JEDDAH: It’s not every day a fashion designer sees a member of Britain’s royal family wearing one of their designs in front of a global television audience. So Yahya Al-Bishri said he was “shocked” to learn that Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall chose a daqlah he created as her outfit of choice for the queen’s platinum jubilee concert last weekend.
“It is just a great feeling to see the whole world is talking about my outfit,” Al-Bishri told Arab News from his home in Jeddah. Yet the game-changing moment came as a complete surprise to him.
“Actually, I was engaged with friends in a small gathering when my ex-wife called me and told me, “Are you watching the Platinum Party (at the Palace)?’ She told me that Camilla was wearing my daqlah.
“As a Saudi fashion designer, I am so proud and happy that international media focused on my design, talked about the outfit and appreciated what the Duchess of Cornwall was wearing.”
The daqlah, a long robe that is open at the front and is traditionally worn over a thobe, was gifted to Camilla’s husband, Prince Charles, during a visit to the Kingdom in 1998, Al-Bishri revealed.
“When Prince Charles came to Saudi Arabia, he visited a village in the Asir region and he wore the daqlah that time for the first time,” he said. “And now, after two and a half decades, the piece appeared again during the platinum (jubilee) celebrations for the queen of Britain.”
It is testament to the quality and longevity of the design that the duchess decided to repurpose the robe as her outfit for the Platinum Party at the Palace concert. The traditional robe is navy in color, with intricate Saudi inscriptions embroidered in silver reed threads on the Kashmiri woolen fabric.
Asked whether the garment can be worn by women as well as men, Al-Bishri said: “A daqlah can be worn open or closed by men. Camilla wore it buttoned up, keeping the focus on the beautiful embroidery on the fabric. She really looked beautiful in it.”
The daqlah is not his first fashion connection with the British royal family; in the mid-1980s he was commissioned to design a gown for Princess Diana.
Al-Bishri was born in 1962 in Abha, where he attended primary school before moving to Jeddah to complete his education. He developed a love of literature and poetry which led him to a career in journalism before, in 1986, he discovered fashion and set out to build a career in the industry. After initially studying in Italy, he went on to graduate from the Paris American Academy in France.
In 1990 he opened his fashion house, Yahya Couture, in Jeddah, which featured bridal and evening wear. Soon after, he added a menswear department and subsequently also expanded to include children’s clothing.
During a storied career his creations have appeared on runways at fashion shows around the world, including France, Russia, Jordan, Egypt, the US, Oman, Morocco, Lebanon, and, of course, his native Saudi Arabia.
The guests at these high-profile shows have included heads of states and royalty — and if Camilla’s choice of outfit last weekend is any indication, it seems the royal seal of approval for Al-Bishri’s designs is set continue.