Native Dubai: A new luxury handbag brand in town

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Native Dubai’s luxury handbags and shoes.
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Rachna Malkani.
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3) Colored lashes.
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Updated 26 August 2016

Native Dubai: A new luxury handbag brand in town

Dubai is indisputably a paradise of luxe sophistication that’s just waiting to blow away the visitors and leave an indelible mark on them. With its enviable modern infrastructure and perfect planning. The city has succeeded in positioning itself as one of the world’s most happening places to see today. And if we talk about where fashion fits in all of this, then its influence has certainly been greater and is quite worthy of praise, but with an indigenous twist of its own.
This is where India-born Rachna Malkani, founder and creative director of Native Dubai (a high-end local accessories brand making luxury handbags and shoes) is turning heads with her beautiful designs and emerges as a pioneer who along with her husband gave the UAE its first genuine leather manufacturing facility “Leather Crafts” in 2007.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, we sat down with her to discuss what triggered her overall interest in designing luxury fashion products particularly handbags and shoes, what she takes in from this and much more.
Before Malkani became part of this glamor industry, she enjoyed a successful career as a financial consultant in the corporate world. This switchover took place as her husband’s rapidly expanding trading business created space for a whole new venture “Corporate Gifts & Promotional Items Division” which needed someone like her. She happily took up this challenge thanks to her business acumen.
Running this division so successfully for a decade now, she was looking forward to take a shot at another exciting project with her man. And it was something long overdue that no one ever had considered before i.e. formation of UAE’s first leather manufacturing plant.
It proved to be a big blessing for local entrepreneurs because they now had this astounding facility close to home where they could produce their branded versions of top quality leather goods.
“Since we were over the moon for having created a world class manufacturing genuine leather luxury goods facility for the first time here in the UAE, we wanted to celebrate its success with a home-grown luxury leather brand,” she says. “That’s how the idea of Native Dubai was born. Our goal with it is to assert Dubai’s stake as a leader when it comes to designing its own luxury fashion stuff in the international market.”
Realizing that it’s their brand and vision, Malkani had to take the lead role. So it came instinctively to her that the expression of designs is something that should come from her entirely in order to express who Native truly is and what it feels. “I believe this is one way to express our purpose of life by continuing to dig in the core of Native,” she says.
She has never taken any fashion or designing courses formally. Her knowledge and know how all came from experience and hands-on learning approach.
Behind any marvelous creation lies a great deal of creative work which is going to make it a winner. Native designs are no different. When asked what she finds most demanding part of her job, she explains, “You know it’s the whole process from the point of conceptualizing the idea, trying to put it into technical aspect, getting resources together to bring it to life the way I imagine and see it, all of it is challenging because we are dealing with leather and not necessarily what we conceive can be put into practice keeping in mind the nature, look, fall of the leather itself.”
These are precious handbags made of luxe leather skin like camel, cow, French bull plus exotics like python, ostrich and crocodile (Porosus). “We are working toward bringing in more kinds of creative leather work in future too,” she says.
Native bags are rich in color. It’s something very important for Malkani. “When I do my colors, I mostly visualize nature and human mind. I believe these two are the most amazing creations of the universe and they never stop amazing us with their depth and variations. While mixing colors, I always have the thought of them complementing each other and neither of them getting overshadowed by the other,” Malkani says.
Malkani makes sure each of them has a personality and holds its ground, just like how our society should be and how we as people should empower each other and not try to put down any mindset. And that’s how she works with colors as well.
These incredible bags fit a woman who isn’t afraid to be what she wants to be in life. She isn’t constrained by the conditioning of the society and always speaks her mind. “She is strong and independent while keeping the strengths of her feminine side of love and compassion within her. She sets her own path and walks it relentlessly. She doesn’t follow. More or less, she sets the trends unequivocally,” Malkani points out.
In everybody’s life there are role models or muses they often look up to for impetus. And Malkani too has someone like Queen Rania for a great human being that she is, the late Princess Diana who was elegance and compassion personified, Julia Roberts and Jennifer Lawrence. “Even from our very own Bollywood, I have two actresses as a perfect example mainly Deepika Padukone and Kangana Ranaut — I admire the way they have fought their own battles and conquered the work field as well, and they aren’t shy to speak about it, to me that’s true strength and beauty,” she says.
Native is one of the rare brands worldwide that boasts of having this amazing multiple skin combinations. “We have loyal media influencers and celebrities who are in love with our bags like Lebanese singer Madeleine Matar to Moroccan singer Jamila El Badaoui, Moroccan actress Mayssa Maghrebi, Dubai TV presenter and social influencer Rahaf Al-Tawil, MBC TV presenter and social influencer Lojain Omran, famous Belgian socialite Kristina Bazan, renowned Kuwaiti bloggers Dalal Al-Doub and Ascia AKF,” she says. “They all love Native bags because they are genuine and colorful.”
Celebrity endorsement is another important part of Native strategy with regard to making itself more popular. “It definitely matters because they are the women who have achieved and have become the leaders, influencers and the trend setters in their fields, so it’s important to develop that relationship with the buyers through them,” Malkani says.
With its growing popularity, Native wants to make a difference socially as it considers using real life heroes (who have so much to say) in its future campaigns. “This is something we are currently working on in order to show our respect for their journeys and accomplishments too,” she says. “While working on the business aspect we also love to stay connected to our Native beliefs.”
Telling stories with every collection is Malkani’s way of spreading happiness in society. “So far we have and would love to continue to do so. I feel it’s one of the best ways of expressing and sharing oneself and our experiences and learning of life and if it can be expressed through designs, then why not,” she says.
Her latest collection titled “Beauty beyond the Obvious” is one such collection inspired by her own journey with autism. “It’s my way of expressing the emotions it evoked in me as a mother of a child dealing with this problem. It’s a collection that is pure from the heart, it is the joy of being who you truly are within, being comfortable in your own skin regardless of what the conditioning of the world wants to make you believe,” she says. “This collection looks at these kids with sheer amazement especially their inner strength and beauty — the only tool that helps them fight their own battles with themselves and the outer world.”
The collection comes with three models with each one of them carrying a story in the form of embroidered design and crystal work done on it to truly enhance their beauty.
It’s only a tip of the iceberg as more Native wonders are to be unveiled in the coming months. “We will soon be launching Native Elements which is primarily a collection of basic day-to-day carry bags and small leather goods. Having said that, the recent soft opening of the House of Native has already given us a platform to showcase a much bigger range and quality of Native bags and shoes,” she says. “It’s also an opportunity to encourage lots of upcoming fashion designers to be able to showcase their talent by having their collections displayed in the House of Native as we do have a dedicated floor catering to fashion in the boutique.”
So it’s time you stirred your senses with the brilliant craftsmanship of Native Dubai! We bet you will definitely get hooked to it.

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Women in Egypt’s restive Sinai makes Bedouin face masks

Updated 04 June 2020

Women in Egypt’s restive Sinai makes Bedouin face masks

CAIRO: In El-Arish, the provincial capital of Egypt’s North Sinai, a group of women sew colourful Bedouin designs on masks to combat coronavirus, as an insurgency simmers in their restive region.

Egypt’s toll from the COVID-19 pandemic has reached over 28,600 cases, including more than 1,000 deaths, while North Sinai itself remains the bloody scene of a long-running Islamist insurgency.

“I learnt how to embroider when I was a young girl watching my mother,” homemaker Naglaa Mohammed, 36, told AFP on a landline from El-Arish, as mobile phone links are often disrupted.

Naglaa Mohammed lives in El-Arish. (AFP)

A versatile embroiderer, she also beads garments and crafts rings and bracelets.

Now with the pandemic, she has been designing face masks showcasing her Bedouin heritage.

Bedouins are nomadic tribes who traditionally inhabit desert areas throughout the Arab world, from North Africa to Iraq. Many have now integrated into a more urban lifestyle.

Egypt’s Bedouin textile tradition of tatriz – weaving and beading rich geometric and abstract designs on garments, cushions and purses – has been passed down from generation to generation for centuries.

It has survived in the Sinai Peninsula, whose north has been plagued by years of militant activity and terror attacks spearheaded by a local affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) group.

Security forces have been locked in a battle to quell an insurgency in the Sinai that intensified after the military’s 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

In February 2018, authorities launched a nationwide operation against militants, focusing on North Sinai.

The beading process takes about two days for each mask, Gharib said. (AFP)

Around 970 suspected militants have since been killed in the region along with dozens of security personnel, according to official figures.

Local and international media are banned from entering heavily militarised North Sinai.

But for Amany Gharib, who founded the El-Fayrouz Association in El-Arish in 2010, the violence has not dissuaded her from keeping Bedouin heritage alive while at the same time empowering local women.

She now employs around 550 women like Mohammed – many of them casually or part-time – as part of a textiles workshop.

“The masks are composed of two layers – one inner layer directly on the face which is disinfected, and the colourful, beaded one outside,” Gharib explained to AFP.

All the women take the necessary precautions while working, including wearing gloves and masks while using sewing machines.

The finished products are washed, packed and shipped off to distribution centres in Cairo, where they are sold online in partnership with Jumia – Africa’s e-commerce giant – for about 40 pounds ($2.50) each.

The beading process takes about two days for each mask, Gharib said.

The finished products are washed, packed and shipped off to distribution centres in Cairo. (AFP)

Amid the volatile security situation, Mohammed has been able to eke out a meagre living with her embroidery skills.

“We work and are given our dues depending on the orders we get... with the masks it has been a new challenge we've tackled,” she said.

Dire economic conditions in Egypt have been even tougher for women of the Sinai since the pandemic began.

“Times are really tough for the women but we have adjusted,” Gharib said.

And while militant attacks on security checkpoints have continued, Gharib expressed confidence in the army.

“We feel a sense of security and stability with the military presence. We trust them,” she said.

The region witnessed the deadliest terror attack in Egypt’s modern history when militants killed more than 300 worshippers in a mosque in November 2017.

Gharib said that in North Sinai’s tight-knit community, each family knew someone who had been killed in an attack.

“Anyone of us who is killed, we consider them a martyr,” she said.

“We are in a war with terror... but the people have learnt to live with it.”