Inside Victorian England’s astonishing tribute to the Middle East

Inside Victorian England’s astonishing tribute to the Middle East
The Arab Hall, Leighton House Museum, RBKC. (Supplied)
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Updated 15 January 2022

Inside Victorian England’s astonishing tribute to the Middle East

Inside Victorian England’s astonishing tribute to the Middle East
  • The Arab Hall in London’s Leighton House Museum has been an important cultural center since the late 19th century

DUBAI: The Arab Hall in London’s Leighton House Museum has been described by one of the English capital’s walking-tour guides as the city’s “most jaw-dropping room.” The story of this sumptuous space begins with one of the Victorian era’s most-distinguished artists and travelers, Lord Frederic Leighton, who was only in his mid-thirties when he started building his red-brick house and studio in the Kensington neighborhood in 1864.

Leighton, raised and educated in continental Europe, was making a name for himself in the British art world at the time. He was an associate (and later president) of London’s Royal Academy of Arts; his work was purchased by royalty; and he sold his “Dante in Exile” picture for a then-handsome sum of more than £1,000 (equivalent to around $184,000 today, according to the CPI inflation calculator). It is believed that this boost to his finances pushed him to create what he famously called his “private palace of art.” 

The two-story house was designed by architect George Aitchison. For more than 30 years, until Leighton’s death in 1896, the sophisticated house was an evolving project, featuring a library, a dining room, a grand staircase, a blue ‘Narcissus Hall’ and an impressive studio drenched in natural light. The only ‘private’ part of the house was Leighton’s simple bedroom, accommodating a single bed. 




Golden dome and brass gasolier, Arab Hall, Leighton House. (Supplied)

“His house was not designed in a day or built in a year,” observed the journalist Harry How in 1892. “It has been the work of years; bit by bit it has become more beautiful; its owner has watched it grow up almost as a father does his boy.” 

Every room had a purpose, and each was furnished with mementos from his travels, patterned fabrics, and classical revival paintings. It’s a domestic setting that reveals the artist’s refined taste and worldly personality but there is also a showy element. 

“It’s in part an artistic expression, but it is also an ambitious thing for a young artist to make the statement that they are building this bespoke studio-house,” Leighton House Museum’s senior curator Daniel Robbins told Arab News. “It was a way of using your house as a means of projecting an idea of yourself in quite deliberate ways.”




Frederic Leighton, RBKC, Leighton House. (Supplied)

One room in particular has been crowned the star of Leighton’s house: the Arab Hall. “It was always commented on that the exterior of the house was relatively plain and didn’t give away the richness of the interiors, and that still is the case,” said Robbins. “People will come into the house and have no idea that the Arab Hall is there. So when they discover it, it never ceases to amaze them. If people know Leighton House, the one thing they’ll know it for is the Arab Hall.”

Construction on the Arab Hall commenced in 1877, inspired by ‘La Zisa’ (or ‘Al-Aziza’ in Arabic) — an ancient Arab-Norman palace in Palermo, Sicily. Both Leighton and Aitchison were drawn to its honeycombed wall niches, golden mosaics and fountains. Leighton’s Arab Hall turned into an intimate oasis, with walls of visually stunning tiles imported from Syria, Iran, and Turkey and a shimmering mosaic frieze depicting vines, deers, birds, flowers, ​mythical figures, over which looms a majestic golden dome. “That’s the thing that will stay with people the most — the intensity of that color,” Robbins said of the tiles’ signature peacock-blue and turquoise tones. 

Arabic calligraphy is an integral aspect of the tiles, featuring verses from the Qur’an. Although some of them have been swapped around, disrupting the flow. “His response to the material was absolutely an aesthetic one. There’s no evidence that he had any scholarly interest in it,” explained Robbins, who has been at the museum for nearly 20 years. 




Leighton’s Arab Hall, RBKC Leighton House Museum. (Supplied)

The Arab Hall was almost certainly unique in London at the time. It is a testament to Leighton’s great interest in the Middle East. His first trip to the region, in 1857, took him to Algiers. “This visit made a deep impression of me; I have loved ‘The East,’ as it is called, ever since,” he wrote of that visit. Over the following decades, Leighton sketched views of the Nile in Egypt and roamed the old quarter of Damascus. Coming full circle, Leighton returned to North Africa a year before his death in the hope that a warmer climate would help him recover from heart problems. 

“On all of these trips, he was gathering knowledge and experiences of different interiors and architecture that collectively led to the Arab Hall,” said Robbins. 

Traveling to the region became easier for well-off Victorians in the 19th century, but it remained largely unknown in several regards. “A lot of their perceptions fall into that kind of orientalist category of considering the region as untouched by time,” said Robbins. With the completion of the Arab Hall in 1881-2, Leighton’s House was the talk of the town’s cultural elite. Fellow painters and curious journalists were dazzled by it; Queen Victoria came to see it, as did George Eliot; and Edward Burne-Jones and James McNeill Whistler both dined there.




Leighton’s Arab Hall, RBKC Leighton House Museum. (Supplied)

“It’s probably no exaggeration to say that all the prominent figures in London society at that time would have been to the house,” said Robbins. 

But there were also those who felt that both the house and Leighton himself were more about style than substance. 

“People who didn’t like Leighton, of his contemporaries, said that there was something artificial about him, that he always seemed to be performing,” Robbins explained. “You never really felt that you got behind that performance to really get to know him.” 

The museum is currently undergoing refurbishment plans, set to be completed by the summer. Visitors can expect a new garden café, a shop, exhibition and learning areas, disabled access, and a mural by Vancouver-based artist Shahrzad Ghaffari, celebrating the theme of oneness. 

With its blend of East and West, the Arab Hall can be viewed with a different kind of interpretation in today’s world — encouraging, as it does, cultural inclusivity. In recent years, the museum has hosted a series of films by Syrian directors, and showcased Afghan craftsmanship. 

“We had a project with immigrant children who were brought to the house and it was fantastic to see their surprise to find something that was recognizable and felt familiar,” said Robbins. “There’s a sense of identifying with it and, I think, a sort of pride. In that context, it means something to them and is appreciated by so many people.”


Actress Melissa Barrera talks ‘Scream 5’ wearing a statement jumpsuit by Elie Saab

Actress Melissa Barrera talks ‘Scream 5’ wearing a statement jumpsuit by Elie Saab
The Mexican actress wore a black Elie Saab jumpsuit to promote the new film. Instagram
Updated 16 January 2022

Actress Melissa Barrera talks ‘Scream 5’ wearing a statement jumpsuit by Elie Saab

Actress Melissa Barrera talks ‘Scream 5’ wearing a statement jumpsuit by Elie Saab

DUBAI: “Scream” will hit theaters in Saudi Arabia this week, more than 25 years after the late Wes Craven’s slasher classic thrilled fans. The new film is the fifth title in the cult series and is a direct sequel to 2011’s “Scream 4.” Directed by filmmakers Matt Bettinello-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, “Scream” sees franchise mainstays Courteney Cox and Neve Campbell reprise their roles, while newcomers include Sonia Ben Ammar, Melissa Barerra, Jenna Ortega, Mason Gooding, Dylan Minnette and Jack Quaid.

“Scream” follows a new Ghostface-masked assailant who begins targeting teenagers to resurrect secrets from the town of Woodsboro’s past.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by laChambre (@lachambrehq)

Following the hotly-anticipated movie’s successful release in the US on Jan. 14, Barrera sat down with show host Kelly Clarkson to promote the new film and to discuss her role in the latest installment of the “Scream” franchise. For her appearance on “The Kelly Clarkson Show” the rising Hollywood star decided to don one of the most versatile pieces in fashion — the jumpsuit.

The 31-year-old exuded casual glam wearing a black power jumpsuit from Lebanese couturier Elie Saab’s Resort 2022 collection, which was titled “Infinite Horizons.” The design featured short, layered sleeves, white stitching throughout and a delicate bow on the neckline. The loose track-suit style jumpsuit boasted a black stripe running down the side. The Mexican star paired the look, which was put together by stylist Penny Lovell, with open-toe pumps and a bedazzled Ghostface-shaped hairclip to secure her raven lengths.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Lilly Keys (@lilly_keys)

The disco-era favorite that is undergoing a renaissance on the runways — it popped up on the Spring 2022 catwalks of Alberta Ferretti, Etro, Isabel Marant and Fendi — is slowly migrating to the red carpet and photo calls.

Meanwhile, the Monterrey-born star is certainly one to watch. For the past few years, Barrera has split her time between Mexico and the US. After growing up in Monterrey, Mexico, she studied in New York at Tisch School of the Arts, then returned to Mexico to star in telenovela “Siempre tuya Acapulco.” The Clinique brand ambassador moved back to the US to film the TV drama series “Vida” and later to star as Vanessa in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s screen adaptation of the musical “In the Heights.”


Quirky Saudi vintage collector lays down a challenge to the fast-fashion world

Alia Kurdi, a 27-year-old fashion enthusiast, uses shirts from her grandfather’s Versace collection that are often loud and bright in her outfits and receives compliments for her style. (Supplied)
Alia Kurdi, a 27-year-old fashion enthusiast, uses shirts from her grandfather’s Versace collection that are often loud and bright in her outfits and receives compliments for her style. (Supplied)
Updated 16 January 2022

Quirky Saudi vintage collector lays down a challenge to the fast-fashion world

Alia Kurdi, a 27-year-old fashion enthusiast, uses shirts from her grandfather’s Versace collection that are often loud and bright in her outfits and receives compliments for her style. (Supplied)
  • ‘Re-accessorize everything, borrow from your friends and lend them stuff. The perfect way to not buy for occasions’

JEDDAH: A young Saudi fashion enthusiast is trying to make people aware of vintage fashion and the footprint that fast fashion has on the world.

Alia Kurdi is a 27-year-old fashion enthusiast who collects, designs, and sells vintage clothes in Saudi Arabia. She has always felt that, growing up, the only way she could express herself was through her clothes,
“There weren’t many venues for self-expression, and because I am a bit of a radical person, I began showing my personality through my clothes, and that is when I began building this connection to different pieces.”
The appreciation of vintage clothes ran within the Kurdi family. She told Arab News that her grandfather collected Versace shirts that were often loud and bright, “He didn’t dress like the typical Arab man. I still wear some of his shirts today, and people compliment them and are often shocked to find out that they belong to my grandfather.”

I feel like I already have a connection with a piece; I feel called to a store, and immediately from a distance, I know the thing I am going to buy as if these pieces speak to me. Usually, they are extremely special, whether the texture or the pattern.

Alia Kurdi

People in Saudi Arabia have always recycled their used items through charity.
However, the situation has changed as conversations around resale and pre-owned pieces have evolved.
Kurdi said that she began shopping mindfully ever since she learned the footprint that fast fashion had on the globe; that is when she started venturing into vintage and second-hand shops. The collector said that once she had started, she never looked back, and 2022 marks her fast-fashion-free seventh year.
Kurdi advised people thinking of going into fast fashion to start with baby steps and set realistic goals, “One of the most negative things is buying for occasions because people think they cannot repeat. Re-accessorize everything, borrow from your friends and lend them stuff. That will be the perfect way to not buy for occasions.”
The collector said that she loves exploring different streets and shops to find her clothes; she described the process of selecting what to buy as “intuitive.”
“I feel like I already have a connection with a piece; I feel called to a store, and immediately from a distance, I know the thing I am going to buy as if these pieces speak to me. Usually, they are extremely special, whether the texture or the pattern,” she said.

Alia Kurdi has recycled these pants from a vintage skirt. (Supplied)

Kurdi also said that the pieces she selects turn out to be beautiful, and she has developed this compass to find hidden treasures.
She describes her style as an “Emo Unicorn,” someone who likes a lot of black but with loud colors, as well. Her emotions are reflected in the outfit she is wearing.
“I did get a lot of negative comments as I was growing up, and I was very triggered by it. However, now not only have I changed my approach, but people are celebrating it a lot more; they say things like it’s amazing that I have stayed true to myself,” she said.
“Still, a lot of people have said that I was much prettier a few years ago, and I recognize that at that time I was much more insecure.”
She said her favorite piece of clothing is a ‘Google Chrome’ jacket that she bought in Berlin: “It’s black with a lot of bright colors. I broke my spending limit rule for this one jacket because I actually had to have it. So many people have complimented me. I made a friend through it as well. I am so glad that it found me.”
She gave that name to the jacket because the colors looked like Google’s logo. If she were to sum up her style and personality in an item of clothing, this would be it: “It is rough in some spots and soft in some, it is all black but also colorful. Kind of like what I feel all the time.”
The collector has started her own brand where she connects people with pieces with stories, “Diskofrenzy was born because often I will find pieces that were very special but not my size, but I had to collect them and keep them with me. My goal for my brand is to make Diskofrenzy the ultimate go-to for vintage and up-cycled fashion.”
The name connects two very personal things for Kurdi: Disco, which is vintage but is now making a comeback, and she said that she feels a frenzy only when she is dancing or shopping. This is why she decided that the perfect name for her brand would be Diskofrenzy.
She said that people often come up to her and say that only she can pull off a certain style. However, in her opinion that is not true, “Anyone can pull off whatever they want. Just be quirky and weird and a little bit rebellious. Express yourself through what you wear.”


Italian fashion pioneer Nino Cerruti dies

Italian fashion pioneer Nino Cerruti dies
Updated 15 January 2022

Italian fashion pioneer Nino Cerruti dies

Italian fashion pioneer Nino Cerruti dies
  • Cerruti, who dressed many a Hollywood star in his heyday, introduced “casual chic” into men’s fashion when he created the first deconstructed jacket in the 1970s
  • He was one of the leading figures in men’s ready-to-wear fashion in the 20th century

ROME: Pioneering Italian fashion designer Nino Cerruti has died at the age of 91, it was on reported Saturday.
Cerruti, who dressed many a Hollywood star in his heyday, introduced “casual chic” into men’s fashion when he created the first deconstructed jacket in the 1970s.
He died at the Vercelli hospital in the northwest region of Piedmont, where he had been admitted for a hip operation, the Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported on its website.
Cerruti was one of the leading figures in men’s ready-to-wear fashion in the 20th century, with a style that was at once elegant and relaxed.
“A giant among Italian entrepreneurs has left us,” said Gilberto Pichetto, deputy minister for economic development.
Tall and slim, he always insisted he be the first to try on his creations, many of which were kept at the textile factory his grandfather founded in the northern town of Biella in 1881.
“I have always dressed the same person, myself,” he once said.
Born in 1930 in Biella, Cerruti dreamt of becoming a journalist.
But after his father died when he was 20, he was forced to give up his philosophy studies to take over the family textile factory.
In the 1960s, he met Giorgio Armani and hired him as a creator of men’s fashion.
The duo made a profound mark on the world of fashion, before Armani branched out on his own with his own fashion house in 1975.
Cerruti opened his first shop in Paris in 1967, launching his luxury brand into global fame.
“Clothes only exist from the moment someone puts them on. I would like these clothes to continue to live, to soak up life,” he said.
While French students protested in 1968, he revolutionized fashion by asking male and female models to walk down the catwalk in the same clothes.
“Trousers have given women freedom,” said the designer, who in the 1970s created his first line of women’s clothing.
The man nicknamed the “philosopher of clothing” dressed American actors Richard Gere and Robert Redford as well as French star Jean-Paul Belmondo.
He also made cameo appearances in Hollywood films “Cannes Man” (1996) and “Holy Man” (1998).


US actress Hilary Duff taps Lebanese designer for press event

US actress Hilary Duff taps Lebanese designer for press event
Updated 15 January 2022

US actress Hilary Duff taps Lebanese designer for press event

US actress Hilary Duff taps Lebanese designer for press event

DUBAI: US actress and singer Hilary Duff turned heads this week wearing a pair of heels designed by Lebanese shoemaker Andrea Wazen.

The “Lizzie McGuire” star championed the brand’s Denver pumps in white during a press event for her upcoming show “How I Met Your Father,” which will premiere on Hulu on Jan. 18.

The 10-episode comedy series is a sequel to the CBS hit sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Hilary Duff (@hilaryduff)

Duff, who is also the producer of the series, will play the role of Sophie, the show’s protagonist, who tells her son the story of how she met his father.

During the press event, Duff paired the heels with a printed thigh-high dress in blue by US label Rhode that featured a ruched skirt with a side ruffle, elbow-length puff sleeves and a round neckline.

“This whole thang to sit in a chair from 9-7 yesterday doing press, but those shoes and that gloss lid were sass,” wrote Duff to her 19.7 million Instagram followers, complimenting Wazen’s creations.

Duff is known for championing labels from around the world.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Hilary Duff (@hilaryduff)

In November, the star turned to a British-Afghan-Pakistani designer for the 2021 Baby2Baby gala at Hollywood’s Pacific Design Centre. 

The 34-year-old actress was a vision in a dazzling hot pink dress by UK-based label Osman, which featured a plunging neckline, dramatic sleeves and thigh-high slit. 

Duff is not the only celebrity fan of Wazen, however.

In fact, the Lebanese label is shaping up to be the next big footwear brand to watch.

Since launching in 2013, the label’s strappy sandals and stilettos have made their way onto the pedicured toes of A-listers and It-girls across the globe, including Beyonce, Megan Fox, Hailey Bieber, Khloe Kardashian, Kylie Jenner and Addison Rae, who have all championed Wazen’s creations.

Just this week, US actress Alyssa Milano wore the label’s black Denver pumps during an interview with celebrity interviewer Steve Varley for her new Netflix film “Brazen.”


Model Bella Hadid pays tribute to her late Palestinian grandmother

Model Bella Hadid pays tribute to her late Palestinian grandmother
Updated 15 January 2022

Model Bella Hadid pays tribute to her late Palestinian grandmother

Model Bella Hadid pays tribute to her late Palestinian grandmother

DUBAI: Supermodel Bella Hadid on Saturday paid tribute to her late Palestinian grandmother on Instagram.

The half-Dutch catwalk star shared a childhood photo with her siblings Gigi and Anwar Hadid and their grandmother Khairia Hadid, who died in 2008. “I miss you Teta,” wrote Bella on her Stories.

Instagram/ @bellahadid

The fashion star’s father, US-Palestinian real estate mogul Mohamed Hadid, re-shared Bella’s post and wrote: “With Tata, with the princess of Nazareth Tata Khairia Al-Daher Al-Fahoum Hadid, granddaughter of the king and the prince of Nazareth and Gallalie Daher Al-Omer.”

Daher Al-Omer was the Arab ruler of northern Palestine until 1774, and Mohamed claims that his mother, Khairia, was his granddaughter.

Gigi’s daughter’s name, Khai, is a nod to their grandmother, and Bella is also named after Khairia — her middle name is Khair.

Anwar, the youngest of the Hadid family, is named after his grandfather Anwar Hadid.