Dubai-based fashion de­signer Amira Ha­roon talks fashion, fam­ily and fem­i­nism ahead of her show at Lon­don Fashion Week

Friday - - Contents -

Dubai-based fashion de­signer Amira ha­roon wants to make a strong and com­fort­able state­ment at Lon­don Fashion Week.

Ear­lier this year Fri­day met with Deb­o­rah Hen­ning and Shaikha Amal Al Mak­toum of Az­za­lia who had been cho­sen by the Dubai De­sign and Fashion Coun­cil (DDFC) in part­ner­ship with the FAD In­sti­tute of Lux­ury, Fashion & Style Dubai (FAD Dubai), to present their col­lec­tions on the run­way at Lon­don Fashion Week. Now as the new sea­son ap­proaches, another de­signer has been cho­sen by a panel of judges to fol­low in their foot­steps with a show as part of Fashion Scout dur­ing Lon­don Fashion Week.

The de­signer in ques­tion is UAE-based Amira Ha­roon. Amira will travel to Lon­don next week where she will present her Cat­walk Col­lec­tion from her name­sake brand.

The judg­ing panel in­cluded Jazia Al Dhan­hani, CEO of DDFC, Sass Brown, Founder Dean of Dubai In­sti­tute of De­sign and In­no­va­tion (DIDI), Mar­tyn Roberts, Man­ag­ing & Cre­ative Direc­tor of Fashion Scout Lon­don (FSL), and Shivang Dhruva, Founder of FAD Dubai.

Amira grew up in in Saudi Ara­bia. With both par­ents from Pak­istan, Amira had a child­hood of many cul­tures and in­flu­ences. She stud­ied fashion at Par­sons School of Fashion in Paris be­fore mov­ing to Dubai. To­day she lives in Jumeirah with her hus­band and two young chil­dren. As well as run­ning her fam­ily, for the past seven years Amira has run her grow­ing fashion em­pire from her

home. Here Amira talks fashion, fam­ily and fem­i­nism to Fri­day ahead of her show in Lon­don next week.

How ex­cited are you to be show­ing your col­lec­tion at Lon­don Fashion Week? I think it’s an awe­some thing to be hap­pen­ing and I still some­times find it hard to be­lieve be­cause it’s some­thing I’ve al­ways wanted to do. Lon­don is some­where I have al­ways par­tic­u­larly wanted to show my col­lec­tion as that is where so many con­tem­po­rary de­sign­ers are spot­ted. It couldn’t be a better plat­form for me and it couldn’t be a better time. I have had my brand for seven years now and have been mak­ing two, three or even more col­lec­tions a year. I think I have the pro­duc­tion side cov­ered and I was very ready to fo­cus on mar­ket­ing and get­ting my brand name out there.

The show takes place next week – are you pre­pared? I have re­vised the whole col­lec­tion twice over al­ready. I def­i­nitely have way too many looks – cur­rently around 40 but I want to cut it down to around 20 for the show, so I will have a play around and see what works be­tween now and then. I think some­times there is a lot of con­fu­sion in the busy way I work but it al­ways seems to turn out ok!

Can you tell us a bit about your ex­pe­ri­ence of the com­pe­ti­tion? It ac­tu­ally took me a while to get my mem­ber­ship with the DDFC but they en­cour­aged me to ap­ply for the com­pe­ti­tion. It was quite a sur­prise to be ap­proached by them as I don’t usu­ally en­ter com­pe­ti­tions. I had to present my col­lec­tion and an­swer their ques­tions for about an hour in a closed room, which was very nerve-rack­ing!

What kind of ques­tions did the panel of jueges ask you? They wanted to know how well does my brand iden­tity works in this re­gion cur­rently, and how I in­tend to take it in­ter­na­tion­ally. Also, I think they wanted to know if my brand value fits with the val­ues of the DDFC. Of course I had to present my col­lec­tion and the ideas be­hind the show that I will now do in Lon­don. Every­body said I was very or­gan­ised but I don’t know about that!

Did you ever think you could win? I never thought that I would. I was short­listed with some great de­sign­ers in­clud­ing Reemami who I re­ally re­spect and Maha Ab­dul Rasheed of Bam­bah who is an amaz­ing busi­ness woman, so it was tough com­pe­ti­tion. I thought I was an un­der­dog. My brand is still quite small so it never oc­curred to me that I would be cho­sen, but I’d like to think that my brand val­ues of­fered some­thing that the judges were look­ing for, and of course I hope they liked my de­sign sketches.

What are you most ner­vous about? My first two fashion shows in 2013 got very bad re­views from one par­tic­u­lar edi­tor. These were my first shows ever and it has re­ally scarred me pro­fes­sion­ally. I’m al­ways scared of a bad re­view now, es­pe­cially if it is quite per­sonal to me which that one was. Of course it’s fine to get crit­i­cal re­views but this one in par­tic­u­lar ques­tioned my abil­ity [as a de­signer] and I found that quite up­set­ting. So I guess that is my big­gest fear that some­thing like that will hap­pen again.There is a lot of pres­sure on me now to present some­thing that ev­ery­one is happy with.

What can we ex­pect from your col­lec­tion? The show is all about pow­er­ful and con­fi­dent women look­ing and feel­ing great in what they wear. The theme is the nineties hip-hop era. The mes­sage that I want to por­tray is “I’m ev­ery woman” – I want to ex­press the im­por­tant role that women play in so­ci­ety to­day and how im­por­tant it is to be strong and com­fort­able in what they wear – no mat­ter what their fashion, re­li­gion or cul­tural choices are. For the first time, I have ex­per­i­mented with ac­ces­sories – jew­ellery, head­pieces and scarves, in par­tic­u­lar.

Have you thought about other as­pects of the show – the mu­sic, for in­stance? The mu­sic will fit the theme of hip-hop through the eras. The show will start with the orig­i­nal I’m Ev­ery Woman song by Chaka Khan and fade into more mod­ern songs as the mod­els walk the run­way. The mu­sic will set the mood of the show – mod­ern and woman-cen­tric!

You men­tioned that the show will be woman-cen­tric what do you mean by this? My brand fo­cuses on how women should al­ways look and feel con­fi­dent within the many roles they have. Whether it’s be­ing a mother, sis­ter or busi­ness­woman. I feel women carry a big bur­den and pres­sure to look con­fi­dent and fashion has a huge role to play in this.

What are you hop­ing will come from hav­ing your show in Lon­don? I think the main hope is to learn a lot from this. Al­ready in the run-up to the event I’ve been in­tro­duced to so many peo­ple from all over the world so it’s been re­ally ex­cit­ing al­ready. The ac­tual ex­pe­ri­ence of pre­sent­ing in an amaz­ing lo­ca­tion in Lon­don is su­per ex­cit­ing for me. Cur­rently this is all I’m hop­ing to achieve but who knows what could hap­pen. I just want to come back feel­ing like I’ve achieved some­thing!

You grew up in Saudi Ara­bia. Has your cul­ture in­flu­enced your designs? It def­i­nitely has. I con­sider my­self to be

Through my DESIGNS, I want to EX­PRESS the im­por­tant ROLE WOMEN play in SO­CI­ETY to­day and how im­por­tant it is to be STRONG and COM­FORT­ABLE in what they WEAR

a Khaleeji [de­spite be­ing a sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion ex­pat]. Grow­ing up in Saudi Ara­bia was one of the most mem­o­rable time of my life. I also feel that it has shaped my at­ti­tude to­wards work and and I think I find it eas­ier to adapt to what­ever is hap­pen­ing around me. Are you see­ing an over­lap be­tween Mid­dle Eastern fashion and western style designs? This is a huge thing at the mo­ment. I think some of the big­gest brands in the world have started to re­alise that they were los­ing out to lesser known kaf­tan and Abaya de­sign­ers and that’s why so many brands have started de­sign­ing ‘mod­est’ fashion. A word in­ci­den­tally I hate – who de­cides what is mod­est? But yes I think there is a real mix of cul­tures in main­stream fashion these days but ob­vi­ously it is all be­cause it makes com­mer­cial sense. How do you think the DDFC is chang­ing the fashion in­dus­try in the UAE? I am very im­pressed with what they are do­ing here and the way they are try­ing to form a col­lec­tive com­mu­nity of cre­ative peo­ple. I think it is what the city needs. How do you man­age run­ning your own fashion la­bel and a fam­ily? You must be crazy busy right? Some­times I re­ally don’t know how I man­age it! I al­ways want to be a hands on de­signer. In

I think some of the big­gest brands in the world started to re­alise that they were los­ing out to lesser known kaf­tan and Abaya de­sign­ers and that’s why so many brands have started de­sign­ing ‘MOD­EST’ fashion

my home life I have two kids to look af­ter, but thank­fully I do have fan­tas­tic home help that has al­lowed me to do that. I was brought up by one sin­gle house­keeper for my whole life and I have tried to adopt that same style. We have some­body who has be­come part of our fam­ily, and she re­ally makes it pos­si­ble for me to pur­sue my dreams as she runs the house­hold like clock­work. I think I am very lucky and blessed to be in this sit­u­a­tion. It wouldn’t hap­pen any­where else in the world. Do you have a large team that works with you on your fashion brand? No my team is small. I have three staff that man­age the brand and then I have one mas­ter pat­tern cutter who is in­cred­i­ble as well as a small pro­duc­tion team. Are all your pieces fully pro­duced in the UAE? Yes all the man­u­fac­tur­ing is done here in the UAE. My show­room is here in my house and I also have a ware­house in Dubai. I source my ma­te­ri­als from all over the world and my em­bel­lish­ments are made in In­dia; purely be­cause I can’t get any­thing of the same stan­dard out­side of In­dia, but aside from that ev­ery­thing is done here in Dubai. I would love to have the guys who cre­ate the em­bel­lish­ments come here too, but they don’t want to! Is there any­one you would love to dress? There are so many women I would love to dress. Any­one who is strong and con­fi­dent. If I had to choose it would be Princess Haya and Queen Ra­nia of Jor­dan. Who is your de­signer in­spi­ra­tion? It keeps chang­ing. When I was grow­ing up it was al­ways Ver­sace. When I was in col­lege it was Alexan­der McQueen, and I think these days I am very im­pressed by Stella McCart­ney’s work. I’m in­spired by how she has set up her brand and how she went from be­ing dissed by ev­ery­one in the in­dus­try 10 years ago to what she has achieved now. On a per­sonal note as an avid shop­per as well I’m re­ally happy with ev­ery­thing I buy by her. What else can we ex­pect to see from you in the next year? I have a cou­ple of very ex­cit­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions com­ing up but I can’t talk too much more about that just yet but it’s hap­pen­ing very soon! I want to launch my own ac­ces­sories line and I’m also re­ally in­ter­ested in de­sign­ing teenage clothes. I am hop­ing to get my web­site fully up and run­ning soon but in the mean­time my col­lec­tions are avail­able to buy in Bloom­ing­dale’s and at Har­rods in the UK.

Amira’s show will take place at Lon­don Fashion Scout on Fri­day 15th Septem­ber at 9.15pm UAE time.

Amira Ha­roon hopes her clothes makes women feel more con­fi­dent

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