The Jeddah-based designer who launched her first collection back in 2012, talk’s about her inspirations, the process of creating her latest S/S17 pieces and what it was like attending Première Vision.
On being inspired by Bazaar’s legendary photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe:
Carefully arranged on her studio’s wall in curated groups are images taken by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, the groundbreaking photographer who spent 22 years at Harper's Bazaar, where she worked alongside Carmel Snow, Diana Vreeland and Alexey Brodovitch to redefine the look of American fashion. “Some of these images were taken in South America, California and Arizona at a time when American fashion publications were cut off from Europe during WWII. But the first place that came to mind when seeing these was the South for France,” notes the Saudi designer, of the Technicolor and monochrome images of models posing in sun-drenched outdoor settings wearing streamlined clothes by American mid-century designers such as Claire McCardell. “There is a modern casual attitude to the way they are dressed that served as the starting point for my S/S 2017 collection. Dahl-Wolfe was also an amazing colourist, and she would frequently manipulate her images to create these unique shades that I wanted to capture as well,” says Nora, who headed to Cannes in July to take time out to sketch her collection.
On exploring the world’s great promenades:
“There is another side to this resort town that goes beyond the borrowed frocks and glitz of the film festival’s red carpet, one which is closely linked to the fashion world,” observes the designer, in reference to the Boulevard de la Croisette, the seaside promenade stretching two miles along the Bay of Cannes. “During the ‘70s, ‘80s and early ‘90s it served as a catwalk of innovative street style. It wasn’t unusual to see designers such as Jean Paul Gautier, Thierry Mugler and Claude Montana seated at an outdoor café watching people stroll by to pick up inspiration. It’s interesting how seaside cities such as Jeddah, Rio and Beirut all boast a corniche where people go to see and be seen. So I began designing individual looks capturing the spirit of these legendary promenades around the world.”
On designing her Spring/Summer 2017 collection:
Back at her sunny studio in Jeddah, Nora laid out the dozens of design ideas she had sketched during her two weeks in the South of France. “There is always a process of editing and whittling down the sketches to the key looks that will form the collection,” says the Saudi designer, who will work with her team of patternmakers and seamstresses to translate her sketches into toiles or prototypes. Over the course of several weeks she will drape, cut and twist muslin into the desired shapes she is looking for on a tailor’s mannequin. “Watching my sketches take form is probably the most exciting part of the creative process. I may combine elements of several designs into one look, or realise that a certain sketch doesn’t work in three dimensions.”
On attending Première Vision for the first time:
“Première Vision marked a turning point in my career because I wanted to wait for my label to grow sufficiently in order to justify coming here,” says Nora, of the biannual trade fair, which has become a resource for fashion designers. “It provides a convenient venue to source everything designers would need to produce their collections,” notes Nora, who crossed paths with industry heavy weights while at the fair. “You see most of the international designers and their teams, walking amongst the stalls and speaking to different textile manufacturers. It’s a very different vibe than fashion week, in that it’s more calm and all about the business of making clothes,” says Nora, who by the end of the three-day expo had a bag heavy with fabric samples to consider for her upcoming collection, before placing orders with textile factories. “As a designer I’m constantly learning and growing, and for any career in fashion an understanding of fabrics is essential.”
Watch the Nora Al Shaikh La Croisette S/S17 video below:
Nora Al Shaikh’s collection is available at Sauce Boutiques in the U.A.E., NASS Boutique in Kuwait, Dress Me Fashion Store in Doha, and Cugini Boutique in Jeddah.