Emirati designer Sara Al Madani on her customised abayas and dressing WWE women in Saudi

'It was basically an abaya converted for a client from a different market; I catered just to fit it into her world,' Al Madani says

Sara Al Madani with WWE chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon. Courtesy Sara Al Madani
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She may have only stepped out from behind the stage for a few minutes to accompany Bobby Lashley before his match, but at Super ShowDown in Riyadh, WWE Superstar Lana stunned in a glittering golden abaya that was paired with a black, white and gold hijab.

While it was a contrasting outfit from the more revealing ones she usually wears on WWE programming, The Ravishing Russian (as she’s known) stood out with her new look, looking like a shining ray of light.

Emirati designer Sara Al Madani was the mastermind behind the spectacular piece. Al Madani is used to creating outfits for some high profile clients. She dressed Madonna when the singer visited the UAE back in 2012 and WWE chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon when she came to Abu Dhabi for the Special Olympics last year.

When creating customised abayas, Al Madani says she tries to base it off the women she is creating them for.

“I’ve dressed Stephanie McMahon, Lana and Naomi. I’ve done them based on each girl’s personality,” she says. “Stephanie had leather and metal. Lana had glitter and shimmer and Naomi also had the same thing.”

Normally, the process of creating a custom piece takes between five to seven days and cost between Dh2,500 to Dh10,000 depending on what materials are used. Lana’s golden abaya cost about Dh3,200.

After meeting McMahon last year, it seems as though other WWE stars were eager to get a customised outfit. She was put in touch with Lana by the Arab Fashion Council and told what the wrestler needed for the event.

“She said ‘I’m going to Saudi, I need to look conservative but I don’t want to not look like myself, I still want to feel liberated and look glamorous. I don’t want to feel like I’m restricted.’ So she was like ‘make it look like a cape’ so I made it look like a wrestling cape with the glitter and shimmer. But at the same time, it was basically like an abaya that was converted for a client who is from a different market and I catered just to fit it into her world,” she says.

Since the wrestlers were only in Saudi Arabia for three days, Al Madani was under a tight schedule. She was able to create the piece in only two days. She also created another sparkly black abaya for Naomi, who made history as she wrestled in the first women's title match in Saudi.

“Naomi’s piece is not a straight line abaya. It’s a bit short. So it’s like more of a raincoat kind of style,” she explains.

While dressing celebrities isn’t new to Al Madani, having to dress female wrestlers proved a bit more challenging. She even admits to having an employee wear the abaya and roll around with the piece to make sure it would hold up.

“I’ve been dressing celebrities all my life. I dressed Madonna when she was here. I’ve dressed so many people,” she says. “But dressing wrestlers is so challenging. They’re not just fashion icons, they’re like different type of icons. They wear stuff that represents what they do as well. They wrestle with it so they have to be comfortable moving around in it.”

However, she says that’s the great thing about abayas. It can be such a versatile piece of clothing because it can be used in many ways – from a kaftan to a coat and to a beach covering and a kimono.

“That’s the beauty of the abaya,” she says. It’s a piece that can be converted and catered to people from different backgrounds, different religions, and different ethnicities.”