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Arab tradition meets modern glamour at London Fashion Week

Arab designers take to the catwalk at London Fashion Week

London Fashion Week wrapped up last week with a schedule packed with some of the most diverse and unique showcases in the industry. At the heart of the renowned festival was a dazzling display of elegant and luxurious Arab designs inspired by traditional Middle Eastern and North African embroidery and infused with touches of modern glamour. The beautifully crafted outfits by Arab designers were showcased at the prestigious Pall Mall venue in London under the umbrella of Stories from Arabia.

Art Nouveau at London Fashion Week in September 2018 [Jehan Alfarra/Middle East Monitor]

Founded by London-based entrepreneur Jalila Elmastouki, Stories from Arabia was established as a fashion platform of elite designers from around the Arab world. Its vision is to highlight and promote the remarkable work of the region’s finest designs with bespoke and handmade editions that re-work some of the old designs into contemporary pieces.

“This season we have covered more Arab countries and Arab designers from other countries, so we have more diversity,” Elmastouki told MEMO. “Everybody now trusts Stories from Arabia to showcase their talents and expose their ability in design.”

Nine designers with roots in the Middle East and North Africa featured this year in the third edition of Stories from Arabia. Inspired by the traditional colourful embroidery of Palestine and Jordan, Art Nouveau by Fedaa Assaf presented a vibrant collection combining elegance and simplicity while maintaining the traditional legacy and heritage of the region.

Another collection featuring traditional craftsmanship was Sonia Guerraoui’s Oriental Dream, which brought back the traditional Moroccan caftan with a hint of modernity. Ten models made their way onto the catwalk in elegant gowns made of either silk or luxurious velvet fabrics draped with cascading crystal embellishments and jewellery.

“I’m very proud to be here in London,” said Guerraoui, “and I’m very happy that the reputation of the Moroccan caftan is increasing and has become known worldwide and is always being revived.”

One collection that attracted the audience’s wows and cheers was Atelier Zuhra’s Swan Lake. With sheer fabrics including lace and tulle melded with considered mosaic elements and light-catching embellishments in a soft colour pallet, Omani designer Rania Sulaimany elevated the designs of the brand passed on to her from her mother to a superb level of elegance and sophistication making them look straight out of a fairy tale.

“I feel overwhelmed to be part of this event,” Sulaimany told us. ”I also hope that Atelier Zuhra will be able to take a place in the world of fashion and be appreciated and recognised worldwide.”

Kuwaiti designer Hessa Al-Hemel pointed out that showing at LFW is “breaking the chains between the cultures.” Her collection, The Yard, was inspired by the structure of Arabic houses and the curves of their doors, which is reflected in the shapely silhouettes highlighted in her designs. Meticulous embroidery adorns the pieces with “Behind every door is love” in Arabic.

A new luxury Italian ready-to-wear brand, Farfalla Milano by Ahmed Omran, launched its debut collection Volare during the week. This showcased a spectacular compilation of colourful and bold contemporary designs of the traditional abaya, in addition to a stylish and elegant range of soiree dresses and an exquisite bridal collection.

Farfalla at London Fashion Week in September 2018 [Jehan Alfarra/Middle East Monitor]

Farfalla — Italian for butterfly — was inspired by the breathtaking shapes and colour formations of the creature, creating a natural pattern of elegance and beauty. “When I thought about who might be the greatest artist infusing shapes and colours, it’s the Lord who created everything,” said Egyptian designer Omran, “so I took His work and printed it.” He describes participating in London Fashion Week as great, “because the butterfly was just an idea then it became a dream and now it’s a reality.”

Designer Ghadir Al-Ghemlas at London Fashion Week in September 2018 [Jehan Alfarra/Middle East Monitor]

Abeer Couture representative Ghadir Al-Ghemlas and her sister Abeer explored different silhouettes with the shapes of the dresses with a unique collection of feminine and chic gowns. “Our designs represent the Arabian woman, her style, her personality and her uniqueness as a lady with a chic look and elegant taste,” she told MEMO.

The show was concluded with the unique collection of 1MOR by Kuwaiti designer Amal Al-Fares. The brand’s name, which translates in Hindi to “1 peacock”, was born out of a fascination with the colours and patterns visible on the peacock’s feathers. This is what Al-Fares wanted to replicate and transmit through the specially chosen designs and exclusively woven fabrics used.

Without a doubt, Stories from Arabia’s Spring/Summer 2019 collections for London Fashion Week were nothing short of beautiful, elegant and luxurious

AG Couture at London Fashion Week on September 2018 [Jehan Alfarra/Middle East Monitor]

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