For Saudi designer Honayda Serafi, it’s been a career-defining week.
When Jordan’s future queen Rajwa Al Saif stepped out in a custom-made dress by the label for the first official celebration ahead of her wedding to Crown Prince Hussein on June 1, the world’s eyes were suddenly on the Saudi label.
“Since 2016 when we established the brand, we’ve been working really hard to be recognised worldwide, to empower women and to take Saudi heritage global, and I feel like this is one of the strongest moments for the brand,” Serafi tells The National. “For Rajwa to choose a Saudi woman to design for her is very empowering, she’s amazing.”
Serafi first got the call from Al Saif’s mother Azza two-and-a-half months ago, asking if she could design the bride’s look for her pre-wedding henna party, which was hosted by Queen Rania in Amman.
“The first thing she asked me was, ‘Will you be able to deliver in that short time?’ So I told her yes, definitely,” she says. “We have a strong team and we gathered all our forces together to deliver. I was so grateful to have her phone call. From there the journey started, and it was a great and beautiful journey.”
The white silk two-piece dress, known as Sahabi Thoub, featured intricate gold beadwork that painted a picture of the Jordanian and Saudi cultures coming together. Created in 3D through a mix of silk, metallic threads and traditional reed strings, the gown contained the famous palm of Saudi Arabia and was seven stars, symbolising the seven-pointed star of Jordan.
“Every time I met her for a fitting, she always came with this beautiful smile on her face and left with an even bigger smile,” she says. “She wanted something modest, young and trendy, but cultured at the same time.
“She was specific as well, she wanted to have fun and to enjoy the occasion with her friends and the women of society, so she didn’t want a long train as she wanted to be closer to the people to enjoy the moment with them. She wanted to be comfortable walking around them and be close to them.
“And the story that we wrote for her, combining the elements of the Jordanian and the Saudi cultures, everyone is complimenting it. I haven’t stopped getting calls and messages.”
Serafi added another personal touch, with verse from Tunisian poet Abu Al Qasim Al Shabi embroidered in the veil, speaking of the beauty of life at one’s sight. She felt it perfectly summed up the couple’s love.
“I was actually searching with my team to find something that can deliver and explain this eternal love between her and Prince Hussein,” she says. “They are role models and they are setting a new love story for everyone to look up to, they are inspiring the young generation to have this kind of honest and pure and strong love between them. It took a while for me to find something that suited, and I wanted it to be modern and nice and straight to the heart. Something that everyone can say and everyone can feel. And actually it’s been trending.”
Jordan's Queen Rania shares footage of Rajwa Al Saif's henna party
Usually, to create a dress like the one Serafi’s team made for Al Saif would take upwards of 2,000 hours and no less than six months. However, the team were able to pull together and finish in around 750 hours.
“Our team is great, everyone was very dedicated and we really worked hard with love and passion for the occasion and for Rajwa.”
And for Serafi, seeing the bride-to-be in the final finished look ahead of the henna party was a moment she will never forget.
“I was with her as she was getting ready, I had to be there to make sure that everything was perfect,” she says. “She looked phenomenal, she is a princess and she looked like one. Queen Rania was very happy when she saw her and she complimented the dress and how she looked. Her mum was also very happy.”
While Serafi is of course extremely grateful for the platform this opportunity has offered her brand, she says being asked to create the gown is more significant than that.
“It’s not about the success only, it’s been amazing to feel the love and happiness that people have for Rajwa,” she says. “She gave me a story to tell. Anyone can design a dress, but not everyone can be as lucky to have such a story to tell. I was lucky to translate this love through my design.
“Saudi is dancing, everyone is happy.”