Going global: 10 UAE designers in London

From well-known brands to emerging names, 10 of the UAE’s most interesting designers have opened a pop-up shop at Fenwick department store in London’s Bond Street

There is little doubt these days that the fashion and design scene in the UAE is thriving and growing, but when one of London’s most established department stores decides to showcase 10 Emirati brands on its womenswear floor, it is clear that international recognition is very much on the cards.

This summer, the exclusive Bond Street department store Fenwick has teamed up with Sharjah’s Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council to create a pop-up shop featuring womenswear, jewellery and homeware from some of the country’s most promising design talents. Vision presents the names to watch. 

Zayan the Label
A name familiar to fashion lovers in the UAE for her pioneering boutique mini-chain S*uce, founded with partners Dina Saleh and Fatima Ghobash, Zayan Ghandour is able to truly explore her creativity and design chops with Zayan the Label, launched at Paris Fashion Week in 2011. Her collection in Fenwick epitomises her eclectic, fun-loving approach to style, all bouncy ruffles, oversized lace appliqués and cross-stitch rose motifs. This is fashion at its most exuberant.

Align
With a minimalist aesthetic that combines smooth granite-coloured jersey and starchy cotton and denim into sculptural silhouettes, Align’s architectural influence is clear in every piece. Yet details such as frayed edges and coarsely woven fabrics bring a human edge to the collection. Launched in 2013 by Sara Al Mahmoud and Asma Khoory, both are Emiratis, the ultimate aim is to create collections that are both comfortable and uncompromisingly contemporary.

Amal Haliq
There’s no missing the influence of the UAE’s heritage and history in Emirati artist Amal Haliq’s jewellery, yet she brings those familiar symbols right up to date. Pieces like earrings in the shape of a fragment of gold net, cupping a pearl, or large coins on chains embellished with clock hands, hark back to the country’s history in trading and pearl diving. But the depth of knowledge that comes with a training at Central Saint Martins in London and The Gemological Institute of America mean that the results are never less than polished and stylish.

Sheikha Madiyah Al Sharqi
Not only is Sheikha Madiyah Al Sharqi the daughter of the current ruler of the Emirate of Fujairah His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, the designer has a royal fashion education to match, having graduating from the French fashion university Esmod. Add to that rigorous training an upbringing in the world of fashion, and it’s easy to see the origins of her luxurious approach. In soft, muted colours, her fluid silhouettes contrast open-weave fabrics with silky, silvery fringing and delicate nude-coloured beading.

Neon Edge
Already one of Dubai’s favourite womenswear brands, Neon Edge is creation of artist and designer Mona Fares. A German-Egyptian brought up in Dubai, Fares brings an urban, up-to-date edge to eveningwear, with colour leading the designs. Her latest collection is inspired by the nightscape of the UAE, with midnight and black tulle gently gathered and scattered with silver beads.

Twisted Roots
Almost severe in its simplicity, the Twisted Roots look is architectural, highly structured and pure in its minimalist lines – an influence from designer Latifa Al Gurg’s Emirati-Scandinavian heritage, as well as her scientific background in electrical engineering. Yet while these pieces are plain, they are made in luxurious fabrics and neutral shades that make them perfect for layering – a capsule wardrobe for an international audience that travels regularly.

Faissal El-Malak
A Palestinian who was brought up between Montreal and Doha, Faissal El-Malak trained in Paris at the Atelier Chardon Savard, but has been working as a designer in Dubai since 2014. Bridging artisanal craft and traditional aesthetics with contemporary fashion, his current collection highlights classic Middle Eastern woven patterns in simple shapes but complements them with highly tailored separates such as trousers in Yves Klein blue.

Alia Bin Omair's gold bracelet is one of the exclusive items on show at Fenwick of Bond Street
Alia Bin Omair's gold bracelet is one of the exclusive items on show at Fenwick of Bond Street

IAMMAI
Created in 2014 by self-described ‘designer of everything’ Mai Albudoor, IAMMAI brings together ultra-feminine fabrics such as rigid satin, trimmed in ostrich feather, with a refined, pared-back palette of gold, khaki green and black, and an architectural approach to cutting – all within the parameters of modest dressing. With her background in art, architecture, interiors and graphic design, it’s not surprising that this Emirati designer should bring together such disparate approaches in one rather grand collection.

Alia Bin Omair
In delicate gold, Alia Bin Omair’s pieces of jewellery look as if they come hewn or flaked straight from the sea or the desert. The fragile, organic shapes float on polished gold collars or rods, and show just how rooted in her Emirati landscape Bin Omair’s design process really is. After graduating from the Damas Jewellery Academy in 2013, her experimental approach to design and techniques saw her named Emirati Jewellery Designer of the Year.

Designed By Hind
Sheikha Hind Al Qassimi has already played a significant role in furthering women’s business with the Sharjah Women’s Business Council, but it is her own love of porcelain, developed in early childhood, that led to the launch of Designed By Hind. Starting with sketches on porcelain for her family, she has developed a style that integrates Emirati patterns with fine finishes such as bisque white porcelain or a brass bowl that is silky smooth on the outside with a beaten interior.