Startup of the Week: Galag — redefining Saudi fashion

Startup of the Week: Galag — redefining Saudi fashion
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Startup of the Week: Galag — redefining Saudi fashion
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Updated 05 April 2021

Startup of the Week: Galag — redefining Saudi fashion

Startup of the Week: Galag — redefining Saudi fashion
  • The brand was not originally sold in Saudi, but the co-founders wanted to release it in the Kingdom as a pop-up

JEDDAH: Sultan bin Mohammad, a 33-year-old entrepreneur, co-founded the fashion brand Galag with Talal bin Mohammad.

Galag started off as a merchandise store and from there developed into the clothing brand that it is today.

“In 2017 we just kept on launching different collections,” Sultan said.

Sultan believes that what makes Galag stand out from other clothing lines is that it is always striving to find something new, with experimentation a core part of the brand.

“Every time we create something we try to elevate the previous pieces, we are always trying to expand the brand image by using better fabrics and better manufacturing.”

The entrepreneur loves fashion and it is the prime source of his motivation. “I keep my eyes open and look at all kinds of fashion, whether it is originating from Korea, Japan or Europe, and then figure out how do I put my own twist on it. When the product comes together, the satisfaction of looking at this new product is what keeps me going.”

The business venture has not been without its challenges, Sultan said.

“The first challenge is getting eyes on the brand when so many people are starting brands and many are doing a good job with it as well. The challenge is to put your brand through and see if it connects with people.”

Another challenge that the entrepreneur has experienced is the financial side of the business. He said that people investing in a startup needed to be OK with it not returning profits for a few years. “A lot of the clothing brands in the first couple of years don’t continue because they aren’t seeing the return.”

The brand was not originally sold in Saudi, but the co-founders wanted to release it in the Kingdom as a pop-up. “Our designs weren’t necessarily similar to what a Saudi brand is, it was different, and we had to explain to them that we are a Saudi brand. To my surprise, people were amused by the details and they understood the style and what we were trying to portray.”

People buying their products was all the motivation the brand needed to start selling in Saudi Arabia, he said, and now there are plans for further expansion.

The future will be built on attention to detail and creativity, Sultan said, with each piece designed with precision.

“I want to create such products that the customers will have a product for each day, my aim is to create clothes that look good on their own but also add personality when incorporated in an outfit.”

 


From Cairo to Barcelona, jewelry guru reflects on his family’s almost 100-year-old label

From Cairo to Barcelona, jewelry guru reflects on his family’s almost 100-year-old label
Updated 21 April 2021

From Cairo to Barcelona, jewelry guru reflects on his family’s almost 100-year-old label

From Cairo to Barcelona, jewelry guru reflects on his family’s almost 100-year-old label

DUBAI: A Cairo-born jewelry brand that has been running since 1923 must have quite a story to tell, with plenty of insight for up-and-coming designers to learn from.

Egyptian label El Baz Jewelry is a family business that has been on the market for almost a century, fueled by its evolving artistic vision and mastery of the complex art of jewelry making. 

Youssef El-Baz, one of the owners of the brand, spoke with Arab News about how jewelry design in the region has changed over the past 100 years and why he believes El Baz has endured, as well as the launch of his own brands, one of which he kickstarted in Barcelona. 

“In the past, people were keen on buying jewelry that… was chosen based on the material and the resale value, with little attention to the design,” said El-Baz.

“Today… the customers who want to buy jewelry are (more interested in) the design (rather) than the material,” he added.

However, the designer, who founded two other labels – Grace Jewelry and B Jewelry – believes some things in the industry will never change. 

“I believe what will never change about jewelry is the sentimental value it holds, like inheritance and the idea of passing on jewelry through generations,” he said.  “People hold their loved ones forever (by) wearing and keeping their (designs).”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Grace. (@graceyourjewelry)

When it comes to the brand’s longevity, El-Baz shared his thoughts on why the label has lasted.

“In jewelry, people are always looking for authenticity or people are always looking for high quality, because they are buying something precious … and taste for sure. If the brand is not developing and adapting to the different tastes that change during the years it will die out,” explained El-Baz.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Grace. (@graceyourjewelry)

On that note, in 2019, El-Baz launched his own brand, B Jewelry, during a spell in Barcelona and quickly followed it up with the launch of Grace Jewelry in 2020.

“I wanted to create a jewelry brand that was socially responsible. I felt like Grace can be the beginning of a change in an industry where people start brands that are environmentally aware through their designs, manufacturing and packaging.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by B Jewelry (@bjewelryworld)

El-Baz got the inspiration to open the Cairo-based label Grace when he was in Milan.

“We have a complete collection called For A Better Tomorrow, (where) every design is dedicated toward a good cause. We donate 10 percent of the sales toward a good cause.” 

El-Baz ships worldwide for all three brands. 


Lebanon’s financial collapse hits where it hurts - women’s beauty

Lebanon’s financial collapse hits where it hurts - women’s beauty
Plastic surgery in Lebanon is still priced in US dollars, just as they were before the collapse of the national currency. (AFP)
Updated 21 April 2021

Lebanon’s financial collapse hits where it hurts - women’s beauty

Lebanon’s financial collapse hits where it hurts - women’s beauty
  • Currency reaches new low against dollar on the black market, hitting LBP15,000

BEIRUT: The face mask, used as a measure against the spread of COVID-19, has forced Lebanese women to change their beauty and make-up habits.

The array of cosmetics that were usually worn have been stripped back to merely mascara because socializing is out and social distancing is in.

But the beauty regimes of Lebanese women have been affected by the country’s financial crisis as much as the global health crisis.

Lebanon’s cosmetic and plastic surgery sectors, which are leaders in the Middle East region, are also feeling the pinch.

Dr. Elie Abdel Hak, who is head of the Lebanese Society of Plastic, Reconstructive, and Aesthetic Surgery, said the sector had experienced a decline.

“Reconstructive surgeries make up no more than 4 percent of our work, while the largest percentage is for cosmetic surgeries for women looking for perfection,” he told Arab News.

Medical centers and cosmetic doctors are scattered across Lebanon and are not confined to Beirut. Specialisms include plastic surgery, non-surgical plastic surgery and reconstructive surgery.

The internet is loaded with addresses of beauty centers in Lebanon offering packages for cosmetic surgery with accommodation, even tourism and entertainment programs.

“There are 104 plastic surgeons in Lebanon, 50 percent of whom have branches outside Lebanon, specifically in Gulf countries,” said Abdel Hak. No doctors had quit Lebanon, he added, they were just moving between home and their clinics abroad. “This helps them continue to pump fresh money into their work in Lebanon.”

Plastic surgery in Lebanon is still priced in US dollars, just as they were before the collapse of the national currency. While other medical disciplines have reduced their profit rates to keep up with people’s living conditions, some cosmetic doctors are still charging their clients in dollars.

“Pharmacies do not sell botox injections or filler substances, there are intermediaries between the importer and the doctor,” said pharmacist Samer Sobra, who owns a business on upscale Verdun Street.

He noted an ease in demand for the creams used after filler injections. They were being imported in smaller quantities than usual as they were excluded from state support.

HIGHLIGHT

The array of cosmetics that were usually worn have been stripped back to merely mascara because socializing is out and social distancing is in.

“This means that these small cosmetic touches that take place in medical clinics have receded. The price of some post-botox or filler creams have risen from LBP6,000 ($4) to LBP60,000 due to the collapse of the national currency. Some creams that used to cost LBP300,000, are now priced at more than LBP1 million.”

Some women who had not been affected by the financial situation were following their doctors abroad for cosmetic procedures, according to Sobra.

The price of a nose job in Lebanon ranges from $2,000 to $3,000, while liposuction ranges from $2,500 to $4,000 and the cost of a tummy tuck ranges between $3,000 and $8,000.

Abdel Hak said that, nowadays, his customers first asked him what the dollar rate was. “My answer is always that I am not a money changer. If you want to buy dollars, there is one on the ground floor.”

Lebanon’s currency reached a new low against the dollar on the black market, hitting LBP15,000.

Its fall has led to soaring prices. A nose job now costs LBP25 million, a sum that many people cannot secure unless they are paid in dollars.

Women often used to resort to bank loans for plastic surgery when the dollar exchange rate was only LBP1,505, with some banks even making attractive offers in recent years for such loans.

Alice Abdul Karim Samaha, a drug distributor for import companies, said the demand for cosmetic medical supplies had been relatively low due to high prices and the migration of doctors.

“The price of a needle of filler is $250. Some cosmetic doctors reduced their prices, deciding to sell a filler needle for LBP2 million, instead of LBP3 million, and LBP125,000 according to the black market price. The doctors decided to reduce their profits so that they don’t lose customers.”

Samaha said it was “very expensive” now for a woman to appear attractive and beautiful. “This is no longer limited to the cost of plastic surgery, but also the prices of hair dyes and nail polish have become extortionate.”

But Abdel Hak believed that women would never stop searching for ways to improve their beauty.

“Women during the lockdown were depressed. The more they look in the mirror, the gloomier they are. Resorting to aesthetic corrections helps lift their spirits. The cheapest and the most sought-after option now is botox injections. Our profession has been affected by the economic crisis. When a person has a headache, he goes to the doctor, but botox is not a medical necessity and in this sense our work has declined but not stopped. Our career will go through a period of stagnation in the medium term, but will recover later because women are demanding and the face mask does not prevent them from beautifying themselves.”

He said that plastic surgeons and doctors were currently “living on their laurels” with their savings held in banks. They were waiting for developments to make a decision - and leaving Lebanon may be one of these decisions.

But he stressed that Beirut would remain the best medical hub in the region because of its scientific history, diverse culture and high levels of experience.

The sector used to attract clients from across Europe and nowhere could replace Lebanon, he said.

“In light of the crisis, Arab women are still coming to us. Money provides advanced technologies but does not provide expertise. Turkey tried and did not continue.”


Lebanese style icon Karen Wazen fronts Ralph Lauren campaign with her children

Lebanese style icon Karen Wazen fronts Ralph Lauren campaign with her children
Lebanese influencer and designer Karen Wazen stars in new Polo Ralph Lauren campaign with her children. Instagram
Updated 20 April 2021

Lebanese style icon Karen Wazen fronts Ralph Lauren campaign with her children

Lebanese style icon Karen Wazen fronts Ralph Lauren campaign with her children

DUBAI: Lebanese influencer and designer Karen Wazen was recently tapped to front a new campaign for Polo Ralph Lauren, and she is sharing the spotlight with her family. Wazen features in the campaign images with her three children, twin girls Karlie and Kay, and her son George.

“Ah so happy to share with you our Family Campaign for @PoloRalphLauren!!” exclaimed the Dubai-based fashion blogger on Instagram, alongside the campaign images. “There are no words to explain the love and emotions I have for my family... they’re my biggest blessing and pride,” she added, thanking Polo Ralph Lauren for “capturing these beautiful moments together.”

It’s not the first time that the American brand has shone a spotlight on an Arab family for a major campaign.

Back in December, the label released a campaign titled “Family is Who You Love,” featuring a diverse cast of siblings, parents and children, among them Saudi sisters Sakhaa and Thana Abdul as well as British-Moroccan model Nora Attal and her family.


Actress Jameela Jamil defends US singer Demi Lovato in body positivity row

Actress Jameela Jamil defends US singer Demi Lovato in body positivity row
Jameela Jamil is well known for her body positivity organization ‘I Weigh.’ File/ AFP
Updated 20 April 2021

Actress Jameela Jamil defends US singer Demi Lovato in body positivity row

Actress Jameela Jamil defends US singer Demi Lovato in body positivity row

DUBAI: British actress Jameela Jamil took to her social media account to defend US singer and actress Demi Lovato due to a body positivity controversy this week. 

Lovato, who is best known for her role in Disney’s musical “Camp Rock,” recently called out a popular Los Angeles-based frozen yogurt shop The Bigg Chill, stating that the store’s diet options could lead some people to feel uncomfortable.  

"Finding it extremely hard to order froyo from @thebiggchillofficial when you have to walk past tons of sugar free cookies (and) other diet foods before you get to the counter,” said the “Cool for the Summer” singer, who has been vocal about her struggles with eating disorders in her documentary “Dancing With The Devil.” The 28-year-old urged the business to “do better” along with the hashtag #dietculturevulture.  

Jamil was quick to come to Lovato’s support, after the singer’s comments garnered some backlash online. Taking to her Instagram Stories, the “The Good Place” star wrote, “Ok, I want to try to avoid making the story bigger than it already is. But if an eating disorder advocate says she sees products that are positioned as guilt free, and it is potentially triggering, that doesn’t mean she’s too stupid to remember that diabetics exist. It just means that we need to change the marketing of products that are for people’s medical needs.”

She added: “That’s all @ddlovato was asking for. It doesn’t make her a monster. It doesn’t mean she disregards people’s illnesses. She’s just one of few celebrities reminding us to look out for mental illness. Guilt free is diet culture terminology.”

The British-Pakistani-Indian actress is a major advocate for body positivity.

The 34-year-old, who became a household name with her activism and role as Tahani Al-Jamil on NBC’s “The Good Place,” routinely takes to her platform to encourage people to respect their bodies and often gets candid about her struggles with eating disorders and body dysmorphia that she grappled with in her teenage years.

Jamil is also well known for her body positivity organization “I Weigh,” that focuses on self-worth and body positivity beyond weight, encouraging people to weigh themselves by their positive attributes, as opposed to numbers on a scale.


Moroccan-Italian model Malika El-Maslouhi stars in new Hugo Eyewear campaign

The model posed for the new Hugo Eyewear Spring 2021 campaign. Instagram
The model posed for the new Hugo Eyewear Spring 2021 campaign. Instagram
Updated 19 April 2021

Moroccan-Italian model Malika El-Maslouhi stars in new Hugo Eyewear campaign

The model posed for the new Hugo Eyewear Spring 2021 campaign. Instagram

DUBAI: There’s no slowing down Malika El-Maslouhi. This week, the Moroccan-Italian model was selected to star in the new Hugo Eyewear Spring 2021 campaign, which was shot by fashion photographer Matteo Montanari.

Featuring alongside model Parker Van Noord, the catwalker appears in a video and campaign photographs wearing key pieces from the German label’s most recent eyewear collection. For the campaign, the 22-year-old posed on a rooftop wearing the brand’s newest range of optical frames and sunglasses, paired with a mustard yellow double-breasted suit and a black, logo emblazoned Hugo Boss top.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by HUGO (@hugo_official)

The campaigns keep on rolling in for the rising star, who was born in Milan to an Italian mother and a Moroccan father.

In addition to her latest work with Hugo Eyewear, El-Maslouhi also recently appeared in campaigns for Zadig & Voltaire, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein Swim, Jacquemus and Mango alongside fellow Moroccan model Nora Attal.

Memorably, she was the star of designer Peter Dundas’ most recent collection. The Norwegian designer selected the breakout model to  showcase the brand’s glamorous new offering for Fall 2021, which was digitally presented in a look book format.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by MALIKA (@malika.elmaslouhi)

And when she’s not modeling different collections for brands, she’s helping design them.

She recently teamed up with London-based retailer Ishkar on a range of necklaces delicately handcrafted by jewelers in Kabul, Afghanistan. 

According to the online store, founded by former UAE residents Edmund Le Brun and Flore de Taisne in 2016, the Malika x Ishkar collection is set to drop soon.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by I S H K A R (@ishkar.co)

El-Maslouhi, who is signed to VIVA Model Management, made her modelling debut when she was 18 years old at the Alberta Ferretti Fall 2019 show and went on to walk for the Dior Cruise 2020 show held in Marrakech a month later.

She would go on to quit her university studies to pursue modeling full-time, gracing the runways of storied fashion houses such as Hermes and Chanel.

The model, who splits her time between Italy, France and the Netherlands, also has a few editorials under her belt, including Vogue Russia, British Vogue, Dazed Magazine and Elle France, for which she recently served as the cover star.