Paula Al Askari is a “citizen of the world.” Although she currently resides on Abu Dhabi’s Corniche, in a home she describes as antiques and art-filled, she was born in the US, raised in Beirut, studied in Paris, and lived in New York and London, before settling in her “real home”, the UAE, in 1985. Paula believes a woman is stylish when “the way she presents herself reflects her essence.” This is true to her personal sartorial success, too. “My interest came from my passion for collecting antique costumes and textiles. I first started wearing antique ottoman velvet kaftans when I hosted dinner parties at home, as they complimented my interior and I use them on my dinner tables. Then I started buying more vintage silk and brocade and it became my signature.”
Her approach to fashion embraces “an old world attitude to dress codes. People tend to dress down these days to the point where they sometimes look shabby and drab, so regardless of how the majority of people at an event will look, I will always dress for my pleasure, according to my mood,” she says, adding that her modus operandi is always “colour” and she only wears “silk.”
An art collector and patron of the arts, Paula’s personal style mirrors the rich, eclectic antique and vintage aesthetic she also applies to her home. “I never wear black,” she insists. “I love vibrant jewel tones, silk, brocade and velvet mixed with modern textures, even the edgy neoprene.” And while Paula treasures her collection “of antique costumes” and “velvet Ikat, Suzani and brocade coats,” amidst the swathes of rich heritage fabrics is an equally fitting assortment of multi-cultural accessories. Her beloved antique jewellery includes pieces such as “Phoenician, Roman and Greek earrings, to Indian mogul pieces.” She describes an ornate Ottoman turban brooch, an 18th-century coral brooch from Naples, and micro mosaic pieces like her beautiful floral Pietra Dura brooches – which she often transforms into large rings. “I am particularly fond of a 19th-century large Indian brooch, it has the Taj Mahal painted on ivory,” she says. “I also love jewellery by contemporary artists. I cherish three particular pieces: a bronze ring by Claude Lalanne, a Jean Cocteau necklace bought at an antique dealer in London, and a large silver ring by Zaha Hadid.” Using the world as a melting pot of inspiration, Paula loves to trawl Marché aux Puces in Paris, as well as London’s Portobello market, the Bond Street arcades, and Gray’s Antique Market in search of exquisite one-off treasures.
A mother-of-two (Basil, 29, and Mariam, 24), Paula tells us how Mariam has instinctively inherited her unique approach to style. “She has developed a very individual sense of style that reflects her personality. My advice to her is to remain sensitive and respectful, to always use her emotional intelligence when choosing outfits, to take into consideration the context and dress appropriately.”
Paula Al Askari Wears Vintage Coat, Issa Skirt, Prada Shoes And Jewellery, all her own.
Photography: Christos Tsamadias. Styling: Teresa Karpinska. Words: Elaine Lloyd-Jones. Hair And Make-Up: Blowout&Go. With Thanks To Warehouse 421, Abu Dhabi.