UAE Portrait of a Nation: The fashion designer who eschews labels and brands

The Ethiopian-born designer has lived in Dubai for the past 13 years. She wears her own designs and talks about her work as part of a lifestyle commonly associated with 'good fashion'.

DUBAI // Feiruza Mudessir’s striking and beautiful designs can be traced back to her childhood, spent in Ethiopia and India, with their bustling streets filled with colour.

Her designs, under her own label Finchitua, are a dazzling blend of African-retro streetwear.

Feiruza, 34, was born in Ethiopia, grew up in India and for the past 13 years she has been living in Dubai, where she found the opportunity and inspiration to launch her business.

She is humble and shy. She wears her own creations and talks about designer clothes as part of a lifestyle that does not have to fall in line with brands and price tags commonly associated with “good fashion”.

“I can buy a T-shirt that is Dh30 and will make it my own,” she says. “I’m not into labels, and I’m not into brands.”

Feiruza came to the UAE after graduation to work at her uncle’s import-export business.

“After a while I wanted to start pursuing a career in fashion and started as a saleswoman at Mango,” she says.

“I continued my studies at the Centre for Executive Education in Knowledge Village and received a diploma in fashion.”

Living in the UAE, she was inspired by the local culture and by the people from many other nationalities, their clothes and the opportunities the country offered.

“The UAE exposed me to a multicultural and diverse sense of fashion,” she says.

“In Dubai you feel inspired every day, and I even adopted traditional clothing and incorporated them into my fashion line.

“I want my fashion line to reflect where I came from and the places I’ve been.”

With almost 7,000 followers on her Instagram and Facebook accounts, Feiruza says that most of her clients, about 80 per cent, are from the GCC.

“One of my most popular items is the bisht, a traditional men’s cloak popular in the region, but they are made for women,” she says. “Women wear them over their clothes as a stylish item.

“I have a jacket called Mirchi Masala, which translates as ‘mixed spices’.

“It includes designs from Ethiopia, India and the UAE.”

Feiruza says she hopes to open her own online boutique and design more items for men.

“I would like to have a man’s collection and design a kandura – if anyone would dare wear it.”

She creates ballroom gowns to order and customers can reach her on social media. But for the full experience, people can see her collection every Friday at the Ripe Market in Zabeel Park.

“It’s not easy breaking into the fashion world and I all I know is that I want to do things my way,” Feiruza says.

Finchitua, which in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, means, “that girl with the gap”.

“All the women in my family have a gap in their teeth and the name is very dear to me,” she says.

Feiruza says that her mother has been her inspiration, despite them living apart for most of her life. “My mother was always working for us and I am inspired and I appreciate that.