DUBAI: Curiosity got the better of Syrian designer Rami Al-Ali from an early age. Drawn toward the look and feel of glorious fabrics as a child, it is as though his destiny were preordained from that moment on. And while his first step might have been to study visual arts at the College of Fine Arts in Damascus, fashion was already ingrained in his DNA.
Now one of the Middle East’s most revered designers, Al-Ali counts the likes of Beyonce, Youssra, Diana Haddad, Jennifer Lopez, and many more as part of a prodigious celebrity client list, and he has become a global ambassador for Syrian couture since becoming established in Dubai in 2001. But while his designs might be feted around the world, his inspiration comes largely from home.
What is your earliest experience with fashion?
“My mother getting ready to entertain friends at home and putting on a gown that not only transformed her look but also gave her confidence in attitude and body posture. The way her guests interacted with her while she looked so glamorous always fascinated me.”
What is the first item of clothing you became obsessed with?
“A turquoise silk dress that belonged to my mother. It was my first encounter with a bias cut. The way it fit on the body was so delicate, so light, yet very rich.”
Who were your style inspirations when you were growing up?
“Magazines and television were our windows to the world at that time. Glamorous movie stars were my first education in fashion — on-screen or off. What and who they wore was all that I was reading or watching all the time.”
Which movie do you love for its wardrobe, and why?
“I would say ‘High Society.’ The timeless elegance and the sounds of the fabrics when Grace Kelly moved — it was a dialogue by itself! The rich details and the layering kept my attention and held my breath in each and every scene.”
What, or who, inspired you to become a designer?
“The moment I realized the effect appearance had on us and others and how powerful this communication tool was, I was hooked. The speed with which an outfit was able to change one’s mood inspired me to become part of this movement.”
Whose style inspires you now?
“Nowadays everyone has access to fashion and style education. People are becoming more unique and individual in their own way. It is very difficult to find a particular person to mention here. I am constantly inspired by each woman’s individuality.”
What is your most treasured style item?
“An old Dior tuxedo. I wore it for my 2007 show. Not only was the cut very special, but it became a symbolic good luck charm that I cherish to this day.”
Which era and city would you have loved to live in for its fashion?
“New York in the 1950s. Everyone looked graceful and made an effort to dress up. Fashion was in its golden era.”
How do you evolve your methods and collections as the industry and life change?
“I try to stay relevant and connect with the youth of today and understand their idea of ‘cool.’ I try to blend my experience with the latest technological innovations to reinvent my brand and keep it alive.”