How Arab fashion is waking up to sustainability

Sustainability was a major highlight for the Saudi fashion house Sadeem during Fashion Forward Dubai. (Supplied)
Updated 22 November 2019

How Arab fashion is waking up to sustainability

  • The fashion industry is a major contributor to environmental problems. But some labels are finally focusing on being part of the solution
  • The industry is the world’s second-largest polluter

DUBAI: Fashion has a new buzzword, and it is not a color or silhouette — it’s a total change towards how fashion is produced and consumed. The industry is the world’s second-largest polluter — at the same level as the water, energy and chemical industries. It can truly be seen as a threat to the planet: From the amount of clothes that end up in landfills to its greenhouse emissions, the figures  are now at record levels and increasing every year.

The good news is that the industry is finally starting to take responsibility and major labels are now looking at ways to make their work sustainable. While a few European luxury houses have been trying to address this issue for the last 15 years, fast-fashion brands like Zara have only been seriously looking at sustainability for the last year or so. That’s true, too, of regional fashion labels.




Sadeem displayed its sustainable collection at  this month’s Fashion Forward Dubai. (Supplied)

At this month’s Fashion Forward Dubai (FFWD), one of the region’s major fashion platforms, sustainability was a major highlight for the first time. Of the 21 labels showing, five — Saudi Arabia’s Sadeem, Roni Helou, Reemami, Farah Wali and Hass Idriss — showed sustainable collections, and it was also the focus of a talk about the future of fashion.

Bong Guerrero, CEO and Co-Founder of Fashion Forward Dubai believes that, in many ways, regional fashion has a natural alignment to sustainability. “Higher quality and timeless design are important aspects of sustainable fashion, as are bespoke and vintage fashion,” he says. “All of these are hallmarks (of) the region’s fashion landscape.”




Sustainability was also the focus of a talk about the future of fashion at FFWD. (Supplied)

Sustainable fashion is a broad term. It is about more than simply using fabrics that are environmentally friendly, covering all areas of fashion. Aljawharah Sadeem Abdulaziz Alshehail — founder and designer at Sadeem, who has been designing sustainable collections for three years now — tells Arab News, “When I design, I think about going from cradle to cradle.” That’s a term that crops up often when talking about sustainability — meaning that products should be able to have multiple ‘lives’ (as opposed to cradle-to-grave, meaning that, although the product may last a long time, it will eventually be junked). Sadeem works only with textile mills that are eco-friendly and she never goes for mass production —making sure that there is no waste. “I do not follow seasons,” she says. “I make clothes that women will want to wear for years.”




Sadeem is a Pret-a-Couture fashion brand by Saudi designer Sadeem Alshehail. (Supplied)

At FFWD she presented a collection called “Awaab” (Doors), which she says was inspired by her homeland — “(Saudi Arabia) is a nation moving forward without letting go of the past,” she says.

Her designs reflected this. While their style was minimalistic, she used details like embroidery and appliqué as a highlight.  The traditional geometric pattern of Sadu was a recurring feature. “The triangle is something that is so much a part of this region’s design history,” she says.

These were clothes made for the modern woman, which could be worn anywhere, from the boardroom to  a dinner party. The collection included maxi dresses and lounge-style tops and trousers in a palette of red, white and black, ensuring versatility.




Sharjah-based Reema Al-Banna also showed a sustainable collection at FFWD. (Supplied)

“Do not underestimate the consumer in this region. She is starting to understand that sustainable fashion is (necessary), and it will become a major part of regional fashion,” says the Saudi-based designer.

Sharjah-based Reema Al-Banna also showed a sustainable collection at FFWD and is working towards making her label — Reemami — 100 percent sustainable. “It is becoming a trend in the region, and buyers from major stores in the Middle East now ask you how your produce your clothes,” she says. “We try our best, but the region is still adapting to sustainability.”

Many of the fabrics Al-Banna sources are recycled and she ensures patterns are cut in a way that ensures her fabrics fully optimized, “And whatever is left over I use to make a hair accessory or something that can be used,” she adds.




Reema Al-Banna is working towards making her label — Reemami — 100 percent sustainable. (Supplied)

Her designs are quirky. She likes to play with color, pattern and cut, designing for women who like a graphic, bold take on fashion, and for all body types (at FFWD, the Saudi-born model and body-positivity activist Ghaliah Amin walked for Reemami).

Lebanese designer Roni Helou presented a collection of clothes made from surplus-stock fabrics — and shot the campaign for his collection at a landfill, to emphasize the amount of waste generated by the industry. Some of the clothes in his collection served multiple purposes — for instance a skirt that can be turned into a shirt. Outerwear is his forte, and a coat from his collection is a truly a piece you can wear for a lifetime.

“It is about making fashion that leaves a positive impact ,” says the young designer.




Many of the fabrics Al-Banna sources are recycled. (Supplied)

The Middle East may still be playing catch up when it comes to sustainable fashion, but there is no doubt that awareness is growing. The region seems to be waking up to the idea that clothes with a conscience are the way forward for a woman of style. As Guerrero says, “The focus on sustainability in fashion is only set to grow. It’s a virtuous cycle: The more that designers incorporate sustainable business practices and consumers respond positively, the more the media will cover this facet of our industry.” 

He continues: “Sustainability seems to be moving from a ‘nice-to-have’ talking point to a philosophy of shared values between designers and their audiences.”


Egyptian archaeological team opens door on ancient treasure trove

Updated 15 July 2020

Egyptian archaeological team opens door on ancient treasure trove

  • The find, believed to be at least 2,300 years old and bearing the name of King Ptolemy IV, was made in Nagaa Hammadi, about 80 km northwest of Luxor
  • The wall is located about 200 meters from a shrine to the goddess Hathor – experts believe ruins at the site are likely to have great religious significance

CAIRO: An ancient sandstone wall decorated with inscriptions and dating back to the Ptolemaic era has been found by a specialist antiquities team in southern Egypt.

The find, believed to be at least 2,300 years old and bearing the name of King Ptolemy IV, was made in Nagaa Hammadi, about 80 km northwest of Luxor, in the Qena governorate.

Mustafa Waziri, secretary-general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, has called for further excavations to be carried out at the site, which is expected to reveal more secrets.

The wall is located about 200 meters from a shrine to the goddess Hathor. Experts believe ruins at the site are likely to have great religious significance.

Waziri said that during the excavation, entrances were found in the Holy Valley, south of the royal cemetery in Umm El-Qa’ab. Studies showed that the entrances led to rooms carved from rock and no more than 1.2 meters in height.

Archaeologists found another set of five rooms connected via narrow entrances cut into the walls.

Mohammed Abdel-Badi, head of the Central Department of Antiquities of Upper Egypt and chief of the mission, said that the rooms are undecorated and located above deep vertical wells linked to natural water tunnels.

Most of the rooms contain pottery fragments, fountains, terraces and a number of small holes in the walls. Gaps near the entrances were likely used as handles or for tying ropes.

Graffiti in one room shows the name Khou-so-n-Hour, his mother Amon Eards and his grandmother Nes-Hour.

Abdel-Badi said that pottery scattered on the valley floor south of the royal tombs in Umm El-Qa’ab indicate the area being inhabited during the Ptolemaic period, most likely during the second and first centuries B.C., and also during the late Roman era.

Pottery fragments include an item originally belonging to a jar with a spherical body made from oasis mud and imported to Abydos, one of ancient Egypt’s oldest cities.

Matthew Adams, of the Institute of Fine Arts at the University of New York and co-director of the North Abydos Mission, said that there is no indication any of the rooms was used for burial purposes.

He said that the Holy Valley, south of the royal cemetery in Umm El-Qa’ab, was thought by ancient Egyptians to be a gateway to the afterlife.

The archaeological find, located high inside a largely inaccessible mountain, shows that it has great religious importance, he said.

The archaeological survey team records and documents human activities in the desert west of Abydos from prehistoric times, and in an area about eight kilometers from the Saqqara pyramid in the south to the Salmani quarries in the north.