11 Middle Eastern designers celebrities love

From Elie Saab to Zuhair Murad and Nathalie Trad, these established and emerging fashion designers from the Middle East found favour with A-listers in 2018

Actress Priyanka Chopra arrives on the red carpet for the 88th Oscars on February 28, 2016 in Hollywood, California. AFP PHOTO / ANGELA WEISS (Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP)
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The Middle East continues to establish itself as a global hub for emerging talent, and regional fashion designers made waves internationally in 2018. A host of A-list celebrities turned to creatives from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Kuwait and Bahrain to dress them for their red-carpet moments, while off-duty ­models showed their street-style prowess in Middle Eastern looks. Here are some names to know.

Yousef Aljasmi

From: Kuwait

Loved by: Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, Kylie Jenner

Kylie Jenner has a generation of social media-lovers hooked on her every move, so for ­designers to have the 21-year-old share pictures of ­herself wearing their clothes is about as good as endorsements get. And when Jenner did so while twinning with her baby, Stormi, it set the internet alight. It was Kuwaiti ­designer Yousef Aljasmi who dressed the mother-daughter duo for the annual Kardashian-­Jenner Christmas Eve party, and it's not the first time that Jenner has modelled his clothes. ­Aljasmi, who established his brand in 2007, is known for his Swarovski-encrusted ­creations, and his glamorous designs make him a favourite with celebrities. His clothes have also been worn by Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian, Gwen Stefani and Mariah Carey.


From: the UAE

Loved by: Melissa McCarthy, Beyonce, Sophia Bush

The Dubai brand is a luxury, ready-to-wear label headed up by Faiza Bougu­essa, who was born in France to Algerian parents. The designs centre on Middle Eastern fashion, but also incorporate global culture, art, and architecture to create modern, ­minimalist styles that have captured the eyes of celebrities the world over. Comedy actress McCarthy wore a Bouguessa suit for an appearance on America's The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last year, while Beyonce wore a green velvet jacket by the label for the Saint Heron party in Los Angeles.

Ashi Studio

From: Lebanon

Loved by: Beyonce, Nicole Scherzinger, Jennifer Hudson

Beyoncé models custom-made couture by Ashi Studio
Beyoncé models custom-made couture by Ashi Studio

This Lebanese couture label, started in 2007 by Beirut ­designer Mohammed Ashi, is known for its intricately feminine and romantic designs. It has been a firm favourite with celebrities for a while now, with the likes of Heidi Klum, Vaani Kapoor and Tracee Ellis Ross all spotted wearing Ashi Studio at red-carpet events. But the label's star rose significantly in 2018, thanks in no small part to some of the biggest names in music. First, rapper Cardi B chose to wear Ashi Studio to the Grammy Awards, and has since sported the designer for her Rolling Stone cover and her Money music video. But the biggest ­moment came last month when ­Beyonce wore a ­showstopping fushcia pink Ashi Studio custom-made dress for her performance at the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela at 100 event in Johannesburg, South Africa. Despite having been previously worn by Bollywood actress Deepika Padukone at Cannes, Beyonce's custom-made version was still spellbinding.

Nathalie Trad

From: the UAE

Loved by: Olivia Palermo, Nicole Kidman, Claire Foy

Creations from the ­Middle East's queen of handbags ­are often spotted on the arms of ­celebrities. Trad was born in Beirut and raised in Dubai, before moving to New York and launching her own label in 2013. Nathalie Trad handbags are distinctive; the designer is renowned for using exquisite materials to create intriguing, unique ­pieces that are in touch with their surroundings – think mother-of-pearl shells and ­astrology-themed styles. Nicole ­Kidman has been seen ­carrying a Nathalie Trad bag on the red carpet, while Olivia Palermo was pictured with one at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November.

Elie Saab

From: Lebanon

Loved by: Rihanna, Blake Lively, Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez in Elie Saab couture at the 87th annual Academy Awards
Jennifer Lopez in Elie Saab couture at the 87th annual Academy Awards

Perhaps the most successful fashion designer to come from the Arabic world, Elie Saab has legions of A-list fans. He started his label in Beirut in the 1980s, specialising in bridal couture initially. While that's still a huge outlet for the label, Elie Saab has expanded to offer haute couture, ready-to-wear, and accessory lines. Saab counts some of Hollywood's biggest stars as his clientele, with Halle Berry, Jessica Biel and Angelina Jolie all ­choosing the label for red-carpet ­moments in 2018. Elie Saab shone at last year's Oscars particularly, where he dressed three of the nominees – American actress Zoey Deutch, Australian actress and rapper Abbie Cornish and Lebanese actress Rita Hayek.

Death by Dolls

From: Saudi Arabia

Loved by: Britney Spears, Rita Ora, Janet Jackson

Thanks to its playful designs and grunge denim looks, Death by Dolls has become a uniform for off-duty celebrities. The label is the brainchild of London-raised Saudi designer Sara Al-Saud, who has been at the helm since 2014. Although now based in California, Death by Dolls has a huge following in the Middle East, and is often spotted on Saudi and UAE fashion bloggers. Earlier this year, the label had a big moment when ­Kendall Jenner appeared in Chris Brown's music video for Freaky Friday wearing the brand's jeans. The label also created a custom-made Halloween costume for Beyonce, paying tribute to the ­iconic ­Flo-Jo. The same month, Britney Spears chose a black Death by Dolls dress to ­announce her return to residency in Las Vegas (which is now on hold indefinitely). 


From: the UAE

Loved by: Chrissy Teigen, Vanessa Hudgens, Tiffany Haddish

Chrissy Teigen wearing SemSem
Chrissy Teigen wearing SemSem

Abeer Al Otaiba founded SemSem in honour of her young daughter, and her clothes are designed to enhance the mother-daughter bond. The designer weaves parts of her Mediterranean and Egyptian heritage into her clothing, and creates glamorous yet practical ready-to-wear styles for women and girls. In 2018, SemSem launched an exclusive collection with Net-a-Porter, was spotted on Olivia Palermo during a visit to the UAE, and had some red-­carpet outings thanks to Vanessa Hudgens and Chrissy Teigen.

Zuhair Murad

From: Lebanon

Loved by: Winnie Harlow, Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone, Sandra Bullock

The Lebanese designer must struggle to keep count of the celebrities he dresses. He has been making waves in the ­fashion industry since the 1990s, and has collected a vast A-list following along the way. After leaving Ras Baalbek to study fashion in Paris, he returned to Beirut to open his first atelier. Known for his painstaking attention to detail and fairytale-like ­designs, Murad's couture gowns and bridal dresses have been worn by some of the world's most famous faces. In 2018, he was the supermodels' ­designer of choice, dressing multiple Victoria's Secret Angels for their after-show looks. He also dressed Rita Ora for the Oscars, Deepika Padukone for Cannes, and Emily Blunt for the Mary Poppins Returns premiere.

Rami Al Ali

From: the UAE

Loved by: Helen Mirren, Kelly Rowland, Jessica Chastain

Syria-born Rami Al Ali launched his label in Dubai in 2000, and quickly gained attention in the region. In 2006, he was selected to work in collaboration with the Asian Olympic Games, which led to further recognition thanks to fashion covers and red-carpet looks. Al Ali has since become a globally recognised brand, a fact that was solidified this year when Helen ­Mirren chose to wear one of his gowns to the ­Oscars. He can also count Mary J Blige, Betty Gabriel, and Jessica ­Kahawaty among his clients.

Lama Jouni

From: Lebanon

Loved by: Bella Hadid, Jasmin Sanders, Nicole Scherzinger

After studying fashion in Paris and working with the likes of Balmain and Reed Krakoff, Lama Jouni launched her label in 2013. Her designs have been popular with the style-savvy in the Middle East for years, but, in 2018, Jouni picked up some high-profile followers. Model and all-round it-girl Bella Hadid was spotted looking effort­lessly cool in a Lama Jouni white cropped hoodie in Paris, as was fellow model and Instagram ­influencer Jasmine Sanders, aka, Golden Barbie.

Minimalist Boutique

From: Bahrain

Loved by: Ania Fawad, Sarwat Gilani Mirza

Nida Majeed, a Pakistani-­British designer who currently lives in Bahrain, is the driving force behind The Minimalist Boutique, an Instagram-based fashion line gaining traction in the region through trunk shows and collaborations with fashion bloggers and stylists. Her designs have been spotted on the likes of Pakistani influencer Sarwat Gilani Mirza, and ­celebrity stylist and blogger Ania Fawad. With its affordable clothing ranging from Dh200 to Dh600, we ­expect to see a lot more high-profile faces championing this emerging label.


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