Fashion designer Shatha Essa Al Mulla has teamed up with Dubai Cares on the Adopt A School initiative, pledging to donate 10 per cent of sales from the Ramadan collection towards building a school in Nepal. Here Bazaar speaks to Shatha Essa about her collection, and why it's important to embrace giving during the Holy Month.
Let’s go back to the beginning... What first inspired you to launch your own label, Shatha Essa?
“I’ve always had a passion for fashion design and I started my career in the world’s largest mall in the world, The Dubai Mall. Working there I was able to meet many international and regional designers who played a role in turning my dream into reality. One Italian fashion editor in particular motivated me when we met at a gala dinner. She commented on the piece that I was wearing, and said to me ‘You can do something with that.’ I have always loved timeless fashion and beautifully crafted designs so I based my brand DNA on this and went from there.”
So, tell us about the Ramadan collection.
“The colour palette is fresh in shades of forest green, daffodil and blush, in lightweight fabrics of raw silks and organza with fluid, clean silhouettes. I’ve also hand-embroidered in the form of abstract birds and twisting ropes, and there are shimmering sequins across dresses and gold embellishments on kaftans and tops. The pieces start at Dhs1,500 and are stocked in places like Harvey Nichols, Bloomingdale’s, Symphony, Ounass and Tryano.”
A percentage of sales from this collection will be donated to charity – tell us why it’s important to embrace giving during Ramadan.
“It’s the time of the year when I can take a step back to think, reflect and act upon the art of giving. I am currently working with Dubai Cares on the Adopt A School initiative, a partnership for which I’ve pledged to donate 10 per cent of our sales from the Ramadan collection towards building a school in Nepal.”
How close are you to your goal?
“We’ve set a goal to raise Dhs152,500. So far we have raised Dhs32,350 ahead of Ramadan.”
What are your hopes and dreams with the Dubai Cares partnership?
“My aim is to contribute towards building a school that will provide quality education to underprivileged children, which will give them the necessary tools to become contributors to society and break the cycle of poverty. Education is a basic and essential human right for every child, yet 264 million children and young people worldwide were not attending school for the year ending in 2015.”
You’ll be building a school in Nepal. Why does this region need our help?
“We’re focusing specifically on the far western region of Nepal. It’s home to the Tharu people, who are the victims of a huge imbalance in equality. As the indigenous population, they continue to suffer from the fall-out of years of oppression and ethnically-motivated conflict. This means that they have limited access to education, are held to unfair land agreements, and deal with daily racial discrimination and the loss of their culture and traditions. Literacy among these rural populations is well below Nepal’s national average, and more than 60 per cent of the people live below the poverty line. It’s both heart-breaking and motivating to know just how much an education means to them, which is why I have joined hands with Dubai Cares to help build a school for Nepalese children.”
Did you always intend to align Shatha Essa with philanthropy?
“I have always had a soft spot in my heart for humanitarian aid and to spread awareness around vital causes. I’ve also always volunteered my time to help those that are less fortunate in the world. Today, I am proud to say that my fashion label will be able to help build a school that will provide quality education to underprivileged children.”
What is your message to those who would also like to help?
“Every child deserves a quality education, and poverty or living amidst conflict and crisis should not be a barrier. By working together to support a right to schooling, we can make the difference. There are over two million children out of school due to the ongoing crises in Yemen, young people in Latin America are fleeing violence and poverty, and the children of Syria have seen no respite in their lifetimes. But hand-in-hand, we can help them succeed.”
As a mother of two young sons, what impact has motherhood had on you and philanthropy?
“Being a mother of two amazing boys – Hisham, two, and Essa, one – has ignited motherhood’s warmth and tenderness within, and my feelings towards mothers and children have clearly heightened. Back when I was 17, I was an active volunteer for a number of organisations including the UAE Down Syndrome Association, Dubai Autism Centre and Al Noor Training Centre for Special Needs. Today, I focus mostly on providing the best care, education and nutrition to mothers and children around the world. I am passionate about humanitarian aid and I love supporting certain causes that are close to my heart.”
Who most inspires you?
“Amal Clooney for her constant humanitarian work; Zaha Hadid for her innovative approach to architecture; and last but not least HE Shamma bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui for embracing the role of being the world’s youngest government minister; her determination and vision are impeccable. What are your next philanthropic goals? I hope to start new projects every year that focus on mothers and children around the world. I also want to partner with UNICEF to help children in Syria, Yemen, and Latin America, and the Rohingya people in Myanmar. Do you have a personal mantra? “Yes, to never take no for an answer.”