The Global Soul: Saudi Designer Daneh Buahmad Takes Stock Of An Industry In Transition

BY Alex Aubry / Dec 21 2016 / 20:18 PM

Despite remaining under the radar since launching her label in 2011, next season may prove to be a turning point in Daneh Buahmad’s career. The Saudi designer speaks to Bazaar about breaking the industry’s glass ceiling and acquiring a seat at the ‘table.’

The Global Soul:  Saudi Designer Daneh Buahmad Takes Stock Of An Industry In Transition
Todd Macintire
Saudi deisgner Daneh Buahmad in front of an installation by artist Helen Marten at London's Serpentine Sackler Galler, in a look from her S/S17 collection
The Global Soul:  Saudi Designer Daneh Buahmad Takes Stock Of An Industry In Transition
Todd Macintire
In London to meet with her patternmaker, Daneh wears a metallic linen skirt from her S/S17 collection, hand washed to give it an aged pattern
The Global Soul:  Saudi Designer Daneh Buahmad Takes Stock Of An Industry In Transition
Todd Macintire
The globetrotting designer is hoping to help break down stereotypes of Middle Eastern designers through her collections

On methodically building her brand:

“I didn’t want to launch the line with huge fanfare, but take the time to mature as a designer and thoughtfully create an identifiable aesthetic before growing my label. Creating buzz around a brand is great, but the big question is how that ultimately translates into sales and support from local and international retailers.”

On the importance of patternmakers:

“They seldom come up in conversation, but they are essential to bringing a designer’s vision to life. I work with two patternmakers in London and Istanbul, each specializing in specific construction or tailoring techniques,” says Daneh, who takes her samples to the factory in Turkey where her collections are produced. “Istanbul is where I work on pieces with fluid volume and draping, while London is where I develop structured pieces requiring precision-like tailoring.”

On breaking into the global fashion market:

“I’m not trying to bridge East and West through my work or to be thought of as ‘good for my particular region.’ My hope is to be considered ‘good,’ irrespective of where I’m from,” says Daneh, pointing out the expectation placed on Arab designers to produce clothing with an overtly Middle Eastern aesthetic. “We are increasingly pushing against that assumption, by creating contemporary designs that can be worn by a variety of individuals. It’s not that I am forsaking my culture, it’s simply coming out in my designs in a less overt way.”

On the importance of a liberal arts education:

“Traditionally parents in the region didn’t encourage their children to go into creative fields because of a perception that they couldn’t make a living from it.” says Daneh, who is playing a role in changing perceptions about the design profession in the region. “I do think it’s a discussion we need to be having more frequently in order to bring value to the work we do. A design education is also about cultivating critical thinking and problem-solving skills.”

On the trip that inspired her Spring/Summer 2017 collection:

“Some friends and I drove across the desert to places such as Ajman, Sharjah and Oman, which made me see the region in a new light despite being from here,” says the designer, who recently moved to Dubai. “Although we share some commonalities, there are a myriad of differences between places like Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar that fascinated me. I was also drawn to the subtle variations in men’s thobes from one region to the next. It may not be readily apparent to the Western eye, but there are sartorial codes in the way individuals dress that tell you where they are from.”

On the subtle difference between promoting diversity vs. inclusion in the fashion industry:

“I think the door has cracked open and we’ve been allowed into the room to listen, but my ultimate goal is to be given the space to contribute to that larger conversation. It’s been a journey for me to get this far despite the hurdles, but I’ve never turned my back on a challenge and I’m ready to take my seat at the table.”

Read Alex Aubry’s full interview in the December issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia, available on iPad and in-store now.