ELLE (Canada) - - Escape -

I ar­rived 30 min­utes late for my in­ter­view with Rami Al Ali—Dubai’s most es­teemed cou­turier—and I was feel­ing guilty. “The cab driver couldn’t find the ate­lier,” I of­fered up sheep­ishly. “Please don’t worry,” he said. “It is a prob­lem for us too. There’s al­ways a new road. Things are built so quickly in Dubai that us­ing GPS isn’t help­ful.” With the grace and good looks of a ’40s film star (think of a young Humphrey Bog­art in Casablanca), the Syr­ian-born de­signer ush­ered me into his show­room for a chat.

How do you blend Western and East­ern aes­thet­ics into your work? “Dubai nat­u­rally takes you in that di­rec­tion be­cause of the ver­sa­til­ity of the town. It’s Ara­bic, but there is a strong Western life­style. It’s very global.” Do women ap­proach fash­ion dif­fer­ently here? “Yes, women dress for women. When you dress for a man, it’s all about your char­ac­ter. When you dress for a woman, it’s more about your so­cial sta­tus. The women here are harsh judges of an­other woman’s fash­ion. They see things a man wouldn’t no­tice.”

How did you de­velop the same rig­or­ous eye as your clients’?

“I was sur­rounded by women when I was grow­ing up, and I would lis­ten to how they de­scribed or crit­i­cized other women’s out­fits af­ter they’d been to an event.”

Did you al­ways want to be a fash­ion de­signer? “No, but I al­ways un­der­stood the im­por­tance of clothes. The way you ap­pear is your busi­ness card—even if you don’t ac­knowl­edge it or say you don’t be­long to a fash­ion crowd. You still choose clothes to deliver that mes­sage.” What do your pieces tele­graph about a woman? “That she’s highly ed­u­cated when it comes to fash­ion and that she wants to be unique and dif­fer­ent.” What de­sign era is your favourite? “The ’40s and ’50s, be­cause it mar­ried fash­ion with cin­ema.” What’s your fave fash­ion film? “High So­ci­ety with Grace Kelly. For some scenes, I put the vol­ume up so I can hear the sound of the fab­ric when Grace moves and you hear the or­ganza touch­ing the fur­ni­ture. It’s beau­ti­ful.” ■

Like his gowns, Rami Al Ali ra­di­ates star power.

Gowns from Al Ali’s s/s ’14 cou­ture collection; the dress Bey­oncé wore for her Mrs. Carter tour (right)

Rami Al Ali

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