Najwa Karam: Dubai and Beirut fashion ahead of Europe

Najwa Karam is everywhere. When she is not headlining sold-out shows in arenas or entertaining millions of people on television, the Lebanese singer and Arabs’ Got Talent judge appears on runways at international fashion weeks.

Najwa Karam, left, says she has seen styles in Dubai and Beirut that haven’t yet reached the European markets. Courtesy Mall of the Emirates

Najwa Karam is everywhere. When she is not headlining sold-out shows in arenas or entertaining millions of people on television, the Lebanese singer and Arabs' Got Talent judge appears on runways at international fashion weeks.

Last Wednesday, she was guest of honour at the annual sartorial showcase World of Fashion, which was organised by Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates.

In an interview with The National, she reveals how her passion for fashion plays a driving role in her entertainment career.

“It is very important to me,” she says. “Fashion is truly a gift from God, as it is about celebrating beauty and being the best that we can be.

You have a busy career juggling music and television projects. What made you get involved in World of Fashion here in Dubai?

I am glad to be part of World of Fashion. During these times of ugliness and violence, I wanted to be part of an event that changes the conversation and talk about beauty, talent, creativity and progress that is also occurring in this region. I always find that whatever style starts off in the Arab world will eventually makes its way to Europe, America and the rest of the world. I have found some clothes that were first seen here in places such as Dubai and Beirut that have not yet reached the stores in Europe.

What is your reaction when you’re described by some as a fashion icon?

I am aware of these descriptions and I am grateful and flattered. But I sincerely believe that every Arab woman is her own icon. That’s what I believe. Whenever I look at the mirror I always tell myself: “Najwa, you are a winner.” It is important for me to say that. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have been successful.

You are renowned for your extensive range of outfits when on stage. What do you look for when choosing your tour wardrobe?

My stylists always come up with great ideas. But mostly, I am not thinking about specific brands when it comes to what I wear. I try to wear something that complements my character and what I am feeling. That’s the way I approach all aspects of my career; I have to be true to myself.

Does fashion inspire your music or it is vice versa?

I am inspired by the collaborative nature of it all. From the design to how it appears here in the catwalks in fashion shows. It just confirms to you that it is all a team project. It is the same thing when it comes to music. As a singer, you have to feel and deliver the passion of the words by the lyricists and composer. When you are performing on stage, your clothes convey your taste through the stylist. It’s a great kind of teamwork when you are creating something beautiful.

Later in the year, you will return as a judge for the fourth season of Arabs’ Got Talent on MBC. Do you find the commitment to the programme takes you away from the stage for too long?

It may look that way but the show doesn’t actually take too much of my time. I remember we shot seven episodes of the show in eleven days. Early next year, the show will move on to its live episodes, which will go on for six weeks. I really enjoy my time on the show. Once it becomes less stimulating or it starts to wear me out that’s when I will finish. That said, I have been doing it for four years now. After five years I think I will move on, because that would be enough for me.

Speaking of the music coming out today, do you feel that some artists place too much effort on how they are presented instead of concentrating on the music?

But you can’t have one without the other! The presentation and the artist’s talent are both important and have to be delivered together. This is what people expect now. Perhaps before, people thought more about looking good without focusing on the music. We are now in 2014 – people have become more discerning and they can tell when an artist has nothing to say.

It has been three years since your last album. Can we expect any new Najwa Karam tunes soon?

I have been working on an album and I have recorded some songs already. I do plan to release a single shortly to promote the album.