News Column

New generation of Saudis making foray into fashion world…

September 2, 2014


Arwa Al Ammari






Talent from Saudi Arabia are making waves in the world of fashion. Bringing their own indigenous elements to fashion, these young men and women are making their mark in designs which appeal to the fashion fraternity constantly on the look out for new styles.

One such innovative individual is a Riyadh-based fashion designer Arwa Al Ammari, founder of ArAm and winner of the Grazia Style Award for Emerging Talent, March 2014, who believes fashion is not only an art form but also a way of individual expression.

Ammari is a woman of many facets. "I play music, paint and sculpt too. I learned professional photography and have also participated in school theater plays besides my passion for fashion," she said.

She started designing her own outfits which captured the attention of people around her who later showed interest in her designs. "At that point I decided to refine my talent and passion by joining a fashion academy," she says.

Learning the art of fashion

Though Ammari studied public policy, planning and financing and holds a Masters degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science in addition to an MBA from the University of Leicester, UK, she decided to take up fashion seriously.

Her journey with art started when she was a child. "My parents used to enroll me in art classes abroad every summer. I took courses in different schools in the US and UK including oil painting, sculpting, sketching, photography and so on," she says.

To make her foothold in the fashion industry, she joined a French fashion school "ESMOD" to study fashion design. "The courses that I did earlier along with my passion for arts also shaped my artistic vision and taste," explains Ammari.

Since the launch of her brand ArAm a year ago, it has succeeded in influencing the KSA women's proclivity for fashion in a big way. Describing what makes her designs stand out, she said, "My designs are feminine, classy and contemporary. With this mantra, I am aiming to showcase femininity in a contemporary and classy form with cuts and color combinations that are catchy and memorable," she says.

Her designs are also so unique because their roots are deeply etched in her heritage. "Being a Saudi designer who comes from the heart of this region and having lived in Dubai gives me an advantage of being able to understand the norms, culture, heritage and social fabric of the people in this region," explains Ammari.

She has also been exposed to the global village, as an avid traveler who has visited more than 25 different countries in 4 continents which has enabled her to appreciate other societies, backgrounds, civilizations, and their arts and history. "This is what I'm trying to reflect in ArAM's designs," she exclaims.

Talking about her latest collection and how it transpired, she replied, "My latest collection titled "Tea Time at ArAm" is inspired by traditional English tea parties flavored with a hint of the 50s and 60s styles."

"Women who like to look elegant and turn heads will like these designs. When they wear my designs they feel so feminine and get compliments even from people who don't know them," she says.

"My greatest sources of inspiration are travel, architectural and historical landmarks, and art pieces," she says. "

She juxtaposes three mediums: painting, sculpting and photography dexterously in her work. Being a painter allows her eye to interpret colors and combine them in her designs. Sculpturing allows her to feel and imagine the silhouettes of her designs in advance. And photography gives her the eye to isolate an interesting scene or object.

When it comes to fabrics and colors, she ensures they gel well with the theme of her collection. "Personally I like strong colors which carry a statement. For example, in the "Tea Time at ArAm", I used pastel colors that match the dreamy mood of the collection. The same rule applies to fabrics. I personally lean toward fabrics that generate texture, but also serve the designs."

"At the end of the day, fashion design is about a way of expression. It's this blend and experience that you can see in my designs," she says.

Her favorite celebrities plus her take on Arab women's taste

She would like her pieces to shine on a variety of fashion icons. They include Sheikha Moza, Carla Bruni, Michelle Obama, Sarah Jessica Parker and Lupita Nyongo. "To me these ladies are fashion icons in terms of femininity and elegance," she says.

Fashion means a lot to people in the Gulf and the Middle East. They love to follow the latest international trends boosted by the recent revolution in social media.

"They are craving for new styles and have enough disposable income to dress fashionably," says Ammari.

"Arab women pay attention to detail and are fashion consumers of international brands."

However, they can overdo it sometimes. "You don't have to be dressed in designer brands all the time to look fashionable," she points out.

As her brand gets recognized, she will be bringing other items on board like leather goods, particularly shoes. "I want to see ArAm as an international brand over the next five years," she said.

Along with designing dresses, she believes in looking beautiful without becoming a victim of overindulgence. "I believe that "Less is more". This applies to make up and accessories, where the less you have the classier and more fashionable you look," she suggests.

On a personal note, she believes there is more to fashion than the art element. "The fashion industry is not only glamorous and elegant but also vibrant, dynamic, vigorous, challenging and competitive. This world welcomes innovation, creativity and freedom of expression. Above all, it has allowed me to unleash the entrepreneur inside me," she admits.

Asked about the Middle East emerging as another fashion hub of the world, she said, "It has evolved a lot during the past two decades. Dubai is already a global destination for shopping and on its way to becoming a fashion capital along with New York, London, Paris and Milan.

"There is so much new talent waiting to be discovered. However, new designers are struggling to find their way in a nascent and immature industry. This talent should be adopted and guided to find their way. I'd love to see an association for fashion and arts embrace these rising stars in the Middle East," she says.

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Source: Arab News (Saudi Arabia)

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