Celebrating traditional Emirati dress: Clothing once owned by sheikhas brought out of storage for one-off shoot

In a special collaboration, 'The National' presents pieces from the archive of The Zay Initiative, the region's most comprehensive collection of traditional outfits

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In a unique collaboration, The National's Luxury magazine was granted rare access to the archive of The Zay Initiative, an expansive collection of traditional clothing from across the region, collated by Dr Reem El Mutwalli.

The aim is to place a spotlight on the incredible wealth of clothing from this part of the world, so two collections were taken out of storage for the day.

Scroll through the gallery above to see the Luxury shoot.

Preserving Arab dress one photo at a time

Preserving Arab dress one photo at a time

First are precious bespoke looks once owned by sheikhas and other high-profile Emirati women, who passed them on them to The Zay Initiative.

The second is the Artist series, where The Zay Initiative asked female artists in the UAE to hand-paint a silk panel that was then transformed into a 'thawb kandurah'.

Dedicated to collecting and documenting the rich history of clothing in this region, The Zay Initiative also records the deeply personal stories that go with each piece, from how it was made to who owned it. As the UAE races into the 21st century, much of this sartorial knowledge risks being lost.

An expert in her field, Dr El Mutwalli spent 20 years collating at the Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation, where she built the Sultani Collection, on which The Zay Initiative was founded. Raised in the UAE and holding a PhD in Islamic Art, Dr El Mutwalli is uniquely placed to help preserve this priceless heritage.