DUBAI: Rewind to late 2019, when Deema Ajlani was masterminding her latest modest collections for Ramadan, Eid and this summer in her studio. Little did anyone know what was in store for this year.
But exploring her current edits, it is clear that the fashion designer’s love for minimalism has paid off at a time when everyone is staying at home amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Recalling the design process, Ajlani told Arab News: “The emerging trend was the jalabiya designs that are off the shoulder, for example, with many things going on, but that’s not my aesthetic at all. Even though it was high in demand, I’ve stayed true to my vision. I like embellishment, but I like to do it in a minimalist way.”
The Saudi, Bahrain-based designer’s current holiday season collections have been well-received by fashion fans thanks to her simplistic, flowy designs that are perfectly suitable to wear from the comfort of a living room.
“Customers are looking for more casual pieces that can easily be worn at home. I was lucky that (my collections) went that way,” she said.
Her Ramadan capsule comprises beautifully understated kaftans, with the designer drawing inspiration from her Saudi roots as well as her adopted home country.
The Eid edit features an exclusive preview of her Spring Summer 2020 collection, with six modest pieces paying homage to Africa.
Highlights include the Ife Dress, Ajlani’s personal favorite, which is a pink flower print maxi dress with puffed sleeves and beaded belt.
Another is the Nala, available in three color ways and showcasing what she describes as a bold indigenous print.
Riyadh native Ajlani handles her designs from concept to color palette. Despite no formal training, she even creates her own prints.
She may be approaching only four years in the business, but Ajlani’s brand is fast emerging as one to watch in the local fashion scene.
What started out as a hobby turned into a professional career after she found others asking her where she got her pieces from.
“I’ve always had an eye for cuts and things like that,” she said. “It was always in the back of my mind and an interest, but career-wise I studied psychology. Initially, it was just a hobby.”
She quickly realized that she could offer something that was not on the market at the time. “(Looking at kaftans), I used to struggle to find anything that fitted me because everything was made as ‘free size’ or was too long,” she said.
In 2016, Deema Ajlani the label was born. With 100-150 kaftans, her debut collection was a hit, selling out almost immediately. “I thought, ‘Well, maybe I could do this!’” she said.
One factor that has kept Ajlani’s overheads to a minimum in this current climate is that she only operates online.
She believes that the current situation showcases how important it is for local businesses to be able to have a robust online presence.
“E-commerce is key, and so to sustain yourself you need an e-commerce platform,” she said. “Going forward, there will be more acceptance of online shopping.”
Today, as she is busy prepping for Eid deliveries, Ajlani — who is also a fulltime mother of three — has found herself able to take something of a breather for the first time.
“I’m still in my brainstorming phase for my next collection because production has completely shut down. I’m a startup; I don’t have a full team behind me,” she said.
“But in this current situation I feel like there has been a pause button. There’s only so much you can do right now. We’re all in this together.”