The Faces Of Fashion: BAZAAR Meets 8 Up-And-Coming Middle Eastern Designers

BY Harper's BAZAAR Arabia / Apr 11 2019 / 17:49 PM

From Egypt to Saudi Arabia, designers from across the region are breaking boundaries and finding recognition in the fashion capitals of the world. With collections steeped in history, culture and heritage, we reveal a new generation of Middle Eastern talent who are fast making their mark on the global fashion stage

The Faces Of Fashion: BAZAAR Meets 8 Up-And-Coming Middle Eastern Designers
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While catwalks and red carpets around the world already showcase the formidable spirit and vision of regional fashion couturiers, from Elie Saab and Zuhair Murad to Noon by Noor and Yousef Aljasmi, there is also a constant stream of prospering local talent with both the foresight and drive that awards them a merited place in the spotlight. From apparel designers and accessory creatives to those making inroads in jewellery-making, the newness of these names and the freshness of their perspective is what awakens our senses and alerts us to a new generation of talent that deserves our encouragement.

Through a series of captivating photographs shot across iconic locations in the fashion capital of Paris – including Place des Vosges, Les Marais, Quartier de l’Opéra and Centre Pompidou – here we celebrate the artistry of 10 avant-garde homegrown design houses and the creatives shaping the Middle Eastern diaspora. These rising names of 2019 spark intriguing conversation through their innovative and culturally-relevant designs that are intrinsically rooted in, and inspired by, the rich heritage of their founders. Come with us as we immerse ourselves in the stories that shaped the birth of these creative ventures, and allow yourself to draw inspiration from the journeys that lead to the here and now. The future belongs to those who believe in their dreams...
We believe. 

Christine Massarany

CHRISTINE MASSARANY, founder and designer

Clothes: Suit, Dhs3,310, Christine Massarany. Jewellery: Earrings, Dhs2,500; rings, from Dhs920, all Djewelled

“Being born and raised in Egypt was a motive for me to create designs that allow the complete opposite of conformity, and instead celebrate individuality and self-expression; we want our customers to stand out and to do so with elegance. We celebrate the handiwork, craft and talent of everyone who contributed in the creation of our pieces, which is something we value greatly here in the Middle East, alongside our family values and heritage. Middle Eastern women are constantly looking for the latest in styles and trends and we love to make a statement, we love to dress up in rich fabrics, which is something that my female clients come to me for.”

Melina Argyriou & Mina Abdou Youssef

MCOLLECTION, co-founder and head designer

Clothes: Shirt, Dhs680, Maison Cléo. Jewellery: Necklaces, from Dhs1,100; earrings, Dhs1,395, all MCollection

“Our signature lies in our inspiration, which beautifully merges authentic Egyptian handcraft inherited through our generations of family jewellers, with modern European appeal from our Greek roots. Our design statement comes from how we’ve set the trend in layering minimal jewellery. The Middle East has always been incredibly rich and mesmerising and the source of inspiration to many designers, and we draw a lot of inspiration from talisman symbols engraved in our culture, tradition and everyday modern lives. Middle Eastern women have always been leaders when it comes to setting trends, which is something our clients look for when owning or gifting an MCollection piece. We’re proud to re-introduce our authentic craft and bring it about in such a fresh modern appeal for both the Middle Eastern and global citizen to enjoy.”

Deema Turki

OTKUTYR assistant/in-house designer

Clothes: Dress, Dhs1,955, Ot Kutyr Fashion House

“The flamboyant rich Arab culture is definitely represented at the core of our collections – there is no fear of any colour or print when it comes to fashion. As much as it’s festive, it is still very functional and wearable. There is no one way to be an Arab – or Saudi – designer or artist. It is and should be a personal expression, and a representation of their own interpretation of identity and culture. With our pieces we are bringing a certain bravery and experimentation to the region along with a very young spirit. We encompass an awareness to ethical, slow fashion and thrive on the ability to be able to up-cycle, whilst at the same time recognising the importance of collaborations. When it comes to our customer in the Middle East, they are looking for brands and designs with a story behind them, an identity they can relate to and above all, individuality. With one of the largest and youngest populations on earth, we look to the region to build and develop a long-term relationship… and who better at knowing the needs and evolving style than designers and local producers? And that’s truly what Otkutyr is all about, creating a fashion culture by launching designer brands and producing locally.”

Letitia Gasser & Lina Kobeissi

LX2 STUDIO, founders and designers

Clothes: Top, Dhs606, Dina Shaker. Jewellery: Earrings, Dhs7,730; rings, from Dhs1,215, both LX2 Studio.

“Being based, as we are, between Dubai and Cairo, allows us to proudly draw inspiration from the Middle East, but also cities around the world. Our first autumn/winter collection celebrated the underground art scenes and culture of Berlin, while our upcoming S/S19 collection, which is due to be released in June, celebrates Luxor. Women in the region are looking for edgy and modern pieces that tell a story. The Middle East has come out with so many incredible designers and brands, but we truly travel the world and bring back these unique stories through our collections and pieces. The Middle East is so important to us personally, first-and-foremost because we are from here, and secondly, we see how the region has grown in terms of design, which makes us incredibly proud. This is our time to be part of that growth.”

Dina Shaker

DINA SHAKER, founder and designer

Egypt is a country with an immense diversity of cultural expressions; indeed this cosmopolitan uniqueness has enriched my artistic expressions and acted as a melting pot between my heritage and identity. Fused together with the boldness of modern art and creativity, I create artistic statement pieces to help women connect to their own personal style. The modern Middle Eastern woman is looking for trendy innovative designs that will suit her lifestyle with all its challenges and changes, without sacrificing her identity and cultural roots, with modesty playing a big factor in influencing their choices. The need for emerging fashion designers from the region arises day after day. We must continue to step up our game – not for others, but for ourselves.”

Nagwa Zahran

NAGWA ZAHRAN, Founder and designer

Dress, Dhs4,416, Nagwa Zahran

“Fashion and culture go hand in hand — our collections provide a non-verbal communication about our Egyptian history and heritage, portrating who we are, where we come from and what we represent. The more we learn about culture, the greater our understanding of the future of global consumerism in fashion. The Middle East has always played a crucial role in shaping the fashion industry and I aim to convey its culture through our signature use of colour in our designs in order to appeal to the typical Middle Eastern woman who is very experimental and innovative, and who is looking for something that will make her stand out from the crowd. We’re all about feminine style combined with its elusiveness and creativity — we want to bring a sense of excitement to everyday wear.”

Dena Essam

DJEWELLED, founder and designer

Rings, from Dhs1,990, all Djewelled

“We live in Egypt, a country that is so full of heritage, statement beauty and colour, and that’s what inspires me mainly with my jewellery. A lot of the pieces draw from cultural muses, especially geometric ones, which were heavily influenced by the use of layering and our signature pop of colour with our pavé precious stones. The Middle East has always been a trendsetter, since ancient times, from fashion to culture and we’re so proud to see designers from this region expressing our beautiful art and culture all over again across various industries in unprecedented ways. With each collection we create, we aspire to stay individual and re-invent ourselves in a different way. There is always room to push the design envelope a little further. When it comes to the Middle East market, things are always evolving, and that’s the best part of working with a jewellery brand where we can always adapt styles. Our style statement comes in a minimal sense, derived from layering multiple pieces together that create one statement, yet refined a look. And that’s what women look for when they choose our jewellery. Our designs bring about self-expression and individuality through styling and personalization of color. Two people can own the same piece from Djewelled, but could style it in ten different ways that define them and that’s the playful part we love. We’re proudly creating things that celebrate us and Egypt’s inspiring surroundings.”

Nawara Mohamed

MAZOURA, founder and chief designer

Clothes: Dress, Dhs730, Mazoura. Jewellery: Earrings, Dhs2,500; rings, from Dhs920, all LX2 Studio

“Egypt has such a rich legacy, it’s hard to not be influenced by its beautiful cultural heritage. Cairo had always been known as the Paris of the Middle East, where Egyptians had an unmatched elegance to their style. We have incorporated this into our clothing designs, which are elegant, comfortable, easy, effortlessly beautiful, and feminine. The individual merging of quality fabrics and garments, which we custom-make in our atelier in Giza, are also things that make the brand stand out. The style of women in the Middle East is getting recognised more and more, and Arab women all over the region are being celebrated for their elegant and modest dress. Our customers in the Middle East seek fashion-forward style, uniqueness, and ease, and it’s an important region because our culture frequently brings us together for so many different occasions and we love to dress up. We are a society who loves to get-together, with on-going events all year long and many occasions call for us to change our wardrobe regularly.”

Sherhan Tamam

CAPA, founder and designer

Clothes: Suit, Dhs976, Capa. Jewellery: Earrings, Dhs2,610; rings, from Dhs295, all Noha Abbassi

“We are literally between two worlds – the Western culture and the Eastern culture. Our designs merge the two styles, while maintaining the cultural norm of modesty with its variety. The inspiration for our collections are drawn from the strong Egyptian women I am surrounded by and our designs are bold, powerful, unique, elegant, bright, and modest – luxury, modest and fashion-forward designs that are made from high quality fabrics for every woman. The Middle East has a long and rich history and with that comes a hearty heterogeneous culture. We’re seeing lately that cultural norms have been changing at an exponential rate. This shift has opened many doors in which the fashion industry has flourished.”

Noha Abbassi 

NOHA ABBASSI JEWELLERY, founder and designer (jewellery pictured above)

“Craftsmanship and beauty have always been part of our beautiful Egyptian story and that’s what we honour with every creation as part of my family legacy ever since my great grandfather started out in 1881. We aim to create beautifully and soulfully handcrafted collectible pieces that every woman can enjoy. I now proudly carry that helm by fusing these beautiful techniques with style staples for the modern Middle Eastern woman of today, a woman who is looking for statement pieces that are rich in design, material and contrast, and that have a winning effect. The Middle East is a place of authenticity, rich history and heritage with endless inspiration and material – a true muse for international design houses all over the world.” 

Prices approximate

Photography: Amr Ezzeldine

Production: Maison Mehany x Ajour

Creative direction and styling: Maison Mehany

Project Consultancy and PR: Ajour Consultancy

Hair and make-up: Kenya Vallet

Fashion assistants: Salma el Toukhi, Amina el Bishry and Lina Nahhas

Models: Yousra Mohsen, Salwa Rajaa, Stessy Emelie

From the April 2019 Issue of Harper's BAZAAR Arabia