is set to wear a hijab in the finals on Tuesday, in a first for the organization.
Sara Iftekhar, a law student, is among 50 competitors for the Miss England crown and hopes to become the first Muslim winner.
“It just proves Miss England represents the way England is today,” competition spokeswoman Angie Beasley was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail newspaper.
Iftekhar, 20, has already won the Miss Huddersfield title, representing the northern English market town.
She is a make-up artist and often shares pictures of herself wearing traditional Pakistani dress on social media.
The student started a clothing business aged 16.
“I may be the first woman to wear a hijab. However, I am just a regular girl and we all have a fair opportunity in this contest,” the BBC quoted her as saying.
“If I want to cover myself up and dress modestly why should that be an issue? I am just like the other contestants.”
The first stage of the competition was held in July, including the sports beach beauty, top model, beautiful mind and publicity rounds.
“Here is a vibrant, confident young woman who is proving, on a huge platform, that beauty comes in many forms, that Muslim women in hijabs can be beautiful, and that we can own our beauty,” wrote Iqra Choudhry in The Independent online newspaper.
“The fact that she’s reached the Miss England finals is something that should be celebrated by the Muslim community, and by women at large.”
Tuesday’s events in the second stage at Kelham Hall in Nottinghamshire, central England, will round up the ethical fashion show, talent and evening wear catwalk sections of the contest.
Public voting by text message closed at midday (1100 GMT) on Tuesday.
The 2018 Miss World finals are being held in Sanya, China, in November and December.
Miss World started in 1951.
Newly opened concept boutique shines spotlight on Arab brands
Fashion talent from across the Arab world congregates under one roof at Gigi in Dubai’s new Galleria Mall Al-Barsha
Updated 15 July 2020
Rebecca Anne Proctor
DUBAI: Customers stepping inside Gigi, an expansive new concept store in Dubai’s Galleria Mall Al-Barsha, will be hard-pressed not to be instantly mesmerized.
A series of interlocking spaces with elegant golden mesh separating screens showcase some of the Middle East’s most prominent up-and-coming fashion, jewelry, and design brands.
The boutique also hosts a Home Bakery coffee bar, an art exhibition area, workshops, fashion presentations, and a current display of artworks by the city’s Ayyam Gallery.
Gigi had originally planned to launch in March, but due to the introduction of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) precautionary measures in the UAE, the store’s official opening had to wait until the end of May. Even then, it took place under strict health and safety protocols with an option for at-home personal shopping, although it is now open at regular operating hours.
“I really believe in the talent behind the designers and brands from our region and with the launch of Gigi, wanted to offer them a stage where their collections will always be the stars,” founder, Zeina Ladki, told Arab News.
“It’s a place where they can express their creativity and garner a stronger voice beyond the Middle East.”
Ladki, who has extensive knowledge of the region’s fashion scene having previously worked at Al-Tayer as a buyer, believes that supporting Middle Eastern fashion brands is a way to further grow the market.
Featured brands in fashion, jewelry, beauty, art, and interior design include ready-to-wear labels such as Mrs. Keepa, Jessica K, Rania’s Corner, Zayan the Label, Free Being, Cocobum, Simply Sue, Kaftish Kaftans, Posearazzi, Collage by Fashion Exclusive that includes Iam Mai, Beige, and Twisted Roots.
Iconic jewelry brands include Bil Arabi, Dina J., Gendr, Atelier Nawbar, Lina Rai, and Ghada El-Sokkari.
“I was contracted by (H&H Investment and Development) to curate a concept store that is focused on local talents in the region. We wanted it to go beyond fashion and include a space for events and an espresso bar,” Ladki said.
Everything was set for the opening party in March until the COVID-19 outbreak. “We decided that we would launch no matter what even if the situation is as is, and we did it, of course with precautions,” she added.
Ladki hopes to open the store’s activation space, an area set to host a wide variety of fashion, art, and design events, next week.
Gigi is planning a full calendar of events comprising workshops and tutorials spanning a diverse range of topics on fashion, beauty, art, and design. There is also a photography wall by Dubai-based photographer, Ali Bin Thalith, who is well-known for his underwater photography.
Beyond a retail outlet, Gigi offers a space for creative collaboration and community development. “Our concept allows brands to operate individually under their own unique identity but be supported by one collaborative creative effort, Gigi,” said Miltos Bossinis, CEO of H&H Investment and Development.
Gigi, the concept’s name, is an easy, fun, and trendy name to remember, said Ladki, who added: “Gigi is a persona that can be anything and go anywhere; it’s a free-spirited woman.”
A quick walk around Gigi, and visitors will also notice a variety of objects and furniture pieces by regional designers, including Khalid Shafar, Talata, and multi-brand lifestyle concept Cities. There is also a collection of unconventional handbag brands and accessories, including PHOXX, Sarah’s Bag, SOA bags, and Chato Accessories.
Gigi even had Lebanese fashion designer, Lama Jouni, design outfits for the store’s staff.
During the difficult economic times created by the COVID-19 pandemic, regional designers need more support than ever. Ladki plans to establish a “formula for young designers needing exposure to come and show their collections at Gigi from two to three weeks or even on a monthly basis.”
Nadine Kanso, an artist and founder of Bil Arabi jewelry, said: “It’s beautiful to be here. It’s also a great exercise for us to get to know our clients in a shared space and also see if in the future we want to have our own standalone boutique.”
Egyptian-French designer, Mariam Yehia, who is also the founder of ready-to-wear brand Mrs. Keepa that has standalone stores in Nakheel Mall and Dubai Design District, said: “Every one of our stores has its own story and clientele but Gigi allows us to better access local clientele.
“I have Saudi and Kuwaiti customers and clients from all of the MENA region and also e-commerce from the European and American market, but I’ve never had many clients from the Emirati market and Gigi is the perfect platform for this.”