Shaikha Amal Al Mak­toum’s 1950s-in­spired col­lec­tion took her on a tear­ful jour­ney to Lon­don with DDFC

Friday - - Fashion -

Moth­er­hood and fash­ion go hand in hand for Shaikha Amal Al Mak­toum. The Emi­rati mum-ofthree started her fash­ion la­bel Az­za­lia a year ago, af­ter tak­ing time out to have her chil­dren, dur­ing which pe­riod she made the de­ci­sion to get into the fash­ion in­dus­try. Since then, she’s had ex­hi­bi­tions and shows around the Mid­dle East, and most re­cently showed at Lon­don Fash­ion Week – a prize she won af­ter be­ing cho­sen by a panel in­clud­ing Reem Acra.

Pas­sion­ate and en­thu­si­as­tic about fash­ion, Shaikha Amal’s love for what she does came across loud and clear when we spoke to her in Dubai. She’s never stud­ied fash­ion, but in­stead stud­ied busi­ness and be­gan work­ing for her univer­sity in Dubai, help­ing grad­u­ates to start their ca­reers. With no pro­fes­sional de­sign train­ing, she used her ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge of start­ing a busi­ness and ap­plied it to her fash­ion brand.

Her brand, Az­za­lia, is named af­ter her two daugh­ters and in­cor­po­rates three fash­ion lines, all at vary­ing price points. Daisy by Az­za­lia is the ca­sual, af­ford­able range, Lily by Az­za­lia is mid-mar­ket, and Iris by Az­za­lia is her cou­ture line, which she showed at Lon­don Fash­ion Week.

Man­ag­ing three chil­dren, three fash­ion lines, con­stant trav­el­ling for shows and sourc­ing ma­te­ri­als, as well as ac­tu­ally hav­ing a life, is tir­ing but, de­spite all that, she says that she is ‘blessed be­cause I am do­ing some­thing I love and peo­ple feel it in my voice.’ That was def­i­nitely the case when we met her to find out more about her Lon­don Fash­ion Week ex­pe­ri­ence.

What was it like show­ing your col­lec­tion in Lon­don? It’s so hard to choose just one word that de­scribes my ex­pe­ri­ence, but it re­ally was truly amaz­ing. I’ve done shows there, of course, but this was on an­other level. When I saw the huge au­di­ence and their re­sponse to the show, it was the most in­cred­i­ble mo­ment for me. It made all the hard work and sleep­less nights re­ally worth it.

Did you learn a lot from it? It feels like a got a de­gree just from par­tic­i­pat­ing in the event! You learn so much, and it’s so dif­fer­ent from the UAE. Learn­ing how to run a show on an in­ter­na­tional level was a huge learn­ing curve for me. Now I can tell you what I would and wouldn’t do next time. It was chal­leng­ing, in­for­ma­tive and ad­ven­tur­ous.

Did you get to meet any in­ter­est­ing peo­ple while you were there? The other de­sign­ers were go­ing through ex­actly the same things as me. They have the same feel­ings and strug­gles that I have, which made me feel re­ally at ease.

What has the feed­back been like? On the day, a lot of peo­ple came up to me to con­grat­u­late me and the feed­back was fan­tas­tic, but the real re­sults will show when or­ders come in. Right now I’m put­ting to­gether the look­book, which I’m go­ing to send out to buy­ers, both in the Mid­dle East and in­ter­na­tion­ally, and hope­fully the or­ders will come in from there.

How did you feel at the end of your show? I was in tears back­stage. The piece for the fi­nale is an in­cred­i­ble wed­ding gown and it looked so beau­ti­ful com­ing down the cat­walk. I’m a very tear­ful per­son any­way, but that re­ally made me cry.

What was the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind the col­lec­tion? The in­spi­ra­tion was the 1950s. I’ve al­ways been fas­ci­nated by that era. It’s so glam­orous, but with a clas­sic touch. As a woman, you want to look el­e­gant but not over­done, and I think this era cap­tures that.

Hav­ing three sep­a­rate ranges is a lot of work – what made you de­cide to do this? It is a hand­ful, but I choose the chal­lenges be­cause I want to be able to pro­vide the whole pack­age for my women. Some women may not be able to af­ford cou­ture, and some may only want to wear it oc­ca­sion­ally, so by hav­ing the three lines I can cre­ate looks for every as­pect of a

woman’s life. I have clients who think they only want to buy the cou­ture line un­til they see the more af­ford­able pieces and of­ten end up tak­ing pieces from that range too! You are from the UAE, but your clothes have quite a Western feel. Any spe­cific rea­son? I have ac­tu­ally de­signed many of my pieces so they can be worn in more than one way. There are a lot of pieces that could be worn as a clas­sic abaya, but also as a jacket over a dress.

A lot of my looks have re­mov­able skirts or trousers un­der­neath dresses, so depend­ing on the woman, she can wear them in a way that she feels com­fort­able with. I think it’s im­por­tant to cater for ev­ery­one when we are liv­ing some­where like the UAE, which is so mul­ti­cul­tural. Have you al­ways had an in­ter­est in fash­ion? Ever since I was a kid. I have two daugh­ters now and I hope they will also be.

I have DE­SIGNED many of my pieces so they can be worn in MORE than one way. I think it’s VI­TAL to cater for ev­ery­one when we are liv­ing some­where like the UAE, which is so MUL­TI­CUL­TURAL

How do you think the Dubai De­sign and Fash­ion Coun­cil (DDFC) is help­ing and nur­tur­ing tal­ent in the re­gion? I was very, very happy to know that some­thing like that had been es­tab­lished in Dubai; it’s very nat­u­ral for it to have a fash­ion coun­cil. His High­ness Shaikh Mo­ham­mad Bin Rashid Al Mak­toum, Vice Pres­i­dent and Prime Min­is­ter of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, over­sees ev­ery­thing in such a lovely way; it will be suc­cess­ful.

Can you tell us about be­ing se­lected by the DDFC to go to Lon­don Fash­ion Week? It was so nerve-wrack­ing. One of the judges was Reem Acra. She is my hero so I was so over­whelmed. She told me I was ‘al­ready there and knew how to the whole thing’ and that was a mo­ment I’ll never for­get.

What hap­pened next? I found out I had won at the end of De­cem­ber. All of my sup­pli­ers were off for Christ­mas un­til Jan­uary 7, and my fab­rics still needed to be flown over from Paris. My show was go­ing to be at the be­gin­ning of Fe­bru­ary, so I had to put my col­lec­tion to­gether in a short time.

It was chal­leng­ing and there were sleep­less nights but some­how I did it. I would never have sent any­thing less than per­fect down the run­way. It was a real chal­lenge to get ev­ery­thing right.

Did you have peo­ple help­ing you? I have a team of around 20 peo­ple, but each gown re­quires so much de­tail, em­bel­lish­ment and pat­terns, and they take hours and hours to put to­gether, even if you have a group of peo­ple work­ing on it.

Where do you source your ma­te­ri­als from? I go to Pre­mière Vi­sion in Paris twice a year. This is one of the big­gest fab­ric and ma­te­ri­als ex­hi­bi­tions, bring­ing swatches from all around the world. I get most from there but their orig­i­nal source could be from any­where. I al­ways make sure I get the crème de la crème of fab­rics so that my prod­ucts are unique. I get so ex­cited buy­ing new fab­rics, I ad­mit I do get car­ried away. What can I say, I’m a shopa­holic for fab­rics!

Will you show­case in the UAE? I have show­cased here in the past, but at the mo­ment I’m work­ing on get­ting my name out there at ex­hi­bi­tions around the re­gion, but who knows what will hap­pen over the next few months.

What can we ex­pect to see next from you? Right now, I’m try­ing to get my brand – and this col­lec­tion in par­tic­u­lar – out there at ex­hi­bi­tions and events across the re­gion and in­ter­na­tion­ally. I do this through ex­hi­bi­tions and get­ting my look­books to the right peo­ple. The next thing I have com­ing up is the Ataya ex­hi­bi­tion in Abu Dhabi in May. This is a char­ity ex­hi­bi­tion un­der the pa­tron­age of Shaikha Shamsa Bint Ham­dan Bin Mo­ham­mad Al Nahyan. All the fees that de­sign­ers pay go to char­ity and it’s a re­ally high-pro­file event for the re­gion.

Amal’s col­lec­tion is on az­za­lia.ae.

Le­banese de­signer Reem Acra was among the judges who recog­nised Shaika Amal’s tal­ent and chose to send her to Lon­don Fash­ion Week

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