As the fashion scene across the GCC continues to gain traction, an increasing number of new modestwear talents are emerging from within the UAE.
With its rich cultural history and dynamic, forward-looking modernity, the country is proving to be a ripe incubator for innovation.
Increasingly, designers are mixing traditional ideas that hark back across the generations with the raw energy that comes from living in a melting pot of so many nationalities. The result is a unique take on modestwear, one of fashion's most relatable and wearable trends.
One such name is Vivaciosa, which creates sassy, dazzlingly fresh dresses that would look at home on the runways of Milan.
Describing itself as “exclusively dedicated to women who choose to dress modestly”, it sets out to fill a fashion space which has been more of a void until recent years. If the term modestwear conjures images of something shapeless and dull, then think again. Try bias-cut long-sleeve dresses in lavender and amethyst, or a peach, belted batwing kaftan, with a pussybow neck tie.
Helmed by an Emirati and Ukrainian husband-and-wife duo, Vivaciosa hopes to reach the woman who has been, until recently, routinely underserved by other designers. “We understood the struggles that she is faced with and we felt the need to create modest clothing that feels luxurious and takes into account all the nuances of modest dressing,” the brand states.
Another emerging name is Beyond, which was founded in 2019 by Khulood Al Nakhi and aims to bring the best of European finishes to the UAE.
Sourcing its materials from some of the finest companies in France and Italy, these are then transformed into flowing abayas and kaftans at the atelier in the Emirates. While many of the pieces are traditional in essence, the hope is to appeal to a much wider audience. “The abaya is our culture and our traditional way of dressing in the GCC,” explains Al Nakhi, “but I want my pieces to be worn in Europe and beyond, by women who are looking for something new and unique.”
As well as the special-occasion black abayas – many dancing with light from metallic threads or cut from shot taffeta that shifts in tone as it moves – there are more relaxed kaftans, made from chiffon printed in psychedelic swirls of lime and orange polka dots. Light in feel and mood, these seem destined for a life on the Cote d’Azure or Rimini's fabled beaches.
Hailing from Abu Dhabi, this eponymous brand is already making waves with its range of 1980s-inspired wares. If power suits, big shoulders and glossy, wet look patent is your thing, then look no further.
Launched during the height of the pandemic, and filled with a brash sense of youthful energy and sass, there are skilful cuts at play behind the deceptively simple silhouettes.
Think of the large-scale check suit for example. With its nod to Giorgio Armani, with its padded shoulders and over-wide trousers, it is easy to miss the single button holding the double-breasted jacket closed, as the fabric follows the waistline. To pull this off successfully is much harder than it appears, and speaks volumes of a pattern well researched and executed.
Or how about the primrose yellow, button-front sundress that hugs the body like a bias cut, but isn't? Again, Tamimi makes it look effortless, while retaining a naive charm.