Gowns from Rami Al Ali's collection on view at the AltaRoma AltaModa Autumn/Winter 2011 show in July in Rome. Photos by Elisabetta A Villa / Getty Images
Gowns from Rami Al Ali's collection on view at the AltaRoma AltaModa Autumn/Winter 2011 show in July in Rome. Photos by Elisabetta A Villa / Getty Images

Dubai-based designer to make debut at Paris Haute Couture Week



If designer Rami Al Ali is not to be found at his Dubai atelier or in his native Syria, he's most probably flown to France.

At the end of January, Al Ali will make his debut at Paris Haute Couture Week, showing his spring/summer 2012 collection to an unforgiving audience of fashion critics and demanding high-profile clients.

"The couture fashion houses in Paris are hundreds of years old and I will, of course, be compared with them, which is a huge pressure for me," he says. "Plus, the media at Paris Fashion Week have seen a lot, so it's hard to impress them.

"It's too early to reveal the theme [of the collection], but it has something to do with my Syrian roots, with lots of Arabesque and ornamental details - very feminine and nostalgic."

After studying for an arts degree in Damascus and doing stints at some of the UAE's most prestigious fashion houses, he created Rami Al Ali couture in 2001.

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Following the launch of his ready-to-wear line in 2007, the designer took a leap of faith two years later and became the first Syrian to register for AltaRoma's prestigious fashion event. That same year he was ranked one of the world's 50 most influential Arabs by The Middle East magazine.

"We did many shows locally and regionally around that time, and once we had established the name, image and philosophy of the company, we wanted to take the next step," he says.

Showing two couture collections, one bridal and a further two prêt-à-porter shows per year in the city, Rome quickly became something of a professional and spiritual home for the designer. He admits the move exceeded all expectations and allowed him to export his distinctive Arabic style abroad successfully.

"It was such a great decision," he says. "My proudest moment was probably my first European collection [spring/summer 2009]. It had a lot of meaning for me and was greatly received. The theme was the Damascus rose and we made special prints for the fabric with Syrian mosaics and the flower itself."

Al Ali calls his graduation to Europe's couture capital, Paris, "an organic development" and says the creations set to grace the runway will continue to bear the hallmark of this wistful, ethereal style.

"The Damascus rose may reappear," he says playfully. "But in a more mature way. I've used pale pastel colours - beige, champagne, dusty rose and pistachio green. And I went for very light materials with lots of transparency like tulle, chiffon and organza. I wanted the gowns to look unreal - like a mirage, as if in a dream."

Al Ali is also making good use of the current international trend of detailing by using new materials and fabrics to create texture, rather than simply adorning gowns with excessive embroidery, sequins and beads.

"Embellishment is one of the most important couture designer tools," he says. "But using the same classical ways is boring for designers and for the client as well - this is a far more modern and up-to-date way."

Al Ali's highly original, sculpted evening gowns soon attracted some very famous attention, not least from socialite Ivana Trump, who is now a front-row regular at his shows. The couturier famously dressed Trump, alongside model-actress Rosanna Davison, in a show-stopping peacock feather-inspired creation for Elton John's White Tie and Tiara Ball last year.

From regional royal fans to international celebrities and social muses such as the Egyptian actress Yousra and the singer Lateefa Nawal, Al Ali says the many varied people he dresses never fail to get his creative juices flowing.

"A client can really impress and inspire me," he says. "She may influence the whole direction of the next collection simply by something she says, or wears, her statement about design. It always stays in my mind."

Al Ali says that although he doesn't have dream clients to dress up, he has favourite celebrities whose fashion portfolios he admires. "Like Sarah Jessica Parker - I would definitely be happy to be a part of hers. She's just changed the whole way we evaluate fashion by mixing couture with high street pieces and she's even added new words to fashion's vocabulary," he says. "I also like Catherine Zeta Jones and Salma Hayek. They are very elegant, even when not wearing something particularly visually interesting."

Muses aside, Al Ali's love of music also plays a part in his creative process - his iPod is currently playing on repeat Chopin's haunting Nocturnes. Although he keeps a sketch book and pencil with him at all times for jotting down designs, his greatest fear is running out of new ideas.

"Every time I do a new collection I feel, no, this is too good!" the designer says, laughing. "And I wonder whether I should keep pieces for the next collection - so I would say a lack of creativity is what worries me most."

His worst fears have yet to be realised, however. His last collection, Rami Al Ali Autumn/Winter 2011/12, was a fitting farewell tribute to Rome, with accentuated feminine silhouettes, classically tailored pieces and floor-sweeping creations in jewel tones such as emerald green.

"We needed a lot of fabric that had the texture and feel of ancient wools," he says. "So we worked a lot with Italian companies to make special tweed with less wool, so a woman in the Gulf could wear them and still feel the richness of proper European tweed."

Al Ali concedes it's almost inevitable that the alluring je ne sais quoi of his new international base, Paris, will take his designs in another new and exciting creative direction.

"Paris has long been in my heart," he says. "And although you haven't seen it in my collections yet, I am working on one inspired by the city and its people."

He'll no doubt be inspired, too, by the line-up of iconic maisons showing alongside him in Paris next month, including Dior, Valentino and Versace, who returns after an eight-year hiatus.

In hallowed haute couture company Al Ali's brand may be, but the designer modestly admits he still has a long way to go.

"Fashion wise, I don't think I've done anything so far," he says. "I'm just starting, still exploring and enjoying, so probably I would like to do another 20 to 30 years.

"My relationship with my career is very emotional, I do it with a passion and not because it's profitable. It makes me happy and is a tool for me to express who I am."

The years Ramadan fell in May

1987

1954

1921

1888

Herc's Adventures

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Console: PlayStation 1 & 5, Sega Saturn
Rating: 4/5

Results

Stage 3:
1. Einer Rubio (COL) Movistar Team - 4h51’24”
2. Remco Evenepoel (BEL) Soudal Quick-Step - 14"
3. Adam Yates (GBR) UAE Team Emirates - 15"
General classifications:
1. Remco Evenepoel (BEL) Soudal Quick-Step
2. Lucas Plapp (AUS) Ineos Grenaders) - 7"
3. Pello Bilbao (ESP) Bahrain Victorious - 11"

Five healthy carbs and how to eat them

Brown rice: consume an amount that fits in the palm of your hand

Non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli: consume raw or at low temperatures, and don’t reheat  

Oatmeal: look out for pure whole oat grains or kernels, which are locally grown and packaged; avoid those that have travelled from afar

Fruit: a medium bowl a day and no more, and never fruit juices

Lentils and lentil pasta: soak these well and cook them at a low temperature; refrain from eating highly processed pasta variants

Courtesy Roma Megchiani, functional nutritionist at Dubai’s 77 Veggie Boutique

Notable salonnières of the Middle East through history

Al Khasan (Okaz, Saudi Arabia)

Tamadir bint Amr Al Harith, known simply as Al Khasan, was a poet from Najd famed for elegies, earning great renown for the eulogy of her brothers Mu’awiyah and Sakhr, both killed in tribal wars. Although not a salonnière, this prestigious 7th century poet fostered a culture of literary criticism and could be found standing in the souq of Okaz and reciting her poetry, publicly pronouncing her views and inviting others to join in the debate on scholarship. She later converted to Islam.

Maryana Marrash (Aleppo)

A poet and writer, Marrash helped revive the tradition of the salon and was an active part of the Nadha movement, or Arab Renaissance. Born to an established family in Aleppo in Ottoman Syria in 1848, Marrash was educated at missionary schools in Aleppo and Beirut at a time when many women did not receive an education. After touring Europe, she began to host salons where writers played chess and cards, competed in the art of poetry, and discussed literature and politics. An accomplished singer and canon player, music and dancing were a part of these evenings.

Princess Nazil Fadil (Cairo)

Princess Nazil Fadil gathered religious, literary and political elite together at her Cairo palace, although she stopped short of inviting women. The princess, a niece of Khedive Ismail, believed that Egypt’s situation could only be solved through education and she donated her own property to help fund the first modern Egyptian University in Cairo.

Mayy Ziyadah (Cairo)

Ziyadah was the first to entertain both men and women at her Cairo salon, founded in 1913. The writer, poet, public speaker and critic, her writing explored language, religious identity, language, nationalism and hierarchy. Born in Nazareth, Palestine, to a Lebanese father and Palestinian mother, her salon was open to different social classes and earned comparisons with souq of where Al Khansa herself once recited.

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

Kill

Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

SPECS

Engine: 4-litre V8 twin-turbo
Power: 630hp
Torque: 850Nm
Transmission: 8-speed Tiptronic automatic
Price: From Dh599,000
On sale: Now

SPECS

Engine: Two-litre four-cylinder turbo
Power: 235hp
Torque: 350Nm
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Price: From Dh167,500 ($45,000)
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UAE SQUAD

Jemma Eley, Maria Michailidou, Molly Fuller, Chloe Andrews (of Dubai College), Eliza Petricola, Holly Guerin, Yasmin Craig, Caitlin Gowdy (Dubai English Speaking College), Claire Janssen, Cristiana Morall (Jumeirah English Speaking School), Tessa Mies (Jebel Ali School), Mila Morgan (Cranleigh Abu Dhabi).

'Ashkal'

Director: Youssef Chebbi

Stars: Fatma Oussaifi and Mohamed Houcine Grayaa

Rating: 4/5

Name: Brendalle Belaza

From: Crossing Rubber, Philippines

Arrived in the UAE: 2007

Favourite place in Abu Dhabi: NYUAD campus

Favourite photography style: Street photography

Favourite book: Harry Potter

THE BIO

Family: I have three siblings, one older brother (age 25) and two younger sisters, 20 and 13 

Favourite book: Asking for my favourite book has to be one of the hardest questions. However a current favourite would be Sidewalk by Mitchell Duneier

Favourite place to travel to: Any walkable city. I also love nature and wildlife 

What do you love eating or cooking: I’m constantly in the kitchen. Ever since I changed the way I eat I enjoy choosing and creating what goes into my body. However, nothing can top home cooked food from my parents. 

Favorite place to go in the UAE: A quiet beach.

The biog

DOB: March 13, 1987
Place of birth: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia but lived in Virginia in the US and raised in Lebanon
School: ACS in Lebanon
University: BSA in Graphic Design at the American University of Beirut
MSA in Design Entrepreneurship at the School of Visual Arts in New York City
Nationality: Lebanese
Status: Single
Favourite thing to do: I really enjoy cycling, I was a participant in Cycling for Gaza for the second time this year

The five pillars of Islam

1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Znap

Started: 2017

Founder: Uday Rathod

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: FinTech

Funding size: $1m+

Investors: Family, friends

'Nightmare Alley'

Director:Guillermo del Toro

Stars:Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara

Rating: 3/5

TYPES OF ONLINE GIG WORK

Design, multimedia and creative work: Logo design, website design, visualisations

Business and professional management: Legal or management consulting, architecture

Business and professional support: Research support, proofreading, bookkeeping

Sales and marketing support: Search engine optimisation, social media marketing

Data entry, administrative, and clerical: Data entry tasks, virtual assistants

IT, software development and tech: Data analyst, back-end or front-end developers

Writing and translation: Content writing, ghost writing, translation

Online microtasks: Image tagging, surveys

Source: World Bank