How Saudi designer Alaa Balkhy is making gloves cool again

The former graphic designer recently launched her eponymous label, Alaa bint Hashim. Supplied
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Updated 12 February 2020

How Saudi designer Alaa Balkhy is making gloves cool again

DUBAI: Following the dominance of mini bags and chunky sneakers, an unexpected new accessory has risen to the forefront: Gloves.

The retro fashion trend has become increasingly popular with celebrities in recent weeks, with everyone from Beyonce and Blake Lively to Rihanna and Ariana Grande donning the old school accessory. Opera gloves also had a runway renaissance of sorts, appearing in Valentino’s Spring 2020  line and Kim Jones’ tribute collection to Judy Blame at Dior.

But how do you make a garment that gained popularity during the 16th century resonate with Gen Z? Enter Jeddah-born, New York-based designer Alaa Balkhy. The former graphic designer recently launched her eponymous label, Alaa bint Hashim — the grown-up older sister of the now-defunct Fyunka — with a strong focus on delicate, hand sewn gloves that are sure to entice anyone.




Each delicate glove is handsewn in Saudi Arabia. Supplied

Speaking to Arab News, Balkhy revealed that her decision to incorporate gloves into her range of vintage pieces came after she experienced her first winter abroad as an adult. “They just became an integral part of my style,” shared the 30-year-old, adding, “Obviously, I kept in mind that the gloves and their fabrics have to be wearable, ethereal and comfortable.”

Featuring transparent, hand-embroidered lace designs in subdued hues like pistachio and lavender, the ultra-feminine designs can be worn alone with a gown or alongside a stack of rings and bracelets for those who really wish to stand out — and they are thin enough to ensure you can still use your iPhone.




Gloves come in transparent, hand-embroidered lace designs in subdued hues like pistachio and lavender. Supplied

With each piece produced at Ot Kutyr, a fashion house in Jeddah that embraces slow fashion and supporting Saudi designers and artisans, the gloves go beyond providing protection from environmental factors such as the biting cold and sun’s UV rays to preserving local craftsmanship and uplifting the community.

“When Alaa Bint Hashim was coming into its own, one of the main aspects and missions of the brand was to have it based on slow fashion and ethics, which include fair trade and workers’ rights,” the designer explained.




Balkhy said that she designs for “the woman who is nostalgic of the past and its glamour.” Supplied

While wearing gloves is not a necessity or a fashionable habit like it used to be, Balkhy said that she designs for “the woman who is nostalgic of the past and its glamour.”

As for her piece of advice for those who wish to wear gloves for the first time without looking like they’re dressed in a period costume? “I would suggest picking gloves with a color that contrasts well with at least half of your closet, to make sure they feel comfortable and fit your wrists and fingers perfectly and to avoid long nails, especially if the fabric is see-through.”


Film review: Great storytelling makes for fascinating watch in Netflix’s ‘Yeh Ballet’

“Yeh Ballet” is no rags-to-riches story, but one of sheer fortitude and a bit of luck. (Supplied)
Updated 24 February 2020

Film review: Great storytelling makes for fascinating watch in Netflix’s ‘Yeh Ballet’

CHENNAI: Sooni Taraporevala gained immense fame by writing for Mira Nair’s films, such as “The Namesake,” “Mississippi Masala” and the Oscar-nominated “Salaam Bombay.” In 2009, Taraporevala stepped behind the camera to helm a small movie called “Little Zizou” about the Parsi community. It was a hit, and three years ago, she took up the camera again to create a virtual reality short documentary about two boys from Mumbai’s slums who became renowned ballet dancers. 

Taraporevala converted her documentary into a full-length feature, “Yeh Ballet,” for Netflix, and the work, though with a somewhat documentary feel, is fascinating storytelling — a talent we have seen in her writings for Nair. 

Happily, “Yeh Ballet” is no rags-to-riches story (of the kind “Gully Boy” was), but one of sheer fortitude and a bit of luck. The film begins with a breathtaking aerial shot of the Arabian Ocean on whose shores Mumbai stands — an element that points toward the director’s background as a photographer. 

The film chronicles the lives of Nishu and Asif Beg. (Supplied) 

A story inspired by true events, “Yeh Ballet” chronicles the lives of Nishu (Manish Chauhan) and Asif Beg (newcomer Achintya Bose). The two lads are spotted by a ballet master, Saul Aaron (British actor Julian Sands) who, driven away from America because of his religion, lands in a Mumbai dance school.

Nishu and Asif, despite their nimble-footed ballet steps, find their paths paved with the hardest of obstacles. When foreign scholarships from famous ballet academies come calling, they cannot get a visa because they have no bank accounts. And while Asif’s father, dictated by his religion, is dead against the boy’s music and dancing, Nishu’s dad, a taxi driver, feels that his son’s passion is a waste of time and energy.

Well, all this ends well — as we could have guessed — but solid writing and imaginative editing along with Ankur Tewari’s curated music and the original score by Salvage Audio Collective turn “Yeh Ballet” into a gripping tale. It is not an easy task to transform a documentary into fiction, but Taraporevala does it with great ease. Or so it appears. Of course, the two protagonists add more than a silver lining to a movie that will be long remembered — the way we still mull over “Salaam Bombay” or “The Namesake.” But what I missed was a bit more ballet; the two guys are just wonderful to watch as they fly through the air.