Meeting British-Yemeni designer Kaffa Mockbill

Meeting British-Yemeni designer Kaffa Mockbill
Society: The award-winning designer speaks about her latest collection and her experiences within the Middle East fashion industry.
3 min read
21 October, 2016
Mockbill's autumn collection is inspired by floral designs and classic silhouettes
Arab Fashion Week showed off some of the most elaborate and stunning craftsmanship as diamonds, crystals and baroque stormed the runway in Dubai.

The event prides itself on giving designers a platform to share their work with an international audience, working towards being on par with its sister shows in New York, London, Paris and Milan.

Although the show doesn't limit itself to local Arabic talent or Arab nationals, this year the majority of designers hailed from Middle Eastern backgrounds, all ready to show off their Ready-Couture creations.

With more and more Middle Eastern designers taking the plunge into the world of high-end fashion, following the likes of Elie Saab and Yousef al-Jasmi, both designers who have worked with A-list celebrities such as pop sensation Taylor Swift and supermodel Karlie Kloss, The New Arab talked to young British-Yemeni designer Kaffa Mockbill - awarded Best Arab Fashion Designer of the West 2012 - on her collection and experiences within the Middle East fashion industry.

As a young entrepreneur, she tells us that "after trying to figure out what it is I really wanted to do in life, I went on to studying fashion".

Yet, like many acclaimed designers from Alexandra Wang, Coco Chanel to Donna Karan, she soon dropped out of college after not getting along with her tutors.

"I received a backlash of criticism from them about not being able to be a fashion designer without their help, so straight away I started my own collection. I never thought that I'd be here today."

Yet luckily for her, despite such negative feedback, Kaffa persevered and went launched her first collection in the autumn of 2012. Kaffa's career took off.

Looking at her collections, it's obvious that Kaffa's designs vary from client to client - from her stunning white bridal gowns to gold-threaded abayas, her intricate and tailored creations appeal to both Western and Eastern buyers making her a rare jewel in the fashion industry.

"I don't specifically design for anyone in particular, but I do concentrate on modest dresses for my Muslim clients, customising gowns to their specific requirements."

She says that she is inspired by labels such as Michael Cinco, Elie Saab, Georges Hobeika, Yousef al-Jasmi, Ashi Studio and vintage Chanel and Dior - all designers that are known for their intricate beading and threading - features that appeal to both young Muslim girls and to wider Western audiences who can't resist a bit of glitz and glam.

"My designs are different - they speak a thousand and one stories to me. I love to use different materials and colours and like to experiment with different cuts," she says.

Despite commenting that some people may look at her designs and think "what in God's world is that?" or "who would even buy that?" Kaffa remains confident in herself and her work, longing to create haute-couture in the Gulf region.

"The dream is to have my pieces sold worldwide. I want to make my parents proud - as they are the ones who pushed me day in day and day out to become a better person and better designer."

Social media has allowed Arab designers to communicate with global audiences, giving them a voice and reach that they previously didn't have.

Like many up-and-coming designers, Kaffa displays most of her work on her Instagram page, drawing attention from hundreds of admirers from around the world.

"In the past you wouldn't hear that there are fashion designers from the Emirates or the Gulf region in general, but now having access to social media as a main platform for sharing designs, you have designers emerging on a daily basis with their main audiences being on Instagram and snapchat."

Check out Kaffa Mockbill
's designs on her Instagram and Facebook pages

Follow Priyanka Jethwa on Twitter: @priyankajethwa9