Rami Al Ali Reveals How Instagram Is Transforming The Bridal Industry

BY Milli Midwood / Nov 19 2019 / 17:44 PM

One of the Middle East’s reigning couturiers, powerhouse entrepreneur and indefatigable designer, beloved by brides everywhere, unveils his latest bridal collection and explains how he created a brand with a happily ever after...

Rami Al Ali Reveals How Instagram Is Transforming The Bridal Industry
Rami Al Ali Haute Couture Bridal 2020

Much has been written about Rami Al Ali’s aptitude for couture, shifting seamlessly between embellishments, fabrics, silhouettes and sentiment; and his appetite for bridalwear is just as strong.

His genius lies in his ability to absorb exactly what the consumer wants. “I don’t care if the client can walk or can sit in the dress,” he tells BAZAAR Bride on the set of his autumn/winter bridal shoot. “Most of the time, the brides themselves don’t really care if the dress is heavy or if it’s not really that comfortable, because that’s not what is going to last. What is going to last are the beautiful images and the impressions that the bride will leave on people.”

We’re sat in the opulent 1920s-esque space of Zabeel Saray’s Voi, Rami flicking between test shots on a laptop whilst his namesake brand’s 2020 bridal look book shoot is taking place behind us. “Gowns look so different to the design sketch when they come to life. Some, when you see them on the model, they disappoint you, and others surprise you. So it’s important for me to see what the lens is seeing, because it’s completely different from the normal eye.”

Rami grew up in Deir ez-Zor, a small city in Syria near the borders of Iraq and about as far away from the centre of fashion as one could imagine. After a stint at the College of Fine Arts in Damascus, the budding designer went on to create his eponymous label in 2000. His breakthrough moment came in 2009, when his spring/summer Haute Couture collection graced the runway at Rome’s AltaRoma Couture Week – and the rest, as they say, was sartorial history.

Fast-forward nearly 20 years and Rami’s empire now plays host to several stunning prêt-à-porter collections, a couture line worn by the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce, bridalwear, kidswear, and, more recently, a high street diffusion line with Charles & Keith. The designer himself also has a very philanthropic hand in the industry, from mentoring young couturiers at Esmod French Fashion University in Dubai to co-curating exhibitions that give platforms to Syrian artists.

Rami Al Ali Haute Couture Bridal 2020

The often exclusive and immodest undertaking of the fashion world is shunned by Rami, to whom maintaining perspective and an altruistic attitude has always been important.

“I noticed when I was scouting a few years back looking for people to add to my design team that it was difficult to find talented, academic graduates from this region who had professional experience. Most of them, after studying — or even sometimes whilst they are studying — lose enthusiasm and interest because they didn’t have any support or mentorship, so when they enter the market it’s a shock to them and their business. That’s why I feel so compelled to give back to the community,” says Rami. “It’s about supporting and nurturing talent from this region, to give them opportunities and show them that anything is possible and successful designers are not just a Western concept. We look at these big, fruitful, international names and we don’t find a relevance [to us in the Middle East], so we always think it’s someone else’s dream. But it is possible for young creatives to achieve this — they just need the right direction.”

Although having participated in the Middle East’s fashion’s metamorphosis and being responsible for shaping the region’s ever-changing landscape of style, the signature aesthetic of the Rami Al Ali woman still remains strong. She is romantic, modern, feminine, and boasts an unapologetic air of glamour, which is echoed throughout his 2020 bridal collection.

“For this collection we wanted to speak to a new [form of] client. Before, our client was very classic — which she still is when it comes to daywear or eveningwear — but recently we’ve noticed that when it comes to her wedding day, she shifts and becomes very modern and hip. She doesn’t want something too edgy, which she’ll later regret; she wants something classic, but with a twist. So that’s what we created with this collection — modern but timeless. We played in between both worlds.” The result? A collection of eight exquisite gowns that seem to take on a new shape with every turn.

Rami Al Ali Haute Couture Bridal 2020

“I don’t really follow seasonal trends when it comes to bridalwear,” he reveals. “Especially wedding gowns, it’s more about the theme that the bride is trying to create. If it’s an outdoor wedding, usually the bride likes the darker beige or champagne dresses. We also try to satisfy as many tastes as possible from the GCC market. In Kuwait, they are very much the trendsetters. They are bold in their fashion choices and like statement pieces; the UAE still likes gowns that are classical, timeless but slightly over-the-top in silhouette with lots of volume; Saudi brides sit in between Kuwait and the UAE, they still like the gowns to be dramatic, but like a modern twist; and Oman are quite old-school, almost vintage in their choices.”

Rami might have made his name as one of the most sought-after designers in the region, but he is also a shrewd businessman. The designer is not afraid to admit the importance that social media has on his creations.

“One of the first things my clients look for in a dress is how it will look in photos. A photograph is a realised memory, so she wants the image to be as beautiful as possible. We do consider trends, but ultimately we design wedding dresses that will be photographed well. Because of the evolution of social media, gowns with strong structures are becoming a bit more in-demand right now,” he says.

And thanks to social media democratising fashion, Instagram has become the driving force behind some of the brand’s biggest bridal sales.

“We initially started our Instagram for the same reason many companies do: to showcase our portfolio. It was like our magazine, our shop window,” explains Rami. “And then it became like our commercial catalogue; clients would see a stylised shot on Instagram and subsequently place an order. Less brides were coming in and trying [the dress] because they just wanted a real-life version of the image. The set-up you’ve created, in a look book shoot, they want a piece of that. So it’s not just about the dress, it’s about the whole package around the dress.”

Rami Al Ali Haute Couture Bridal 2020

When it comes to success stories, it’s hard to overlook the role that Instagram has had in putting not just Rami Al Ali, but many of the Middle East’s key brands, on the map.

The Middle East has a long history of amazing talent, but we were never exposed to a bigger market,” he continues. “But because of globalisation and the internet, we are now on the same platforms as international designers from the Western world. I also think that the taste and the style of the Middle Eastern client brings a new demand to the market that was not there before.”

If anyone epitomises the proverbial tale of reward gained from perseverance, hard work and bona fide benevolence, it’s Rami Al Ali.

From the autumn/winter 2019 issue of Harper's BAZAAR Bride