Couture and culture: Arab designers in the spotlight at London Fashion Week

Couture and culture: Arab designers in the spotlight at London Fashion Week
4 min read
17 September, 2018
An array of flamboyant, vibrant and beautifully crafted outfits by Arab designers showcased at the Stories from Arabia event as part of London Fashion Week.
Kuwaiti-Italian designer 1MOR's Green Emerald collection represented a royal summer [Rabi'ah M]
London Fashion Week has for years been associated with leading Western fashion brands exhibiting at the most happening venues in the heart of London. 

But Jalila El Mastouki, a London based entrepreneur, was determined to make a change. She created an event at London Fashion Week called Stories from Arabia in hopes of bridging the gap between Eastern and Western fashion. In a short space of time, she turned the new concept into a must-attend event for lovers of ethnic and Arab fashion.

The third edition of Stories from Arabia took place on Sunday at the prestigious venue, the Institute of Directors, followed by an after-party featuring renowned Arab fashion designers.

For Jalila, it was an excellent way to create an elite platform for Arab fashion designers unable to participate in the main event at London Fashion Week, which kicked off on September 14, to showcase their talent.  

Luckily, her hard work paid off as Stories from Arabia became one of the biggest Arab platforms for emerging and established designers.

Keeping in mind its previous two editions, this event continues to maintain its grace in stunning the attendees, whether it is the venue, the participating fashion designers or the overall presentation of the event.

Sunday's event featured designers from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Morocco, Jordan, and Egypt, whose work revives the craftsmanship of the traditional embroideries from the Middle East and the North African region, infused with a Western touch.

Saudi Arabian designer Alia al-Swaf of SWAF Design expressed her eagerness in participating at the event and being able to represent her country.

"My collection was inspired by summer sunrises," she tells The New Arab. 

"I watched the sunrise every day and observed the colour gradient; black, brown, green and orange. I wanted to show femininity through this collection by focusing on the waist area and the movement of the fabrics on a woman's body as she walks."

Kuwaiti-Italian designer 1MOR also showcased her collection at the event. Entitled Green Emerald, it represented a royal summer among palaces and peacock gardens of the Indian Maharajas.

"I love wearing styles that stand out of the crowd and this has certainly helped me to fuel my passion for designing," the designer revealed.  

1MOR's Green Emerald collection [Rabi’ah M]

Talking to The New Arab about the collection, she added: "I wanted to illustrate refinement, sophistication and an unmistakable palette of quality and colour. 

"The S/S19 collection showcases couture and elegance whilst all of the embroidery and stone and metal embellishments are handcrafted."

For Rayan al-Sulaimani of Atelier Zuhra from UAE, her aspirations were to make a place for her brand in the world of fashion.

"I want my passion for fashion and creativity to be recognised and appreciated globally at such events," she said, adding that the Stories from Arabia was "an obvious and significant step" for her brand's progress.

"The vision of this unique platform is to indulge London with the Middle Eastern culture and expose the remarkable work of the designers from Arabia. I believe this is an ideal platform to share my brand with the rest of the world."

The vision of this unique platform is to indulge London with the Middle Eastern culture and expose the remarkable work of the designers from Arabia

Ecstatic about the collection Swan Lake, Rayan emphasises the fairytale inspiration and the way there is an embodiment in the search for true love in her work.

"We have used sheer fabric such as lace and tulle to give a soft and delicate vibe to the collection. An attempt has been made to create designs which enhance and illuminate the femininity of a woman."

Atelier Zuhra's Swan Lake collection [Rabi'ah M]

But for Alia, it was not just about the fashion, it was also about representing Saudi women on a larger scale.  

"It is about taking a stand for Saudi women, and acting as a representative that they exist and are strongly based on their ideas and knowledge," she said. "Not only have I proven myself through this event, but I shall continue to do so."

Rayan also felt overwhelmed at representing her country. "This collection of mine is an overall ode to my roots."

The hustle and bustle of fans busy taking photographs with the designers, fashionistas, influencers, and bloggers, highlighted how well the event turned out. 

Fashion designer, Fatima Omar, from the Emirati label Ravenna expressed her joy over the plethora of Arab fashion designers all clustered under a single roof.

Her second time at the event, she found it "truly inspirational" to witness such a high profiled event that featured the crème of the Arab glamour, fashion, and lifestyle.

"To me, attending the Stories from Arabia event has reinvented the status of London Fashion Week since we generally only see mainstream Western designers," Fatima said.

"This is a fresh approach that will encourage more creative individuals to come forward and participate."

Rabi’ah M is a London-based journalist covering arts, culture, entertainment, lifestyle, and fashion.

Follow her on Instagram: @bohemian_danoosh