DUBAI: Dubai-based designer Maha Ahmed has come full circle with her latest presentation at the White Milano trade fair in Italy, where the founder of edgy label Autonomie graduated from the world-renowned fashion school, Istituto Marangoni Milano.
Held on the sidelines of Milan Fashion Week, White Milano is considered the world’s premiere trade show for international apparel, fashion and accessories.
“It was an experience that was very much close to my heart because this is where I went to school,” Ahmed said in an interview with Arab News. “So going back as a designer, someone with a brand and someone that actually has something to offer… It was a very personal experience for me.”
Ahmed designs edgy blazers, asymmetric trousers, patchwork-emblazed and stitched tops, jackets made of vegan leather and more. Her brand is based on storytelling — every collection is based on a new story, philosophy or a concept. The label, which now has three collections, was launched in 2020 when its founder moved from Cairo to Dubai.
“It was a time for people to start questioning a lot of things in life and re-evaluate what you’re doing with your life. And for me, it was no different,” she said of launching her label during the pandemic. “I didn’t really focus on the challenges of running a business during the pandemic at the time, but for me it was more like a now or never kind of thing. The world might end at any moment, so if you’re not going to do what you love now, if you’re not going to risk it now, then when?”
When she started her brand, it was for self-expression and she did not cater to specific market needs, according to the designer herself. However, now, after three collections, she said the brand has evolved and she has found a balance in order to present her artistic side, while tailoring her designs to market demands.
“Every season I try to achieve this balance where I do some pieces for me, where I can see an artsy side — so a lot of shapes, volumes, colors and textures,” she said. “Then you have to balance it out with pieces that are more wearable and relatable that people can wear on a day-to-day.”
The Egyptian designer presented her latest collection at the first-ever iteration of Dubai Fashion Week in March. Walking the runway after she presented her first fashion show was the moment in her career she is most proud of — “it was a crazy rush,” she said.
“The whole time backstage, I was on autopilot. I couldn’t feel anything. So, the second it started, I remember I actually fell, I sat on the floor, and I had someone that's working with me help me out,” she added.
“This was probably the proudest moment because usually, if you launch a collection or like you present something online, you don’t necessarily see the direct feedback right away,” she noted.
“I hoped this brand will become a regular on the official calendar, showcasing every single season in Paris or Milan,” she said of her future dreams.
The designer also has plans to expand her product line and create a menswear collection.