Creating crossover-capable designs

The Omani label Dibaj did not disappoint at their Muscat Fashion Week showcase

There were high hopes that Omani designers would steal the headlines at Muscat Fashion Week - and the home-grown label Dibaj didn't disappoint. From tassel-belted, velvet trouser suits to tradition-inspired evening wear, the runway collection, which took five months to create, was diverse as it was creative. Afaf Al Farsi, who founded the business with her sister Aida four years ago, explained how the label is moving with the times yet remains true to its Arabic roots.

What were your favourites from the 28 pieces you sent down the Muscat runway?

I have two: one is a simple, tuxedo-style pantsuit in greyish blue velvet, and the second is a beige net fabric dress - inspired by a traditional Omani gown. It is full-length with three-quarter sleeves, one long pocket in the front and plenty of Swarovski crystals.

How are the Omani touches identifiable?

You'll notice them here and there, through traditional embroidery on sleeves and hems, for example. I've tried to incorporate some authentic techniques of local artisans and designs still worn in parts of Oman today - in our pantsuits, mostly straight lines embroidered in silver or gold threads.

Who do you envisage wearing these pieces?

A modern-day woman, well cultured, well travelled. Not just Gulf or Arab women - a European woman can just as easily wear our designs. The collection is perfect for mixing and matching with an already established wardrobe from either culture.

As you strive to keep things modern yet modest, what are the key considerations design-wise?

We've tried our best to achieve that balance by having plenty of long, loose gowns and also by having trouser suits which cater to both east and west. It's possible to keep things somewhat conservative by using layers, plenty of tulle and crystals. But it's truly more a design preference than a cultural thing.

Tell us about your sister's jewellery range, which complements your couture.

Inspired by traditional Omani pieces, they have been updated and can now more easily be worn during the day, with an LBD or even with jeans. Commonly, Omani jewellery is big pieces of precious metal, stamped with designs.

Big cuffs - even with spikes - have been popular in the past, so they're very easily adaptable to today's tastes. We use a lot of solid silver and gold-plated pieces that incorporate leather and semi-precious stones like tiger-eye and amethyst.

Do you and your sister ever have creative differences?

Oh yes, and I think that's very healthy. We fight it out and then it's all good again.

• The Dibaj boutique is at Al Asfoor Plaza, Qurum, Oman. Telephone +968 2 456 7131 or visit The label is planning to open stores in Dubai, Qatar and KSA