UAE label Atelier Zuhra sends opulent gowns down London Fashion Week runway

The show took place inside the British capital’s Royal Opera House

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Atelier Zuhra put Arab design in the spotlight at London Fashion Week with a solo show on Saturday, February 15, presenting the Dubai  couture house’s autumn / winter 2020 collection. Opulent gowns, featuring sequins, embroidered fabrics, feathers and jewels, were on display on the runway in the British capital’s famed Royal Opera House.

In the front row were celebrities, influencers and fashion lovers, gathered to see the latest offering from a brand that has quickly established itself as one of the Middle East’s leading couturiers. Atelier Zuhra was founded in 2015 by Omani designer Mousa Al Awfi, who named the brand after her mother. Al Awfi raised five children – four daughters and one son – before realising her dream of dressing women in maximalist glamour.

After opening the Dar Al Aufi boutique in Dubai, Al Awfi’s evening dresses caught the eye of fashionistas in the region first and then internationally. The brand’s celebrity clients range from Bollywood and Hollywood stars to Arab royalty. Al Awfi has since handed the business to her daughter, Rayan Al Sulaimani, who opened a second Atelier Zuhra boutique in Muscat.

"I never studied fashion," Al Sulaimani told The National after her show. "I came from a business foundation, but I used to go to my mum's atelier after work and that's when she noticed I had a passion for fashion. She gave me a chance to prove myself and I took it. Thank God she trusted me."

With creative director Ryan Pacioles, Al Sulaimani has created a standout collection of floor-length, A-line and mini dresses in lilac, mint green and shimmering metallics. Head covers come dripping in gems and capes are topped with feathers.

“So far everyone is happy with the collection,” she says. “The people I heard from said they were overwhelmed.”

This is the third time that Atelier Zuhra, which produces two couture collections a year, has been showcased at London Fashion Week.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16: A model walks the runway during the Atelier Zuhra show & mansion soirèe event during London Fashion Week February 2019 at the  on February 16, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by John Phillips/BFC/Getty Images)
The Atelier Zuhra show at London Fashion Week 2019. Photo: John Phillips / BFC / Getty Images

“I think there are a lot of challenges that designers face, especially coming from a Middle Eastern background. I think the main one would be the time frame in producing a collection,” Al Sulaimani said.

Not content with owning two boutiques in her home region, Al Sulaimani is looking to Europe for Atelier Zuhra’s next venture, and aims to open her third UAE-born boutique in Paris. “There’s been a lot of change in the design scene in Dubai, not just in fashion,” Al Sulaimani says. “Before we used to follow the trends, but now we pave new paths and set new trends.”