The Dubai Mall Ramadan pop-up shop: fashion that’s a cut above the rest

A new Ramadan pop-up shop at The Dubai Mall brings together seven regional designers whose oeuvre ranges from elegant to edgy.

Latifa Al Gurg with her creations at the pop-up shop at The Dubai Mall. Satish Kumar / The National
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Emirati designers Hessa Falasi, who runs HF Boutique, and Manal Al Sharhan of Fetha Couture are known for their folded abayas and hand-embroidered jalabiyas – a throw to the concept of introducing a stylish flair to modest clothing.
Lebanese designer Dima Ayad, who creates short dresses, evening gowns and kaftans, believes women should celebrate their bodies no matter their shape or size. Danish-Emirati Latifa Al Gurg and Swedish-Lebanese Chantal Assad seek inspiration from their mixed heritage, while Omani sisters Nadia and Lubna Al Zakwani, who run Endemage, are known for their East-West fashion fusion.
The seven designers came together for the first time on Tuesday evening at the Ramadan pop-up shop, currently set up at The Dubai Mall. In keeping with the multifaceted backgrounds and design sensibilities of the young artists, the collection was varied, versatile and very cool. From funky abayas and day-to-night kaftans to lacy capes and ruffled jersey dresses, the collections have something for every occasion – from Eid celebrations to a dinner party.
"From my first design in 2011 – the folded abaya, cinched at the waist with a belt – to the fully printed abaya I've created for the Ramadan 2016 collection, I always push myself to be unique," says 27-year-old Falasi. Al Gurg, whose label Twisted Roots specialises in travelwear, says she's partial to silk and knits – an ode to her Emirati and Danish roots. "Both fabrics make for smart travel clothing. We get our silk specially developed, so that it's lightweight but not shiny or transparent. And knits are great for creating a layered effect."
While blacks and whites make up a third of the collection at this exhibition, pops of colour dominate the rows of jacquard trousers, dual-toned shirt dresses and hand-embroidered jalabiyas. The rich fabrics – silk, organza, jersey, chiffons and lace – add to the sense of festivity.
"At Chantal Designs, we avoid embellishments and instead focus on creating funky designs, for example, our baby blue abaya with white tassels," says Assad, 32, who also launched a swimwear collection recently. Embroidery, beadwork and mirrorwork are in great evidence across the rest of the exhibition, though. At Fetha, a single motif – pearlwork, peacock prints, hand-stitched beads – dominates a sleeve or collar. Endemage's gowns and abayas have thick mirrorwork borders and thread embroidery, while Ayad's signature kaftans and limited-edition capes are enmeshed with structured lace.
Most of the designers have been involved in various local and international events over the years, including Fashion Forward Dubai, London Fashion Week and the Swarovski abaya project.
"Dressing Sarah Jessica Parker has been the highlight of my career so far," says Ayad, who has a full-time job as the vice president of marketing for a hospitality company. "I also created Nooni, a doll for the #27 Dresses initiative by Dumye and S*uce in March."
Passion, then, is the thread that links these designers. Most of them stumbled upon their first creations to fill a gap in their wardrobes – and in the market – before taking it up as a hobby and then as ever-evolving profession.
• The Ramadan pop-up ?shop is at Fashion Catwalk in The Dubai Mall until Saturday. Prices range from Dh400 to Dh4,000