THE ROUNDUP: Pop-culture highlights from across the region

THE ROUNDUP: Pop-culture highlights from across the region
The Lebanese dream-pop trio Postcards released a new track “Home is so Sad.” (Supplied)
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Updated 06 May 2021

THE ROUNDUP: Pop-culture highlights from across the region

THE ROUNDUP: Pop-culture highlights from across the region
  • From a Palestinian violinist to Lebanese dream-pop, via Saudi shoe stylings and Syrian artworks

Postcards

The Lebanese dream-pop trio released a new track “Home is so Sad,” from their upcoming album “After The Fire, Before The End,” due out later this year. The song is apparently inspired by the eponymous Philip Larkin song. It’s a typically atmospheric track — Julia Sabra’s melancholy lyrics floating over a distorted guitar line built over a pounding drum beat. As Sabra sings of “Blood from your nostrils/Blood from your ears” and “There’s a hole where you knee should be/But I am not afraid” it’s not hard to imagine where the Beirut-based band found the inspiration for this song. The accompanying video, by Nadim Tabet, is the first of a series to go with the album, the band explained on social media: “The idea is to have some sort of visual archive of our shared experiences over the last couple of years.”

Lulu Al-Hassan

The Saudi shoe designer has teamed up with regional retailer Shoemart for a limited-edition capsule collection called “Lule Loves Celeste,” which is exclusive to the Middle East. With 28 satin styles — including peep-toe mules, stilettos, slingbacks and platform heels — in a color palette ranging from classic blacks to bright yellows and reds, the collection will be released just ahead of Eid. “Your shoes are your statement, and this collection will translate that into confidence,” Al-Hassan said in a press release.

OVIID

This exciting Lebanese trio are currently in the process of recording their first EP, and gave us a taste of what to expect recently with a live performance of their song “Statues” for Light FM’s online concert series “Videos in our Studios.” The band describe their sound as “rhythmic prose infused with electronic influences rebirthing heritage, folklore and nostalgia” and “inspired by Kraut, Oriental and Electronica.” “Statues” has something of an Eighties’ vibe, with bassist and vocalist Antonio Hajj’s baritone delivery over layers of looped guitar lines, delivered with subtle skill by guitarist Tony Dauo. Hajj told Arab News, “The track, like the EP, is made up of many rooms; each one is a feeling or a state of mind. It has tension — the ride and the feeling of being suspended in mid-air.” That feeling is mirrored lyrically, he explained: “We talk about how we are taught to internalize and keep to ourselves. The setting we’re in doesn’t help and suffers from an identity crisis itself, so the only way is to keep your ‘light’ and keep going forward.”

Thaier Helal

The UAE-based Syrian artist’s latest solo show, “Abyss,” runs at Dubai’s Ayyam Gallery until May 10. A statement from the gallery says that while the artist’s new work “differs in texture, stepping away from his structural and sculptural approach,” Helal “continues to pose radical questions, (addressing) many subjects concerning our existence, meaning, and current state of bitterness that drains the mind and soul.” His artwork, one example of which — “Behind The Line” — is seen here, falls somewhere between figurative and abstract. “The artist’s technique plays with composition and vantage point,” the gallery continues. “The aim is for each viewer to see something personal that references past experiences, to take the viewer to extremes of imagination.” 

Akram Abdulfattah

The Palestinian violinist, composer and producer recently released his second album, “Monologue.” The blend of traditional Arabic music with pop, jazz, and Indian sounds reflects Abdulfattah’s multi-cultural background: He moved to the US from Palestine aged seven. The album is intended to reflect his life’s journey, as well as the politics of Palestinian life. “The album’s sense of collaboration could be seen as a metaphor for long-standing peace in the region,” according to a press release. According to Abdulfattah, the album “can be imagined as a dialogue with the inner self. It’s about finding unity in the self and discovering similarities in the richness of different music languages and culture.”

Allexa Bash 

Bash, a Dubai-based Ukranian singer-songwriter, released a new single, “Heartbeat,” in late April. It’s a pop track with downbeat, piano-led verses leading to big choruses dominated by dubstep-style synths. Bash is a former contestant on the Ukrainian version of “The Voice” and her vocals are certainly powerful. Lyrically, according to a press release, the song is about “being real, about showing yourself, about listening to thoughts and embracing them. And, finally, letting your heartbeat act as a lighthouse, leading you in the dark, showing you the way.”


London Fashion Week: Reem Juan’s latest offering pays homage to Egypt-born music icon Dalida

London Fashion Week: Reem Juan’s latest offering pays homage to Egypt-born music icon Dalida
Reem Juan Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection. Supplied
Updated 14 June 2021

London Fashion Week: Reem Juan’s latest offering pays homage to Egypt-born music icon Dalida

London Fashion Week: Reem Juan’s latest offering pays homage to Egypt-born music icon Dalida

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. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Reem Juan (@reemjuan)

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. 

Reem Juan Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection. Supplied

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.

Reem Juan Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection. Supplied

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.

Reem Juan Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection. Supplied

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.

Reem Juan Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection. Supplied

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.

Reem Juan Fall 2021 ready-to-wear collection. Supplied

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

Producer resigns from movie on New Zealand mosque attacks amid backlash
Flowers and tributes hanging on the fence of the Botanic Gardens on March 17, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand. Getty Images
Updated 14 June 2021

Producer resigns from movie on New Zealand mosque attacks amid backlash

Producer resigns from movie on New Zealand mosque attacks amid backlash

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 

Arab stars Salma Abu Deif, Dima Al-Sheikhly pose for Valentino 
Updated 14 June 2021

Arab stars Salma Abu Deif, Dima Al-Sheikhly pose for Valentino 

Arab stars Salma Abu Deif, Dima Al-Sheikhly pose for Valentino 

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. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Valentino (@maisonvalentino)

Starring alongside the models are US singer and TikTok star Dixie D’Amelio and German blogger Leonie Hanne. 

The bag comes in two colors, red and black, and two sizes, medium and mini. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Valentino (@maisonvalentino)

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. 


How Arab menswear designers have made their mark

How Arab menswear designers have made their mark
Anamolous was founded by Lebanese designer Rabih Rowell. Instagram/@anomalous.monism
Updated 14 June 2021

How Arab menswear designers have made their mark

How Arab menswear designers have made their mark
  • While menswear designers once seemed a rare breed in the Middle East, today the region’s talent is not only surviving but thriving

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.

2D2C2M is a Saudi co-ed streetwear label helmed by Ahmed Al-Wohaibi. Instagram/@2d2c2m

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.”

Founded by Moroccan-French Charaf Tajer, Casablanca is one of the buzziest brands at the moment. Instagram/@casablancabrand

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.

Hatem Alakeel is known for fusing international styles. Supplied

“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).

Zar Douz at the inaugural Arab Fashion Week Men’s. Supplied

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.

Anomalous is a brand to look out for. Instagram/@anomalous.monism

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.

Riz Ahmed wearing Zero One in British GQ. Instagram/@nourhage_

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.”

Casablanca has an eccentric, softer interpretation of masculinity which can really work on both men and women. Instagram/@casablancabrand

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.

The Saudi-based brand believes clothing has no gender. Instagram/@2d2c2m

“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.

Palestinian label Trashy Clothing was founded by Shukri Lawerence. Instagram/@trashyclothing

“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

Kim Kardashian completes daring look with Amina Muaddi heels
Updated 14 June 2021

Kim Kardashian completes daring look with Amina Muaddi heels

Kim Kardashian completes daring look with Amina Muaddi heels

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. 

The founder of the cosmetics brand KKW Beauty and the shape wear brand Skims topped off her look with a pair of green Karma pumps by Muaddi.

Muaddi’s cult brand — famous for its signature flared heels — has garnered a loyal following of famous fans, including Dua Lipa, Gigi Hadid, Kylie Jenner, Kendall Jenner and Hailey Baldwin Bieber.