Portrait of a nation: Aisha Al Mamari

Aisha Al Mamari adapts traditional galabiehs and abayas, creating a series of well-loved designs worn by sheikhas and many others. She says she inherited the skills from her mother.

Aisha Al Mamari inherited her skills, techniques and inspiration from her mother, becoming one of the best-known abaya designers in the UAE. She has clients all over the region. Pawan Singh / The National
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FUJAIRAH // A passion for tradition and her mother’s inspiration have played a major role in making Aisha Al Mamari one of the country’s best-known abaya designers.

She managed to transform the regular abaya look into something more stylish, by creating innovative designs with trendy colours and styles, calling her own label – Stylish. The 34-year-old started her journey into fashion and designing in 1995, watching her mother working with an old sewing machine.

“I inherited my skills and techniques from my mother,” she said. “Her passion had affected us all, she used to design and sew our own clothes with her old sewing machine, she was talented so we became talented too.

“My elder sister is brilliant in sketching and she helps me in drawing my designs. We started in 2008, weaving traditional textures and patterns on scarves and selling them to relatives and friends,” Ms Al Mamari said.

She designed her first abaya in 2010 and with the support and encouragement of her family, she established her boutique, using her bachelor’s degree in business management to successfully run the business.

“I designed my first abaya in 2010. I remember that day when I went to Dubai to buy the fabric without telling anyone and secretly I took it to the tailor and gave him directions on how to sew it, adding some multicolour Indian patterns.

“When it was ready I showed it to my family. They were so proud and surprised and encouraged me to show it to friends, to see what their reaction would be. So I posted it on a social-media group and everybody loved it and within an hour I had 10 orders requesting the same abaya,” she said.

Ms Al Mamari’s journey has not always been smooth.

“I had some difficulties in finding a good tailor who could handle my many orders. Once a tailor stole my designs. That affected my business. But after that, I managed. I hired six new tailors and am planning to add two more to work with me in the boutique, to fix the size of the abaya or galabieh on the same day, instead of postponing it to the next day.

“I had another issue with the high rates for renting exhibition booths. The rent used to be between Dh2,500 and Dh5,000, but now it costs Dh15,000 and sometimes Dh30,000. I share a booth with other Emirati designers to split the rent,” Ms Al Mamari said.

Now her customers – from Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE – must place orders in advance to get their hands on one of her abayas or galabiehs, especially during Ramadan and Eid.

“I design and launch five collections each year. What characterises my designs is that I use unique fabrics for each season and occasion, I also use handmade patterns and mix different colours.

“I have customers from all the GCC countries. Sheikhas, actors and TV presenters love and own my designs. I also participate in many exhibitions, abroad and at home,” she said.

She plans to open a branch in Abu Dhabi soon.

rhaza@thenational.ae