From Farfetch to luxury department stores, designer Shatha Essa talks success on Emirati Women’s Day
The brand is sold both regionally and internationally at retailers such as Farfetch, Threads Styling, Ounass, BySymphony Dubai, Harvey Nichols Riyadh, Harvey Nichols Doha, Galeries Lafayette Doha, Tryano Abu Dhabi, Saks Fifth Avenue Bahrain and Elevnish
The UAE designer championed Tunisian artisans to release a collection titled ‘Ethereal Oasis’
DUBAI: For Emirati designer Shatha Essa, her roots and identity mean everything. “My heritage is incredibly important to me and I want to share that with the world,” she told Arab News as she shared her experience of being an entrepreneur in the region.
The eponymous label emerged from the Dubai-based womenswear visionary’s love for design and her passion to support different causes. “My label not only acts as a platform for my creativity but serves communities in need,” she said. “This is achieved through supporting artisans across a diverse range of cultures and nationalities.”
“Creating garments with a story, each collection fuses the traditional crafts and embroideries from these artisans, which in turn allows us to create employment opportunities,” she added.
Earlier this year, Essa released a collection titled “Ethereal Oasis” that explores commonalities between the UAE and Tunisia. The entrepreneur hired female artisans from Tunisia to help her create the offering.
Essa teamed up with specialists in handwoven buttons, in turn improving the welfare of local women in rural areas by generating employment opportunities, as well as promoting the preservation of craftsmanship in the North African nation.
One of her greatest achievements to date has been partnering with Dubai Cares to fund the construction of a school in rural Nepal, providing access to quality education to the children in the area. "Volunteering and philanthropy are extremely important to me. From a young age, I have been volunteering my time to help those less fortunate and when I started my own business, supporting CSR initiatives was one of my goals. I partnered with Dubai Cares in 2018 to build a school to provide quality education to underprivileged children in Nepal. Every child deserves an education, whether they are affected by poverty or emergencies," said Essa.
"The school was completed in 2019 and it still fills me with pride knowing that children will continue to receive quality education for years to come," she added.
Essa got her start when she launched her luxury label in 2016 and many of her collections are inspired by Emirati culture. “I had always dreamed of starting my own brand, but it wasn’t until I had the privilege of meeting the late Franca Sozzani, editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia, who inspired me to take the step and launch my brand,” she said.
Being an Emirati woman, Essa said she did not face any challenges when launching her brand. “As an Emirati woman, I am supported by my family, my community and the UAE Government, which supports and develops entrepreneurs,” she said. “The challenges I faced were in relation to starting a new business such as dealing with suppliers and facing fabric delays.”
However, if she had any advice for her younger self, it would be to “trust your intuition and don’t take no for an answer.”
The brand is sold both regionally and internationally at retailers such as Farfetch, Threads Styling, Ounass, BySymphony Dubai, Harvey Nichols Riyadh, Harvey Nichols Doha, Galeries Lafayette Doha, Tryano Abu Dhabi, Saks Fifth Avenue Bahrain and Elevnish, with more international retailers being added in 2023.
Amara Lenses has previously collaborated with regional influencers including Saudi makeup artist Shouq Artist, Kuwaiti fashion blogger Fouz Al-Fahad, Bahraini content creator Zainab Al-Alwan, Kuwaiti influencer Fatima Al-Momen, Egyptian actress Nour Ghandour and more.
However, the partnership with Rodriguez is the brand’s first with an international star.
The Arab brand sells lenses in various shades of grey, brown, green and blue.
Model Imaan Hammam stars in new H&M, Mugler campaign
Updated 24 March 2023
DUBAI: Dutch Moroccan Egyptian model Imaan Hammam has landed herself another campaign, this time for a collaboration collection between Swedish high-street retailer H&M and French fashion label Mugler.
In the short teaser video Hammam shared on her Instagram stories, three artists are singing in a recording studio until Hammam suddenly breaks down the wall and walks into the scene.
Rising singers Amaarae, Shygirl, Eartheater, and Arca star in the campaign video. They recorded their own take on Stardust’s 1998 dance hit “Music Sounds Better with You.”
Discussions for the collaboration began before founder Manfred Thierry Mugler’s passing in January 2022.
The capsule will be available online and in stores from May 11.
The collection is being crafted under the direction of Mugler’s creative director Casey Cadwallader and will encapsulate “the unique and vibrant spirit of the brand,” H&M said in a statement.
The silhouette of the collection is the recognizable Mugler fit of today: Strong, big shoulders, a tight focus on the waist, an ode to the curves and lines of the body, and a tribute to confidence.
Ann-Sofie Johansson, H&M’s creative adviser, said: “We are proud to celebrate the legacy of Manfred Thierry Mugler with this collection. We were all honored to get to know Manfred, and it feels very special that he was involved at the initial stages together with Casey and the house of Mugler.
“Casey has done such an incredible job at paying homage to history, and to the archive, while making the collection totally contemporary. Under him, Mugler has become one of the most innovative and exciting houses on today’s fashion landscape,” she added.
Cadwallader said: “It is truly an honor to collaborate with H&M. The collection is a celebration of everything that defines Mugler as a house and each piece is authentic Mugler, from the bodysuits, which have become a signature of ours, to the sharp tailoring and worked denims. It is a showcase of our icons.”
Qatar pushes tourism and culture after the World Cup
The tiny Gulf state is looking to capitalize on the exposure it received late last year and the billions invested in hosting the world’s biggest sporting event
Updated 24 March 2023
Rebecca Anne Proctor
DUBAI: After 12 years of preparation to host prestigious FIFA World Cup last year — 12 years that transformed the tiny-gas rich Gulf nation of Qatar — the country is focusing on maintaining its momentum and boosting its tourism and cultural industries.
“The World Cup, to us, was a bonus on top of what we were already doing in the cultural realm,” Sheikha Reem Al-Thani, acting deputy CEO of exhibitions and marketing for Qatar Museums, tells Arab News.
Much of Qatar’s tourism and cultural boom, says Al-Thani, is part of the Qatar National Vision 2030 strategy, which was formalized in July 2008, the same year the Museum of Islamic Art, designed by the renowned Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei, opened in Doha.
The World Cup crowds may have left, but a multitude of projects are ongoing, signaling further growth on the horizon. Throughout Doha and in nearby desert landscapes sit dozens of specially commissioned public art installations, 30 percent of which were commissioned in the year leading up to the World Cup. Works by Qatari artists including Shouq Al-Mana, Ghada Al-Kater, Mubarak Al-Malik and Salman Al-Malek sit alongside creations of acclaimed international names such as Jeff Koons, whose “Dugong” — a massive site-specific polychromed mirror-polished stainless-steel sculpture of the marine mammal that symbolizes Qatar’s natural heritage — is stationed near the Corniche. Richard Serra’s “East West/West East” stands in the Qatari desert, as does KAWS’ “The Promise,” depicting a parent and a child contemplating a globe — stressing the need to protect the environment.
“The public art emphasizes our identity while also giving context to everything that is taking place in Qatar,” says Al-Thani. “For example, before Richard Serra’s artwork, people didn’t have much of a reason to go to that area in the desert. Now they go and are encouraged to explore the local landscape.”
According to the Qatar News Agency, the overall attendance at all the World Cup matches combined was 3.4 million. And visitors are still flocking to Qatar. In January 2023, the country registered 3,559,063 people arriving on flights, according to air transport statistics released by Qatar’s Civil Aviation Authority, which marked a 64.4 percent increase from the same period in 2022.
The country has set several ambitious targets. By 2030, it aims to attract six million visitors a year and increase the contribution of the tourism sector to its GDP from 7 percent to 12 percent. To that end, the country is investing billions into culture, art, technology and tourism. In February this year, Doha was recognized as the Arab Tourism Capital 2023 by the Arab Tourism Organization.
Qatar Creates, a government-backed, year-round cultural movement conceptualized at the opening of the National Museum of Qatar in 2019 has evolved into an extravaganza combining museum exhibitions, film, fashion, hospitality, cultural heritage, performing arts and private-sector initiatives.
Earlier this month, Qatar Creates Week presented a host of exhibition openings and events, including the Tasweer Photo Festival Qatar — the second biennial program of exhibitions, awards, commissions and collaborations that aims “to diversify practices and dialogues of photographers from Qatar and the Western Asia and North African regions,” “Beirut and the Golden Sixties,” a show at the Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art, and Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson’s “The Curious Desert” at the NMOQ, bringing together a dozen new site-specific installations located in the desert near the Al-Thakhira Mangrove in Northern Qatar as well as an extensive gallery presentation.
Other highlights include the Doha Film Institute’s Qumra, an initiative offering mentorship and other opportunities for filmmakers in Qatar and around the world.
Elsewhere, “Lusail Museum: Tales of a Connected World” at Qatar Museums’ Gallery Al-Riwaq in Doha introduced the new museum, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, currently under development in Lusail, Qatar’s second-largest city. It will be dedicated to Orientalist art, archaeological artifacts, and media from prehistoric times to the 21st century.
The Lusail Museum is one of three new museums that Qatari global art patron Sheikha Al-Mayassa Al-Thani announced in March to expand the country’s cultural offerings. The others are the Qatar Auto Museum and the Art Mill on Doha’s waterfront promenade, which is due to open in 2030 and that will transform a former industrial flour mill on the Doha Corniche, forming a triangle with the already existing Jean Nouvel-designed NMOQ and the Museum of Islamic Art. Designed by Chilean studio ELEMENTAL, Art Mill aims to be, according to its website, “a pioneering institution in the non-Western world representing the modern and contemporary arts of all regions of the globe on an equal basis.”
While a bonanza of cultural events continues in Qatar, what officials stress is how the cultural scene has grown in tandem with, and even prior to, the country winning the right to host the World Cup. The Mathaf Art Museum of Modern Art opened in Doha in 2010 — the same year the nation won the bid and two years after the opening of the Museum of Islamic Art. Since then, particularly under the patronage of Sheikha Al-Mayassa, Qatar has injected billions of dollars into culture and tourism. Its goal is not only to build a robust art scene and strengthen its national identity, but also to diversify its economy to reduce dependency on petroleum and natural gas.
Even during the five years of blockade, from 2017 to 2021, when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed diplomatic relations with Qatar, the country continued to develop its cultural and tourism sector.
“The World Cup definitely gave us a drive to move faster,” says Al-Thani.
“However, for us it has always been about maintaining and developing our cultural and creative economy, educating people and really making sure that what we’re doing is (done) in a very thoughtful and homegrown way.”
During the World Cup, she adds, 80 percent of exhibitions staged were conceived by Qatar Museums through its collections.
“Very little came from the outside,” she says. “We wanted to focus mainly on the MENASA.”
In February this year Qatar’s $450 billion sovereign wealth fund stated that it was looking to rebalance its portfolio and considering investments in football, finance and technology.
“The World Cup offered us a tremendous awareness boost, exposing Qatar to many (new) people,” Qatari businessman Tariq Al-Jaidah tells Arab News. “The event gave us enormous exposure on a global level. We are already feeling its impact, especially with the increase in regional tourists that are coming.”
The Peninsula Qatar reported in February that 58 cruise ships carrying around 200,000 visitors are expected to arrive in Qatar by the end of April. The new Grand Cruise Terminal opened in November 2022, and is ideally located for tourists within walking distance of the National Museum of Qatar, Msheireb Downtown and Souq Waqif — all of which are decorated with works of public art — among others.
“The World Cup, new hotels and existing and upcoming museums have all served to help Qatar mature as a tourist destination on the cultural front,” added Al-Jaidah.
The country looks well set to capitalize on that exposure and translate it into a cultural and economic boom.
THE BREAKDOWN: Lebanese-Brazilian designer Nadine Ghosn discusses quirky collection inspired by eating utensils
Updated 24 March 2023
DUBAI: The Lebanese-Brazilian designer discusses her new gold bracelet, “Straw Bracelet.”
One of the things I love to do is take the ordinary and make it extraordinary — to revisit everyday objects. Another theme that is super-clear for me is that I want my pieces to bring a smile to people’s faces. But more than that, I want them to be reminded of their childhoods.
Why specifically the utensil component? It’s because I’m a huge foodie and I think it’s a cultural part of connecting with people. For me, using these hidden heroes — these tools that we use to connect, to slurp, to eat — was, in a way, valorizing them.
It also had an element of customization. What I love to do is introduce a collection, but allow my clients to continue the storytelling by making it unique to them, and that’s where the title “Youtensils” comes in. We’ve all had meals that remind us of people and, to me, if people can impose this into this collection by customizing it themselves, it’s only going to strengthen the storytelling. It was definitely a canvas that I think people hadn’t played with before.
The first piece I worked on was the fork, but the straw was my ‘A-ha’ moment. If I needed to explain the collection through one piece, it would be the straw, because it’s so playful, it’s something we use from a young age. It reminds me of these drinks that we probably shouldn’t be drinking, like smoothies and slushies. There is also the perspective of this being a piece that’s part of our society that we’re no longer going to come across in the future, because there’s a movement — which I support — to ban plastic.
For me, the detail that’s so important — that we went over so many times — was that place where the straw bends. It’s such a simple image that people think probably it was so easy to create, but it’s so complex.
It actually took bending a straw to show the different bends and creases and how the straw is actually formed when you bend it. Everything is handmade and there’s just a small detail of fine jewelry, which is at the tip of the straws, where we’ve decided to put these circles in, where people can customize it with whatever stone speaks to them.