Now more than ever, women in the Middle East are breaking through to the forefront of the fashion industry as the focus on style in Arabia reaches new heights.
With supermodel sisters Bella and Gigi Hadid, Vogue cover star Imaan Hammam and jewellery designer Noor Fares all frequently vocal about their Middle Eastern roots, more and more designers are turning to the Arab world’s traditions for inspiration.
Whether it’s from iconic ateliers in Paris or brand headquarters in New York, designers and retailers are now looking to this part of the world and catering to their Middle Eastern clients while crafting their collections. This has been evident in a number of forms, from the use of traditional Arabesque embellishments and embroidery, down to more modest silhouettes being incorporated into mainstream lines.
A large number of brands have even gone a step further by releasing special edition capsule collections for Ramadan and one-off pieces created especially for their Middle East-based customers.
With empowering female fashion icons such as Halima Aden (popularly known as the world’s first hijab-wearing supermodel), as well as a new generation of covered-up Instagram influencers, Arab women are expressing their sense of style in numerous ways – from glamorous evening gowns to sports-savvy hijabs.
The move towards a more modest approach to everyday fashion is now impacting and trending in the wider style world. Case in point, London Modest Fashion Week (LMFW), which took place during the official London Fashion Week in February. Now in its second year, the event celebrates the latest in current modest wear by showcasing designers from across the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and far beyond.
At Majid Al Futtaim malls across the Middle East, which includes leading regional shopping destinations such as Mall of the Emirates, Mall of Egypt and City Centres, customers can shop the latest new season pieces to mix into their own wardrobes. Combining straight-off-the-catwalk items with more traditional clothing, be it an abaya, jellabiya or hijab, these fashion-forward shoppers are putting their own twist on the top trends for the new season.
Examples range from pairing elaborate earrings with a headscarf to subtly synching an abaya with a statement belt or swapping out a more standard style for a draped kimono or loose coat. Arab women are further tailoring the trends to suit their style by looking to the latest hues, materials and prints to work into their traditional wear.
As frequently showcased by supermodel Halima Aden, we’ve also noticed a move towards colourful hijabs. Fashion Week saw this staple item displayed in an array of fresh updates, ranging from sequin-splashed styles to printed silk scarfs draped elegantly over hair and fastened with jewelled brooches. We also spotted women wearing hats and sporty caps atop hijabs, lending the look a more urban feel. The modifications being made to modest wear stretch from classic to creative.
The modern Middle Eastern woman’s everyday style is now much more varied, and while ensuring an outfit is culturally appropriate often remains at the forefront of outfit choices, we’ve noticed an exciting shift in how Arabian consumers shop and dress today. Many of these women not only follow the latest trends but are setting them too.
The Spring/Summer 2018 catwalks were awash with floor-skimming A-line skirts paired with buttoned-up collared shirts. We also spotted boxy menswear-style blazers in a palette of sugary pastel shades, sporty tracksuit-style pants, lightweight mac coats and the ultimate power piece – tailored trouser suits in statement hues.
Prints also played an important role across the new season collections. Key trends included oversized polka dots, nautical upright stripes and florals in all forms, while the colours that reigned on the runway ranged from bright lime green to classic dove grey and 2018 Pantone Colour Of The Year, ultra violet.
On the accessories front, supersized straw sun hats, transparent bags and boots, barley-there micro sunglasses and even opera-length ladylike gloves stood out and are set to be a big hit in our region as the temperature rises.
From mixing in Spring/Summer 2018’s hottest prints to layering the latest silhouettes and donning the most coveted accessories, shoes or handbags of the moment, the region’s style-minded set knows how to work the new season trends. And it’s this style savvy attitude that will see Arab women gracing the covers and style pages of international fashion magazines for some time to come.