"My modesty never once stopped me from doing what I wanted to do it was never a barrier for me,” smiles Azza Al Azabawy, the 6o-year-old head of buying for the UAE’s Marina Pharmacy group and mother of Dubai-based Egyptian fashion designer, Maha Abdul Rasheed.
Azza’s daughter Maha’s fashion line Bambah was established in 2010 and is an established player in the Middle East eveningwear market, selling delightfully frothy confections crafted from lace, florals and lavish organzas executed in bombshell silhouettes and often tipped with bows from an elegant standalone store in Dubai’s chic City Walk development.
While Bambah’s party-perfect gowns have captured the imagination of a market eager for photogenic eveningwear, their off-the-shoulder necklines or waterfall skirt hems have made many designs off-limits to customers who prefer to cover up; a customer typified by Maha’s mother Azza, who has been veiled since the birth of her first child in 1984. “The concept of modest clothing is very dear to my heart as my mother is always on the hunt for stylish and modest pieces that express her own unique individuality,” 31-year-old Maha tells Bazaar. “My mum has been veiled since before I was born so I have always had the concept in my mind and heart and so I grew up being fully aware of it.”
Bambah Modest at Torino Fashion Week:
The family travelled widely when Maha, her older brother Hussain – the founder of Dubai concept store Zoo – and their younger brother Tareq were small, vacationing in Florida and visiting China. Azza recalls never being made to feel uncomfortable in her choice of dress. “I have lived in so many different countries and interacted with different societies and cultures and I always wore what I wanted to wear,” she says. As a veiled woman, for Azza this means covering arms and legs in loose clothing. “Nothing too tight or sheer,” she qualifies. While the mother-of-three never felt restricted in her fashion choices, explaining that her decision to dress modestly, “has not limited my style sense in any way and I still find outfits and pieces that express my style,” her daughter became increasingly aware that as a fashion designer she too has a role to play within the modest movement. “When Bambah was born in the heart of the Middle East I cam to realise how important it was in this region,” Maha says. This month Maha is launching Bambah’s first ever capsule collection of modest pieces. The 20 styles include chic tunics, enveloping cocoon jackets and the label’s signature feminine eveningwear in floor-sweeping lengths. Designed to appeal to women regardless of faith or fashion preferences, the capsule builds on Bambah’s previous limited edition Ramadan lines and the bespoke eveningwear it creates for clients who wish to be more covered.
It’s part of the growing movement within luxury fashion to embrace modesty, which has been building momentum since Valentino’s romantic sensibility developed under Pierpaolo Piccioli and his then co-creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri, which began to gain traction at the start of this decade. Recently, the launch of UAE-based e-tailer The Modist has amplified the conversation around celebrating modest fashion and making it relevant to a modern, discerning woman.
Maha is adamant that high fashion and a modest sensibility can co-exist, both culturally and aesthetically. “My mum is my biggest example,” she tells Bazaar. “As I watch her get ready every morning, I see her inner beauty.
She gives priority to practicality and comfort and she’s always so confident and effortless in anything that she wears. She wears a lot of light colours, soft linens and pearl necklaces with of course the most glamorous shoes ever. She rules the boardroom with her presence. She makes me want to become stronger, kinder and wiser – she shows me what it looks like when life is done well.” Which is ultimately the true essence of modesty.
Visit www.bambah.com and read more in the July/August issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia - out now.