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  • Writer's pictureMajid Alhusseini

10 Arab Designers You Should Know About.

The Middle East is a variegated and colorful universe when it comes to clothes and attires for both men and women, which intern led to the region giving birth to many great designers. From the legendary Ziryab of the medieval Islamic period to modern fashion legends like Ellie Saab, the Middle East has been home to iconic designers that were able to leave a mark in the field. For the first time in a long time, Arab fashion and trend has become increasingly present on the world stage, with that being said, here are 10 Arab designers you should know about.

Amine Bendriouich, is a Moroccan fashion designer and founder of his eponymous fashion label. Born in the mid-80s, he was inspired by the aesthetics of his generation, after obtaining a degree in fashion design at ESMOD Tunis, Bendriouite went on to establish his label which fuses pop authenticity, urban aesthetics and Moroccan cultural heritage with a hint of this certain "je-ne-sais-quoi" that keeps fashion going. Based out of his Atelier, Bendriouite works with local craftsmen to design his collections. He tells stories through his clothing, each season has a spontaneous theme that symbolizes his unique perception of the world we live in. His unisex style draws a lot of admiration, whether it's from the local young Moroccan generation or people abroad in Paris, New York, Amsterdam, London, Berlin, Tunis and Lagos. Iconic opinion leaders such as Vogue ltaly ,Grazia France and Schön! Magazine recognized him for his creative energy and unique style. He was also honored as one of the laureates of the OpenMyMed Prize in 2017 of the Maison Mediterranean Des Metiers de la Mode. Bendriouite's creative energy is felt across many different fields, apart from fashion, he's also heavily involved in Morocco's cultural and music scene, and was awarded the opportunity to work with the world’s leading embroidery software manufacturers Tajima. Bendriouite was also invited to the Adidas GH as a guest speaker and to lead a workshop for in-house designers. He also often collaborates with renowned international artists, such as London-based Hassan Hajjaj , American painter Kehinde Wiley, and musicians such Keziah Jones and Massive Attack. Weather it's in fashion, the music scene or cultural scene, Bendriouite uses his creative energy to gives citizens of the world the opportunity to express their attitudes.

2-Arwa Al Banawi

Arwa Al-Banawi is a Saudi Arabian fashion designer, she's the Founder and Creative Director of her eponymous fashion label Arwa Al Banawi. Al-Banawi grew up in a fashion savy family, -“my mum wore Chanel pieces that were designed by Coco herself and vintage Yves Saint Laurent, my father loved bespoke suiting and my grandfather owned cool, retro Versace shirts”- says Al-Banawi, so it was inevitable for her to get into fashion. The idea for her brand came after she got bored of the regular suits she wore to her corporate job as an investment banker and decided to switch up her style and cuts. She wanted clothing that is both professional and fashion forward for young businesswomen. She would then go on to establish her own namesake brand in 2015 after studying at the London College Of Fashion In Dubai, her work is mostly inspired by Middle Eastern women, she deigns garments for empowered woman that feature clever and comfortable elements mixed in with a chic aesthetic, making the pieces easy to travel and work in. Banawi also aims to bridge the gap between high fashion and street wear by blending traditional tailoring with contemporary ”East meets West” perspectives. Al-Banawi's tailored suits and statement tees have been spotted in the pages of Vogue, New York Times, Grazia and were ported by some of the hottest street style star in the world. Al-Banawi also collaborated with Adidas Originals, Levi's and Pepsi, she also designed the garments used in a Mercedes-Benz campaign and starred in Generation M.E an OSN series that premiered on E! Entertainment. In 2019, Al-Banawi a received the Designer Of The Year By Award Grazia Style Awards in 2019. Al-Banawi continues to design for "the suitable women" and there's only more to come from her.

3-Artsi Ifrach

Artsi Ifrach is a self- taught Moroccan fashion designer and the visionary behind Maison ARTC, a popular Moroccan fashion label. Artsi was born in Jerusalem, he started out as a ballet dancer and taught himself how to make clothes while living in Paris and Amsterdam. After presenting his first collection at Paris fashion week, He made a conscious choice to go back to his motherland, Morocco. That was because, he believes that in order to look at the future, we must reflect on the past, he believes in preserving rather than throwing away, that is where the idea for Maison ARTC was born. He gathers vintage garments and textiles, then recreates them using his creativity and imagination, resulting in experimental and daring designs, combining tradition and modernity. His latest series Piece Of Mind deals with identity and the art of self expression. Artsi also took part in many iconic collaborations such as The Bright Side, a collaboration between photographer Azim Haidaryan and Artsi Ifrach (Maison ARTC) for the T MAGAZINE of New York Times. Another collaboration was a showcase at the Voice Gallery in Marrakesh, which showcased a collaboration between Artsi Ifrach and a photographer by the name of Musla Bravat, they called their collaboration Artsymous, where they mixed North African culture with Western influences. In a time where fashion has often lost it's creative element, Ifrash looks beyond social media trends and uses his creativity and imagination to inspire a new evolution and makes people feel emotionally connected to every piece and image that he creates.

4-Faissal El-Malak

Faisal El-Malak is a Palestinian fashion designer who grew up between Qatar and Kuwait. Early on, he decided to study fashion and went to Paris. For his graduation project, he created tights and leggings that were cut and sewn, rather than knit, so they would last longer. That creation inspired El-Malak to start his own brand. He returned to Qatar after graduation and spent time coming up with ideas for clothing that would incorporate his roots in some way. He started exploring embroidery and textile traditions from many different countries around the region, he would then release his creation, collection by collection working with Artisans, each one inspired by a different country in the region. After releasing a number of collections, he was able to have an impact on the fashion industry and secured a position as a finalist in the first Dubai edition of Who’s on Next? — a competition run by Vogue Italia. One of the looks from that collection was acquired by London’s prestigious Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A). El-Malak would also go on to explore different creative fields other than fashion. He created two textile works that were part of the Maraya Art Center Collection and another that he presented at Dubai Design Week in 2018. He also participated and won in the Sabeel competition to design drinking fountains for Expo 2020, along with his friend Alia bin Omair who is a jewelry designer. Faissal El-Malak's explorations are guided by his curiosity about the Arab world and beyond, it result in the creation of objects that reflect his identity and personal narrative.

5-Faiza Bouguessa

Faiza Bouguessa is a French Algerian fashion designer and founder of Dubai based fashion label, Bouguessa. Her love for fashion and clothing started when she learned the basics of knitting and sewing on the hands of her grandmother as a child, she went on to intern in many in tailor shops while studying English literature in university. Through those internships, she was able learn the basics of pattern making and developed an understanding for fabric characteristics. in 2014, she founded Bouguessa, her own fashion label, which focuses on blending minimalist sophistication and feminine elegance, merging global trends and contemporary classics inspired by art, architecture and modern design , as well as blending Middle Eastern style with Western chic. Bouguessa releases 3 collections a year, and in In 2017, Beyonce attended the Saint Heron party in Los Angeles on Monday wearing a tulle House of CB mini-dress paired with an emerald green velvet by Bouguessa, which led to the entire collection being sold out after Queen B Instagramed it. For 2021, Bouguessa plans to take a step towards sustainability, In an open letter, she admits,"Being part of an industry that is one of the most polluting in the world, I feel it is my responsibility to take that mission a step further by starting a new chapter and shift the way we run our business, and produce our collections towards a more Eco-conscious and sustainable approach." She plans to do this by re-lunching her Signature line using only recycled material from existing stock. Bouguessa was able implement her ethos of minimalist sophistication and feminine elegance into unique clothing pieces and she plans to continue and build upon her success in the future, making her brand global with a bigger emphasis on sustainability.

6-Fatema Al-Fardan

Fatema Al-Fardan is an Emirati fashion designer and the founder of her namesake ready-to-wear women’s label in Dubai. She was born in the UAE in 1987 and graduated from the American Intercontinental University (AIU) in London with a First Degree Honors in Fashion Design and Marketing. Al-Fardan grew up in a fashion forward family and developed a fascination for colors, styles and fabrics at the age of 9, filling her textbooks with sketches of dresses, tops and skirts. As a young designer, her innovative style earned her the "Most Outstanding Student Award"and the Fashion Show Competition at the AIU in London for women’s wear design in 2011. Al-Fardan's career began with designing for formidable fashion houses such as Tata Naka and Bora Aksu in the UK, as well as an internship with Louis Vuitton in the Middle East. She then went onto explore Textile Design and Fashion Marketing at the London College of Fashion and Central Saint Martin’s, where she has developed an international vision for design. A vision to establish a label that would set a new standard of elegance for women's designs that are masterfully draped, well tailored, and that emphasize femininity and luxury through colors, fabrics and prints inspired culture, ethnicity and values. Al-Fardan debuted her 2015 collection in New York Fashion Week, as the first Emirati designer to ever participate in the festival. She turned her gallery into a garden and brought the Middle East to NYFW with her folklore inspired pieces, making her debut a memorable one. Shortly after launching her label, she dressed the actress, Eva Longoria, at the Dubai International Film Festival press conference with a feminine, floral pink chiffon dress, that was part of her first collection. Fatema designs for the self assured woman of today, to flatter their subtle sensuality and feminine simplicity.

7-Lama Al-Bluwi

Lama Al-Bluwi is a Saudi Arabian fashion designer based in Jeddah city. Growing up in metropolitan Jeddah, Al-Bluwi felt disconnected from her ancestral home of Al-Ula (a city in the North-West of Saudi Arabia) which led to her craving for the the wealthy cultural heritage of her household's Bedouin roots. This craving manifested in the creation of unique fashion pieces that blend the cloth designs that her ancestors once wore with the latest trends in fashion. Shortly after she graduated in Trend Design from Jeddah’s Dar Al-Hekma College, she debuted her first collection, made up of hand-drawn portraits of the Bedouin that she prints onto native materials such as coats, jackets, crop-top hoodies and out-sized T-shirts. “I’ve all the time drawn Bedouin portraits, so I combined all my concepts to current a modern assortment for my senior assortment and my senior venture at college,”-she stated. Her collection became an instant hit on Instagram, it grabbed the attention of prospects uninterested in the extra predictable high-street fare. Even though Al-Ula's Bedioun heritage is the muse of her work, she is also inspired by Japanese tradition, notably the idea of wabi-sabi — the artwork of imperfection."Whenever you see my clothes, you’ll discover that the seams are inside out, and the perimeters are uncooked. I applied the imperfections in my designs." -She stated, “I don’t like seeing one thing polished, so I began to enter the historical past of imperfection, and I got here throughout this Japanese philosophy.” With the Saudi Arabian government implementing it's 2030 vision for financial diversification and showcasing cultural diversity, Al-Bluwi along with other young Saudi designers are set to spread their wings in the coming years.

8-Mayada Adil

Mayada Adil is a Sudanese fashion designer and doctor living between Khartoom and Paris. Her first collection released in 2017 under the name A Nubian Queen, which was dedicated to Sudanese women, and inspired by the queens that once ruled Sudan The Kingdom Of Kush, to remind them of their history. The idea for her second collection came about when she started working with the World Health Organization to help refugees and give them treatment as a doctor. Adil worked with South Sudanese refugees, she interacted with different cultures and tribes in Sudan, she found that the garments they wore were beautiful, very colorful and had unique patterns on them that she'd never seen before. That inspired Adil to create a fashion collection dedicated to them in 2018. Her work as a doctor was very stressful to her, so she would always turn to fashion as a getaway. Through her collection that she dedicated to the refugees, she was able to merge her work as a doctor with her passion for fashion. Her collection, which was showcased at UNESCO in Paris in 2018, was also a way for her to empower those refugees she worked with. The refugees were not allowed to work outside of the camp, so the collection allowed them to have an income through collaborating with Adil, to help create those unique fashion pieces. The clothes were made from sustainable material sowed on Wool, which was the first of it's kind in Africa. Adil's upcoming third collection will be a collaboration with two other fashion designers who are refugees, Ibrahim from Chad and Zahra from Somalia, the aim is to create a collection that merges the three cultures. Adil was able to use her passion for fashion to empower refugees, showcase her culture and build something creative in the fashion industry. Based on the plans she announced for the future, she's only getting started.

9-Meera Adnan

Meera Adnan is a Palestinian fashion designer and owner of her contemporary, ready to wear namesake label, which is based and operated out of Gaza city. She was born in Gaza, grew up in Saudi Arabia, and moved back to Gaza ( her grandparents aren’t originally from Gaza but from the town Lod, located in Palestine next to Midreshet Ben-Gurion, both of her parents were born in refugee camps.) As a refugee under UN laws, she met fellow refugees who aren't originally from Gaza but now live there as refugees. While attending university in Gaza to study accounting, Meera developed a passion for style and fashion as, she saw it as a way to express her feelings and emotions. Eventually, she enrolled in school for fashion merchandising in Munich, but couldn’t attend due to border closures. Instead, she took an internship at a fashion-marketing firm in Hamburg, Germany. During this time, after working under someone, she realized that she wanted to start her own label. She chose to start the label in Gaza with hopes of shedding light on a different perspective of where she is from. Adnan’s collection is deeply personal. The clothes skew oversized, a feature that stemmed from her smaller frame, she also took much of her inspiration from family photo albums from the ’70s and ’80s, when the men wore pink, blue, and green pants and the women experimented with their hairstyles. The latest campaign photo shoot from MEERA ADNAN has been inspired by the struggle of uncertainty and isolation currently being felt across the globe, and reflects that of feelings of the residents of the Gaza Strip, who have felt isolated due to living under siege. “Personally experiencing isolation has opened my eyes to the crucial consequences of the social and cultural separation and how it shapes younger generations”-said Adnan. “Thus, with this pandemic, I believe that many people have experienced a small part of how geographic limitations can affect human psychology and creativity, as highlighted in the photo-shoot. It shows how much separation can manipulate and affect human emotions and consequently increase uncertainty, sense of displacement, and self-indulgence. Visualizing self-indulgence humanizes the experience of individuals living under siege, displacement, war etc. It highlights diversity and individualism while also craving human connection and familiarity.” Adnan's style highlights the importance of story telling, it allowed her to create something original in the fashion industry.

10-Karim Adduchi

Karim Adduchi is an illustrator and fashion designer from the mountains of Imzouren in Morocco. He received an art education at the University of Barcelona, he then moved to Amsterdam to further his education. After an urge to express himself through fashion, he decided to tell his story and showcase his heritage through his first collection, which received much attention from the press, a week later, he was asked to open Amsterdam Fashion Week. The success of his show led him make a second collection dedicated to Syrian refugees and give them that same opportunity of creative expression. That same year, Forbes Europe and Forbes Middle East included him in their 30 under 30 list, as one of the most influential designers to watch. He was also honored with the Amsterdam Culture Business Award as a Moroccan designer in Europe, showcasing the bridges between Arab and Western cultures. His fashion was bringing a new approach that had never been seen before. That success led to him being asked to join the official program of Paris Fashion Week AW 19/20 with his first ever Ready-To-Wear collection. The collection, titled Maktub (Written), tells the story of destiny using Moroccan fabrics, embroideries, prints and designs. Karim Adduchi broke boundaries by being the First Moroccan in many fields. Nowadays, Adduchi continues to support migrant and refugee artisans through the World Makers Foundation, a platform that connects these talented communities with the outside world in the hopes of building a network of opportunities to showcase their work, in addition to his collections and shows, with the latest one being in June last year.

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