Back to the future: How Nour Hage is reinventing Arab menswear

Back to the future: How Nour Hage is reinventing Arab menswear
A look from Nour Hage's lookbook. (Supplied)
Updated 06 November 2018

Back to the future: How Nour Hage is reinventing Arab menswear

Back to the future: How Nour Hage is reinventing Arab menswear
  • London-based Lebanese fashion designer Nour Hage decided to shift from creating womenswear to menswear
  • Her Zero One collection takes clothes traditionally associated with the Middle East — abayas, thobes, et cetera — and gives them a distinct and contemporary feel

DUBAI: When London-based Lebanese fashion designer Nour Hage decided to shift from creating womenswear to menswear, she figured she’d check if any other Arab women were creating clothes for Arab men.
“I don’t know of any others,” she says. “Nada Khoury in Beirut has a small menswear line, but that’s more about suits, it’s quite classical. And besides that I don’t know of any. I might be wrong, but I didn’t find anything.”
So Hage’s recently launched Zero One collection, which takes clothes traditionally associated with the Middle East — abayas, thobes, et cetera — and gives them a distinct, contemporary feel, is something of an anomaly. But it’s already proving popular among some of the most influential young cultural players in the Middle East, the wider Muslim world, and beyond.
In September, for example, Emmy-winning British actor and rapper Riz Ahmed was on the cover of GQ in the UK. On the inside pages he was pictured wearing two items from Hage’s collection; an abaya and Satra (a jacket inspired by traditional Levantine wrapped coats).
Other prominent artists to wear Hage’s designs include Iraqi-Canadian rapper Narcy and Kuwaiti multimedia artist Zahed Sultan, while Firas Abou Fakher — guitarist and keyboardist with the seminal Lebanese indie band Mashrou’ Leila — has performed in a striking blue abaya from Zero One.
These ‘brand ambassadors’ (not in the ‘paid-social-influencer’ sense, importantly) have been of great value to Hage. Not just because they’ve helped raise the profile of her work, but because they’ve proved that the people who she wanted to wear her clothes also want to wear them.
“When I was designing the collection, I was thinking about who my target audience is,” she says. “The brand is about expressing pride in Arab culture and putting Arab identity at the forefront of the global market. It’s about bringing unique high-quality Arab design to the world. I want people who aren’t Arabs to experience Arab design.

Mashrou Leila wearing Nour Hage. (Supplied)

“So I looked at who represents Arab culture in the best way possible — looking at, like, the ‘new type’ of Arab men. For me, Narcy is one of them, Zahed Sultan is one of them, Mashrou’ Leila… They’ve had such an impact on the new generation all over the Arab world, and on me personally and on my work,” she continues. “And Riz Ahmed, he’s an activist about representation in the media — having non-white people represented in big movies and TV shows, but not being stereotyped. So he was a perfect fit as well.
“So I’d basically narrowed it down to a group of people and it turns out that not only did (that association) make sense in my head, it made sense in their heads.” She laughs. “So it all worked out.”
It’s an impressive roster of supporters for someone who’s only just started out in menswear. Hage launched her own womenswear brand in 2013, out of Beirut, having returned to her homeland when her French work permit (she was working for Paris-based German designer Damir Doma, who at the time, she says, was “kind of the darling of the fashion scene”) was rejected in early 2012.
It wasn’t until she moved to London a couple of years ago that she decided to switch to menswear.
“I wanted to rebrand completely,” she says. “I felt the need to bring out Arab culture and the traditional clothing that I think is beautiful, but was overlooked in the last few decades. There’s something really proud about the way Arab men dress, especially in the Gulf and North Africa. I started researching and it sparked something inside me. I think it’s the best decision I’ve ever made for the brand.”

It wasn’t an easy choice, though. “Menswear is much more challenging,” Hage says. “Men tend to buy for comfort more than aesthetics, whereas women tend to buy something because it looks nice rather than because it’s comfortable. But I like that challenge of designing something new and avant-garde and innovative, but in the frame of it being comfortable and practical.”
Alongside the desire to meet that challenge, the primary influence on Zero One has been Hage’s research. “When you look at how men in the (MENA) region used to dress, their taste in clothes was very soft. They also wore a lot of colors. So it’s not like I’m doing something insanely new. It all comes from research.”Take what Hage describes as the “key element” of her collection: the abaya. “Decades ago, farmers, merchants and landowners would all wear it. But depending on your social class you wore it in different types of fabrics and colors. So farmers and shepherds would wear it, but they’d also use it as a bag to carry food for animals, or as shelter when it rained. It was an overgarment that was also a practical thing. When you first look at it, you might think you wouldn’t wear it every day. But it’s actually really easy to wear. You just throw it on.”
Her research also influenced smaller details too. Her shirts don’t have folded collars “because Arab men didn’t tend to wear ties.” They don’t have buttonholes on the cuffs. Her thobe has a side opening, inspired by an Emirati friend. “He’d ordered a custom thobe and asked for the sides to be open because he always wears trousers underneath. I really like that small detail and I think it brings a more modern aspect to it.”
It’ll be no surprise to those who know Hage that she has ended up creating such a distinctive collection. As a teenager, she says, “I had a massive interest in clothes and styling, and looking kind of unique. I went to a French Catholic school, wearing a uniform every day, so there was this constant striving to look a bit different.”
That didn’t mean she felt destined to be a fashion designer, however. “I wasn’t really interested in the whole fashion scene — I didn’t know, like, the names of the models or anything like that. I didn’t buy the magazines. That’s why I wondered if I should do something else in design instead, rather than fashion.”

It wasn’t until she began her foundation year at the Paris campus of Parsons School of Art and Design that she really started to focus on fashion. And she was left with no illusions about how much work would be required to build her career.
“I think fashion has a really false image. It sells that whole glamorous, jet-setting lifestyle, but it’s not like that at all, mostly,” she says. “Right at the beginning, all our teachers told us that you don’t go into fashion because of the glamor, or because you want to be rich. Because most of the time, it’s none of these things. You go into it because you love it.”
But while Hage may be a long way off getting rich from her work, the launch of Zero One has, at the very least, placed her in the cadre of young Arab artists introducing an Arab culture that doesn’t conform to the worst Western stereotypes to a wider audience.
“There are a lot of artists from the Arab world doing things like this — trying to bring their work outside the Arab world — and I think that has a big impact. It’s about showing we have beautiful things that can be adapted for Europe and North America, and that we have pop culture,” she says. “And it’s not all about flying carpets and genies.”

Miss Philippines stuns in gown by Dubai-based designer on Miss Universe stage

Miss Philippines stuns in gown by Dubai-based designer on Miss Universe stage
The 24-year-old beauty queen wore a yellow, gem-encrusted Amato gown. Supplied
Updated 16 May 2021

Miss Philippines stuns in gown by Dubai-based designer on Miss Universe stage

Miss Philippines stuns in gown by Dubai-based designer on Miss Universe stage

DUBAI: Filipino model and beauty pageant titleholder Rabiya Mateo represented the Philippines at the Miss Universe 2020 Preliminary Show on Friday wearing a creation by Dubai-based couture house Amato. 

The beauty queen strutted down the runway wearing a single-shoulder, yellow gown that was hand-embroidered with thousands of tiny Swarovski crystals that shone even brighter underneath the stage lights. 

The caped tulle dress, which was inspired by the radiance of the Philippine sun which symbolizes positivity and optimism, marked Amato’s debut on a Miss Universe stage.

The gown was inspired by the radiance of the Philippine sun. Supplied

Mateo’s choice of color was not lost on pageant fans, who pointed out that the two previous Filipina Miss Universe winners wore the other colors of the Philippine flag when they won. Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach wore royal blue while Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray opted for red.

The 69th Miss Universe pageant finals will be held in Florida on May 16. Furne One, the Filipino designer behind Amato, is designing the gown which Mateo will wear during the finals.

Mateo will wear Amato during the Miss Universe pageant finals held on May 16. Supplied

“This is just the start of a more fruitful partnership with the Miss Universe organization,” said Josh Yugen, the CEO of the PR company that represents Amato. “We are excited to see more creations of the talented Furne One in the Miss Universe stage, and we can’t wait to see Rabiya slay the runway with another creation of Furne. I'm sure she's gonna make all the Filipinos proud,” he added.

If the 24-year-old wins, she will become the fifth woman from the Philippines to take home the prestigious crown.


Part-Palestinian model Bella Hadid joins rally in New York

Part-Palestinian model Bella Hadid joins rally in New York
Bella Hadid is no stranger to speaking out about Palestine. File/AFP
Updated 16 May 2021

Part-Palestinian model Bella Hadid joins rally in New York

Part-Palestinian model Bella Hadid joins rally in New York

DUBAI: Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across the world on Saturday to protest the Israeli airstrike attacks on Palestinians living in Gaza. Demonstrations took place across the Middle East, Europe, Canada, Australia and the US, with thousands of protestors marching on the streets with pro-Palestine signs. Some celebrities and influencers even decided to take part in the demonstrations, including part-Palestinian model Bella Hadid. 


A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

The 24-year-old catwalk is the daughter of real estate developer Mohamed Hadid, whose family fled Palestine as refugees in 1948. She joined a crowd of protesters in New York on Saturday who took to the streets of Bay Ridge for a demonstration.

The outspoken model wore a keffiyeh — a scarf with the traditional Palestinian print — around her head and shoulders and a face mask and waved a large Palestinian flag as she marched along with thousands of others.

Hadid took to Instagram to share images from the Free Palestine demonstration that had a turnout of nearly 2,000 protestors, according to reports.

“The way my heart feels... to be around this many beautiful, smart, respectful, loving, kind and generous Palestinians all in one place... it feels whole! We are a rare breed!” Hadid wrote alongside a series of images from the protests.

“It’s free Palestine til Palestine is free! P.S. The Palestinian drip is real (sic),” added Hadid, who memorably attended a Free Palestine rally in London back in 2016.


A post shared by Bella (@bellahadid)

Earlier in the day, the model shared a throwback photo of her paternal grandparents’ wedding day, along with an image of her father as a boy next to his seven siblings and mom — after whom she was given her middle name Khair — noting how they “were taken out of their homes in Palestine in 1948, becoming refugees in Syria, then Lebanon, then Tunisia.”

“I love my family, I love my heritage, I love Palestine. I will stand strong to keep their hope for a better land in my heart. A better world for our people and the people around them. They can never erase our history. History is history!” she captioned the Instagram post.

Woven together, the rise and fall of southern Pakistan’s Banarsi sari

Woven together, the rise and fall of southern Pakistan’s Banarsi sari
Updated 15 May 2021

Woven together, the rise and fall of southern Pakistan’s Banarsi sari

Woven together, the rise and fall of southern Pakistan’s Banarsi sari
  • Banarsi silk was a luxurious hand-woven fabric once made in the city of Khairpur, in Sindh
  • No official data exists on the history of the industry and the stories are told by the weavers themselves

SINDH: At the Banarsi Silk Weavers’ Colony in the city of Khairpur, in Sindh, 47-year-old merchant Zafar Abbas Ansari was waiting, hoping for a few additional orders of silk Banarsi saris as Eid Al-Fitr approached.
The sari is a garment native to South Asia, where a long piece of cloth is wrapped elaborately around the body — usually in cotton or silk — and worn with a matching blouse.
Although the city does not make Banarsi any longer — it is now made in Karachi, more than 400 km away — customers still come to the city to purchase the fabric.
Inside the deserted 70-year-old market — once a bustling place — Zafar’s shop is among the last three Banarsi shops left. His family is one of the 40 weaver families who brought the industry to Khairpur when they migrated from India in 1952.
“It is almost two decades since Khairpur stopped producing Banarsi saris after the industry’s collapse. However, even today, the brand is popular among customers. They keep demanding Khairpur’s brand,” Zafar told Arab News.
In its heyday, Khairpur’s Banarsi sari was synonymous with luxury, with vendors supplying the fabric not only locally but also exporting to Pakistani families living in the UK and other European countries.
Inside Zafar’s shop, unstitched pieces of colorful saris — the blouse, the petticoat and main sari fabric — are displayed. The shop shows off different varieties of saris, including the traditional katan — a plain woven fabric with pure silk threads — chiffon, as well as synthetic fabrics.
“Banarsi sari has distinction and standing,” Zafar said proudly. “It is worn by royal families because of its grace and elegance. In some families it is an essential part of the bridal trousseau.”

The price of a sari depends upon its type. The most expensive sari fabric available in the Khairpur market currently is worth Rs45,000 ($300) a piece
Khairpur’s Banarsi Silk Weavers’ Colony is named after the city of Banaras in India (now Varanasi) because of the silk weavers who migrated from there.
There are no official records, and the story of the garment comes from the weavers themselves. They say the history of the Banaras sari industry in Khairpur is linked with Ghulam Saddiquah Begum — the wife of Khairpur state’s then ruler, Mir Ali Murad Khan Talpur of the Talpur dynasty.
Saddiquah Begum herself came from Bahawalpur state, and in 1949, the weavers said, during a visit to India’s Hyderabad Deccan, she offered Mohammed Yusuf Ansari — a sari trader from Banaras — the chance to start manufacturing in Khairpur.
She is said to have offered her state’s support for the establishment of the manufacturing units required.
In 1952, about 40 families of the Ansari clan migrated from Banaras to Khairpur and sari manufacturing began on handlooms. Later, the saris were exported to other countries.
Arab News could not independently verify this information.
According to Anjum Sajjad Ansari, grandson of Muhammad Yusuf Ansari and a representative of the Banarsi Silk Weavers’ Association Khairpur, at its peak there were 400 handlooms in Khairpur. Today, not a single handloom remains.
“At Khairpur’s Banarsi Silk Weavers Colony today there are 16 houses of traditional weavers. However only three are involved in this business of selling Karachi-made fabric,” Anjum said.
Like elsewhere, the Banarsi brand was associated with pure silk thread work. Initially, Khairpur used silk imported from China, but later the silk came from Punjab’s Changa Manga as Pakistan developed hatching silkworms and silk fiber producing factories.
The whole family engaged in the manufacturing process, including silk weaving, dyeing, warping, and reeling. It took between two to three days’ work to complete a single sari.
The silk weaving industry was thriving into the 1960s.
“In 1965, Pakistan’s President Ayub Khan visited and gave incentives and subsidies that boosted the industry,” said Anjum.
“However, in the later years successive governments paid little heed to this industry, and manufacturing units were shifted to Karachi by 2000,” he said.
For Anjum, there is still a chance to revive the past glory of Khairpur.
“We have given proposals to the government at different forums. But nothing has been done yet. The Banarsi sari has become a trademark for Khairpur,” he said.
“Khairpur’s distinction was to produce only handmade silk fabric, unlike other areas where machines are involved. If the government is sincere, factories could be re-established and skilled laborers could be recalled once more from Karachi.”

Catwalk star Gigi Hadid celebrates ‘World Keffiyeh Day’ in honor of signature Arab print

Catwalk star Gigi Hadid celebrates ‘World Keffiyeh Day’ in honor of signature Arab print
Gigi Hadid is the daughter of Dutch model Yolanda Hadid and US-Palestinian real estate developer Mohamed Hadid. File/AFP
Updated 12 May 2021

Catwalk star Gigi Hadid celebrates ‘World Keffiyeh Day’ in honor of signature Arab print

Catwalk star Gigi Hadid celebrates ‘World Keffiyeh Day’ in honor of signature Arab print

DUBAI: Gigi Hadid decided to celebrate her Palestinian roots this week. The half-Arab model took to her Instagram Stories to embrace “World Keffiyeh Day,” an initiative launched by the Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, on May 11, 2016, in an effort to shed light on the ongoing Palestine-Israel conflict. 

The premise of the unofficial event is to show solidarity with Palestinians by donning the checkered black-and-white scarf around the neck or head.

In honor of the annual day, the catwalk star posted a throwback photo of herself wearing a keffiyeh-style top from Chanel’s 2015 cruise collection, which was staged in Dubai. 

The 26-year-old posted a throwback of herself wearing a keffiyeh-style top designed by Chanel. Instagram

“It’s #worldkeffiyehday,” wrote Hadid, alongside the Palestinian flag and red heart emojis.

She also reposted an infographic highlighting the significance of the keffiyeh patterns. 

“Thank you @GiGiHadid for participating in World Keffiyeh Day and raising your voice,” wrote the initative on its official Twitter account.

The 26-year-old is the daughter of Dutch model and “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Yolanda Hadid and US-Palestinian real estate developer Mohammed Hadid, whose family fled to Lebanon from Palestine as refugees in 1948.

The model occasionally takes to social media to speak about her paternal Palestinian heritage and celebrate her Arab roots.

“I’m as Palestinian as I am Dutch. Just because I have blonde hair, I still carry the value of my ancestors and I appreciate and respect that,” she previously said during a promotional campaign for Reebok in Sydney.


A post shared by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid)

Gigi and her younger sister Bella also often use their platforms to voice their support for Palestinian people by sharing posts explaining the rising tensions in the region.

“You will not erase Palestine,” read one of the illustrations that Gigi shared on her Instagram stories following the Al-Aqsa Mosque attack this week.

Gigi posted a picture of her father’s US passport on Instagram.

She also shared a photograph of her father’s long-expired US passport, which states his birthplace as Palestine. Bella had previously shared the same picture last year, but Instagram had taken it down. After the model publicly criticized the platform for its move, Instagram eventually apologized to Bella and restored her post.

Other celebrities to voice their support for Palestine include British-Albanian pop star Dua Lipa, Algerian model Younes Bendjima, singer The Weeknd and “Avengers” star Mark Ruffalo. 

Model Imaan Hammam donates to causes close to heart

Model Imaan Hammam donates to causes close to heart
Imaan Hammam donated to three important causes. Instagram
Updated 12 May 2021

Model Imaan Hammam donates to causes close to heart

Model Imaan Hammam donates to causes close to heart

DUBAI: Moroccan-Egyptian-Dutch model Imaan Hammam made donations to three causes as Ramadan came to an end.

Writing on Instagram, she said: “It’s so important to remember to give back and support the communities and people who need it.”

Among the initiatives the 24-year-old donated to was Preemptive Love, a non-profit organization that helps with emergency relief on the frontlines of conflict and supports displaced communities by selling refugee-made goods.


A post shared by Imaan Hammam (@imaanhammam)

Hammam also revealed that she donated funds to Islamic Relief USA and Muslims of the World to “give humanitarian aid to Palestine, sustain clean water and sanitation, feed orphans in Yemen and Afghanistan, and provide support and relief for refugees.”

She added: “I’m so happy to lend my platform to bring awareness to the humanitarian crisis happening throughout Islamic states.”