If all that comes to mind when you think of Middle-East designers is folks making headscarves and abayas, you’re not looking in the right places. As colours are embraced and boundaries pushed, the Middle East is ushering in a new era in fashion, one that’s been a long time coming. And brimming with inspiration in the eye of the storm is the United Arab Emirates. With Dubai and its swanky new design district at the epicentre, indigenous designers from the region are having a field day, not just in the GCC area, but around the world as well. We take a look at 8 of the coolest Middle East designers who will definitely pique your sartorial senses. Keep ‘em credit cards ready.
The four-year-old accessories brand is the brainchild of Dubai-based designer, Lilian Afshar. Starting off in 2014, Lilian launched her range of clutches in varying textures and patterns – bug prints, Perspex clutches, and marble patterns with engraved birthstones are a few of her signatures. She also boasts a collection of pendants and neckpieces, but it’s with the arm candy she designs that she’s made a name for herself worldwide – including with celebrities like Kendall Jenner (who carried one of her Lucite clutches on her 21st birthday) and Sonam Kapoor.
Biance in gold mirror by L'Afshar
House of Nomad
Inspired by the nomad, the one who “travels from place to place in perpetual motion”, Dubai-based House Of Nomad is a ready-to-wear brand with an underlying sports-luxe aesthetic. Founded by friends Ahmed El Sayed and Saleh Al Banna in 2014, the collections include jumpsuits, bomber jackets, and one-pieces in unlikely fabrics and fluid silhouettes.
AW16 Women's Wear by House of Nomad
Madiyah Al Sharqi
Daughter of the Ruler of Fujairah, UAE, Sheikha Madiyah Al Sharqi was exposed to fashion from a young age. Watching tailors create stunning gowns from mere fabric fascinated her as a child, so it was no surprise when she decided to make a business of her passion and aesthetic. Conservative yet stylish, Sharqi’s separates are classy statement pieces in flattering silhouettes. Her designs are now well-loved beyond her immediate geographical territory as well, with celebrities Nicole Richie, Kris Jenner, Sofia Vergara, and Alessandra Ambrosio having sported the label.
Statement skirts by Madiyah Al Sharqi
Palestinian-born, raised in Saudi Arabia, and based in Dubai – founder Ayah Tabari’s life serves as enough inspiration for her RTW collections. What’s commendable about Mochi is that the brand focuses on finding indigenous fabrics and commissioning designs to local artisans, thus promoting native talent and creating jobs. Traditional materials and embroidery patterns make way for contemporary separates that have taken Mochi to fashion weeks across the world. Last year, Mochi launched on Net-A- Porter, and has also been seen on Rita Ora, an event that rightfully sent the Middle Eastern media into a frenzy.
The Ramadan Collection by Mochi
Rami Al Ali
Born in Syria and based in Dubai, Rami Al Ali’s story is one of passion and perseverance. Though not a new brand — Rami launched his eponymous label in 2000, working his way through the GCC region — it was only post 2009 that Europe sat up and took notice of his ethereal designs, and paved the way for bigger things. Kelly Rowland and Kelly Osbourne, among other names, have been spotted in his gowns. An eye for detail and a love for pastels, Rami is known for both his couture as well as prêt collections, and retails all over the Middle East and USA.
Rami Al Ali
Rony El Helou
New kid on the block, Lebanese origin Rony El Helou hit the scene last year when he was chosen by the Starch Foundation to showcase his collection at the coveted Fashion Forward Dubai, an annual celebration of style by way of fashion shows, music, films, talks, and more. Rony’s thesis collection features boxy silhouettes and tons of layering in the white, black, and grey palette.
Huda Al Nuaimi
Think a feminine and flirty twist to a traditional craft and silhouettes — that’s how Emirati designer Huda Al Nuaimi’s creations translate. A strong believer in local crafts and artisans, Huda creates ornate accessories, such as chokers, pins, earrings, and shoes, and ready-to- wear kaftans and abayas that transcend religion and geography, speaking only the language of style.
Haisley print maxi skirt by Huda Al Nuaimi
Maysson Al Otaiba
Part Emirati and part Moroccan, London-based Maysson Al Otaiba’s designs are clearly inspired by her heritage — rich Mediterranean hues and vibrant fabrics, presented in a modern, wearable way. Partial to blues, Maysson’s collection features bomber jackets, flowy maxis, and shirt dresses, all of which can be worn to work and play.
Mezyan shirt doubles by Maysson Al Otaiba