CAIRO: The mini-bag trend is still very much in style this season. In Egypt, it is being sustained by Aliel, a young design brand taking Cairo by storm.
Founded in 2017 by Egyptian designer Leila Abo Tira, Aliel — Leila spelled backward — goes by the slogan: “Creative possessions expressed in art.”
The 29-year-old marketing graduate had much to learn from her family, who have been in the leather-manufacturing business for decades now.
She has released three handcrafted collections to date. Her most recent, the “Horra” collection, introduced exceptional-quality mini leather bags with handles sporting pure agate stones.
“With the ‘Horra’ collection, Aliel took a bold stance on gender representation, seeking to renegotiate stereotyped portrayals of women,” Abo Tira told Arab News.
Arabic for “freedom,” the “Horra” collection stays true to her brand philosophy of “appreciating cosmic energy.”
Abo Tira takes her cue from nature, something that was especially apparent in her first collection, celebrating the “cosmic power of beauty and nature.”
This nostalgic collection comprised a range of half moon-shaped bags, bringing the micro bags of the past into modern-day fashion. She said she celebrated this cosmic power by creating the “moon resemblance” in her bags.
Abo Tira’s second collection introduced a range of sustainably made and cruelty-free bags, a timely celebration of the world’s animals. The “Mow” collection presented a stunning range of handbags made of faux cowhide.
But sustaining a bag-making business is far from easy, and Abo Tira cites challenges in finding some of the hardware and accessories needed for her designs, having to import them.
However, there is no stopping Abo Tira who has decided to expand her product line and is preparing for the launch of her first footwear collection.
“People’s response to my work has been very encouraging. I feel that the brand message has been successful,” she said.
London Fashion Week: Reem Juan’s latest offering pays homage to Egypt-born music icon Dalida
Updated 14 June 2021
DUBAI: London Fashion Week is hoping to be back on track with the usual line-up of physical shows come September, but until then LFW’s “digital first” approach continued with another selection of online presentations from the capital’s designers alongside a handful of in-person events that took place from June 12-14.
Held over three days, the latest edition saw 32 womenswear, menswear and accessories brands showcasing their collections on the LFW digital platform, including regional label Reem Juan.
The Abu Dhabi-born womenswear designer presented her eponymous brand’s Fall 2021 collection via a four-minute fashion film as part of the fashion event.
Inspired by the late Egyptian-born French icon Dalida, Juan decided to embrace femininity by churning out an ultra-romantic collection that included sparkling miniskirts embellished with tiny beads and worn with jumpers embroidered with famous Dalida lyrics such as “En chantant jusqu'au bout” and “C'était le temps des fleurs on ignorait la peur.”
Flower motifs appeared throughout, whether in the form of beaded appliques on tops or as prints on chiffon dresses and jacquard pant suits and skirts.
Black turtlenecks got an ultra-feminine touch by way of lace collars while sharply-tailored blazers looked all the more elegant when paired with pussy bow blouses.
1970’s influence seeped into the offering in the form of thick belts cinched around the waist and denim wide-legged jumpsuits.
If you’re in the market for a pretty frock, Juan’s latest collection provides plenty to choose from. The offering concluded with a lineup of elegant eveningwear that consisted of heavily-sequined, plunging gowns, tulle dresses with voluminous sleeves, beaded taffeta skirts worn with a matching bralet tops and embellished crepe kaftans in salmon, peach, lemon and mint hues.
By using technology, minimal production waste and sourcing local hand craftsmanship to create her garments, Juan’s collection is as chic as it is sustainable. For instance, the designer utilized recycled taffeta to create one eye-catching yellow shirt dress with open eyelet details.
Indeed, the designer’s efforts will resonate with the luxury consumer who values ethical clothing.
Producer resigns from movie on New Zealand mosque attacks amid backlash
Updated 14 June 2021
DUBAI: A producer for a controversial Hollywood film about New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s response to the Christchurch terror attacks in 2019 has resigned from the project.
The producer Philippa Campbell’s resignation comes after the Andrew Niccol-directed film, titled “They Are Us,” came under fire for not focusing on the victims of the attacks.
“I’ve listened to the concerns raised over recent days and I have heard the strength of people’s views. I now agree that the events of March 15, 2019, are too raw for film at this time and do not wish to be involved with a project that is causing such distress,” she said in a statement released to the media.
“The announcement was focused on film business, and did not take enough account of the political and human context of the story in this country. It’s the complexity of that context I’ve been reflecting on that has led me to this decision,” she added.
Ardern, who is slated to be played by Australian actress Rose Byrne, said on Sunday it felt “very soon and very raw” for New Zealand, and that she was not an appropriate focus for a film about the mosque attacks.
“There are plenty of stories from March 15 that could be told, but I don’t consider mine to be one of them,” she said. Ardern has stated that she has no involvement with the film, which would be set in the days after the 2019 attacks in which 51 people were killed at two Christchurch mosques.
Arab stars Salma Abu Deif, Dima Al-Sheikhly pose for Valentino
Updated 14 June 2021
DUBAI: Egyptian actress Salma Abu Deif and Iraqi model Dima Al-Sheikhly collaborated with Italian luxury fashion house Valentino to promote the brand’s latest launch, a new bag called “Rockstud Alcove.”
On Monday, the Italian label shared pictures with its 14.8 million Instagram followers of Abu Deif and Al-Sheikhly flaunting the bag with bold studs and golden locks.
Since its launch in May, Valentino’s Rockstud Alcove has also been championed by US superstar Angelina Jolie, Lebanese actress Daniella Rahme, Jordanian-Romanian designer Amina Muaddi, Dubai-based fashion blogger Ola Farahat and many more.
US actress Zendaya starred in the campaign for Valentino’s Fall 2021 Roman Palazzo collection, which featured the Rockstud Alcove bag.
While menswear designers once seemed a rare breed in the Middle East, today the region’s talent is not only surviving but thriving
Updated 14 June 2021
DUBAI: The question usually arrived in stages, often introducing itself by way of physical cues. The furrowed brow, a pause for thought, maybe a tilt of the head – for variety’s sake – and then: “So, just where are all the Middle East’s menswear designers?”
For many years, it seemed a valid point.
Scan any red carpet during an awards season and a female megastar dressed by an Arab designer is likely to be there. Beyonce wearing Zuhair Murad, Cardi B in Ashi Studio, Kendall Jenner in Elie Saab; womenswear designers in the region have been much sought after for decades.
By and large, the answer to all of this was a numbers game. Women bought more, they wore more, and had more diverse tastes. Men would often wear the same work shirt for years and think nothing of it. So, more demand and more opportunities to be creative meant more womenswear designers.
But perhaps it was also a cultural question.
Keanoush Zargham, GQ Middle East’s style editor, said: “I think the debate around the lack of menswear designers wasn’t just restricted to our region.
“For years luxury menswear shows, globally, were mixed with womenswear because the men’s market was always so small. However, in the Arab world the issue ran a little deeper, with something of a stigma attached to the notion of a man designing fashion for a living. Thankfully, perspectives are changing.”
Fashion is changing, culture is changing, so should the question be changing too? Never mind the lack of menswear designers, due to a global shift toward genderless collections, maybe soon menswear will become a thing of the past – just clothes made for us all to wear and enjoy.
Looking back, as the noughties came to an end, Saudi Arabia had a small, but burgeoning scene. There was the legendary Yahya Al-Bishri designing for royalty, and Hatem Alakeel doing all kinds of amazing things with thobes, but other than that there was little conversation.
“My work in menswear started from a personal requirement. I couldn’t find what I was looking for in the market, so I decided to design it myself,” said Alakeel, who has just launched Authenticite, a Saudi-centric agency forging collaboration opportunities for up-and-coming authentic creatives in the region.
“But fashion remains a female-dominated ecosystem, especially in Saudi,” he added.
While it may be slow going in some Middle East and North Africa (MENA) markets, the scales are undoubtedly tipping, and men have gradually become more adventurous in how they dress. Combine that with streetwear hype gripping a generation and the numbers have acted accordingly. Figures from the Dubai Chamber of Commerce show that menswear dominated the UAE apparel sector in 2018, amounting to $12.3 billion in sales.
As a further signal of shifting sands in the Middle East, this year has witnessed an industry milestone with the first ever Arab Fashion Week – Men’s (AFWM).
A three-day showcase in January, AFWM highlighted the extent of menswear talent in the region, from classic to avant-garde to streetwear, all produced under coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic conditions and presented as a digital project. Organized by the Arab Fashion Council, its chief strategy officer, Mohammed Aqra, said it was a clear sign of an exciting market.
“For quite some time the MENA region wasn’t ready to accept an adventurous wardrobe for men. At the same time, consumer behavior in the region was very much driven by international brands.
“This recently has started to change thanks to an ever-growing fashion scene that has allowed the culture to be more accepting and resulted in a growing demand for unique menswear,” he added.
He noted Proud Angels, El-Salam, and Anomalous as examples of fledgling local brands to watch out for.
Perhaps more indicative of menswear’s rude health has been the decision by some womenswear designers to migrate their work to men. In 2016, the Lebanese fashion designer Nour Hage did exactly that, launching her Zero One collection. The idea was to take traditional Middle Eastern garb and make it feel contemporary and relevant.
Her move received some vindication two years later, when the Emmy-winning actor Riz Ahmed wore items from her collection in a shoot for British GQ.
Aqra said: “The prognosis (for menswear) is very positive. Since the launch of the first AFWM, many Arab womenswear designers have also started to create menswear, or genderless, lines too. Brands such as Mrs Keepa, Amato Couture, and Michael Cinco in the UAE, and Kojak Studio in Egypt.”
It is true that there are an ever-increasing number of Middle Eastern brands creating genderless collections.
Zargham said: “Personally, I really love the Moroccan brand, Casablanca. It has an eccentric, softer interpretation of masculinity which can really work on both men and women.”
Then there are brands such as the Saudi-based 2D2C2M and the stylings of Palestinian label Trashy Clothing.
Trashy’s co-founder and co-creative director, Shukri Lawrence, said: “We believe whoever feels comfortable wearing any piece from our collection should have the freedom to choose.”
When it comes to what men wear on the red carpet, the lines of what is expected are already starting to blur, whether it be Michael B. Jordan in a Louis Vuitton harness at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, or Billy Porter decked out in a custom-made white suit – including train – by Ashi Studio for the Emmys.
“We’ve entered a new era in fashion where men are experimenting. Both men and women shouldn’t be restricted to wearing specific pieces. We believe clothing has no gender,” Lawrence added.
Gendered collections aside, there is another shift that feels prevalent right now in menswear and beyond: A desire to bring attention to the region and shine a light, not just on talent, but also the issues of its people.
While brands such as the Iraqi/Moroccan COR-Project highlight socio-political problems via a military aesthetic, Lebanese brand Emergency Room has been built around sustainable style and a fair industry ethos. For Trashy Clothing, somebody wearing its products is about existence itself.
“As a Palestinian brand, having a celebrity wear our label means solidarity and awareness to our cause. Bringing the name of Palestine to the mainstream is important since our identity is under constant threat of erasure,” Lawrence said.
So, that age-old question about Arab menswear does not really seem to exist anymore. No more furrowed brows or considered pauses. The style question has become a fashion statement.
Menswear, womenswear, genderless collections. In 2021, it no longer really matters. The work by an array of Middle Eastern talent is speaking for itself.
Kim Kardashian completes daring look with Amina Muaddi heels
Updated 14 June 2021
DUBAI: Reality TV star Kim Kardashian stepped up her style game this week by championing a creation by Jordanian-Romanian footwear designer Amina Muaddi.
The entrepreneur, who recently filed for divorce from her husband rapper Kanye West, shared a series of images on Instagram with her 228 million followers, wearing a green suit by French fashion label Jean Paul Gaultier and a daring corset by London-based Spanish designer Luis De Javier.