Ones to watch: regional designers who found a platform at Expo 2020 Dubai

Kawthar Alhoraish, Sara Tamimi and Zaid Farouki were among the emerging brands to showcase their creations at the Lebanon pavilion

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Expo 2020 Dubai is over, but its legacy lives on in the way it introduced countries and cultures from around the world to a whole new audience. The event’s countless pavilions and packed roster of events placed a spotlight on history, culture, food and fashion from every corner of the globe.

One such event at the Lebanon pavilion honed in on emerging fashion brands from across the region. Hosted by the Chalhoub Group, The Showcase was a multi-brand fashion show featuring talents from Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

As part of the event, guests were able to explore the collections in a series of videos and in the presentation of key ready-to-wear pieces, before they saw them brought to life on the runway. Reiterating a sense of community, the collections were modelled by Chalhoub Group employees.

“As the region is a fast-evolving fashion ecosystem driven by its young population and its amazing pool of talented designers, Chalhoub Group is committed to accelerating this truly home-grown entrepreneurial culture," said Patrick Chalhoub, group president.

Kawthar Alhoraish

A look from Kaf by Kaf. Ruel Pableo for The National

Representing Saudi Arabia in The Showcase was designer Kawthar Alhoraish, founder of Kaf by Kaf. As a trained architect, Alhoraish brings a structured, sculptural approach to her collection of outerwear. She has a knack for playing with volume, as seen in her enveloping Bubble coats, or the oversized weaves of her Complex coats, which are constructed out of quilted leather and available in shades of camel and olive green. On another coat, crystal bees swarm over black velvet, while abayas are covered in mystical creatures, bright florals, Africa-inspired motifs and colourful tassels.

Sara Tamimi

Designer Sara Tamimi (right) with a model wearing one of her creations.  Ruel Pableo for The National

Leaning on 1980s power dressing, fledgling Abu Dhabi label Sara Tamimi is already making waves with its bold silhouettes and fearless colour palette. Ultra-feminine dresses feature strong shoulders, balloon sleeves, elongated collars and pretty pleats, while women’s suits are artfully shaped to flatter the female form. Shiny silk dresses, maxi skirts made from lurex and draped pleated tops present the perfect wardrobe for the regional woman — modest yet strong, and designed “to make girls feel powerful” says Tamimi.


Reemami is focused on creating sustainable collections

Palestine’s Reema Al Banna is committed to ensuring that her fashion label Reemami adopts sustainable and ethical business practises. It has begun incorporating eco-friendly fabrics into its collections, including Global Organic Textile Standard (Gots) certified organic cotton and organic denim.

As part of its mission to become a zero-waste brand, Reemami sources deadstock fabrics and refrains from using fur, feathers or leather in its products. This ethos also shapes the aesthetic of the brand, which focuses on creating staples that are timeless and durable. Pieces are produced in small batches to minimise waste.


A creation by Thym

Beirut-born Rebecca Zaatar studied at Lebanon’s Esmod, where she was discovered by Elie Saab. She promptly joined his creative team and worked with him for seven years before branching out and launching her own clothing line, Thym, in 2016.

The label is focuses on catering to the woman of today, who, according to Thym, is “multifaceted, versatile, paradoxical and so complex. She’s a domestic goddess yet a successful businesswoman, square and rigid yet round and soft, simple yet likes to stand out, strong yet delicate, refined yet edgy.” This translates into bold colour-blocked jumpsuits, ruffled dresses, sequin-covered gowns and boxy suits with cut-out detailing.

Yassmin Saleh

Fashion designer Yassmin Saleh takes to the runway after her show

Born in Beirut and raised in Abu Dhabi, Yassmin Saleh studied at Milan’s Istituto Marangoni and the Lebanese American University, where she completed a BA in Fashion Design. As the winner of the Jury Prize 2015, Yassmin was selected to pursue an internship at the Elie Saab headquarters in Beirut, and then received the 2017 Prize of Excellency in Craftsmanship for her final year collection, The Dance of the Psyche. She joined forces with her sister Farah to launch her eponymous fashion brand in 2018, which specialises in edgy, highly wearable pieces that include unisex trousers, oversized blazers, corset tops and cut-out maxi dresses.

Zaid Farouki

Menswear by Zaid Farouki

Arab American designer Zaid Farouki launched his atelier in Dubai, having studied at the Istituto Marangoni in Milan, before attending London’s Central Saint Martin, where he completed specialised courses in couture techniques and embroidery.

These are the hallmarks of his creations, which are all handmade using couture techniques, embroidery and hand-printed prints. Encompassing menswear and womenswear, Zaid by Zaid Farouki collections feature a combination of regional motifs and clean, European cuts, and range from sweatshirts featuring the evil eye motif to decadent gowns crafted from embroidered lace.

Updated: April 06, 2022, 4:21 AM