The Ara­bian cou­ture of Rami Al Ali is chang­ing the re­gion’s fash­ion land­scape


The Ara­bian cou­ture of Rami Al Ali is chang­ing the re­gion’s fash­ion land­scape

Past a per­fectly man­i­cured lawn flanked by frangi­pa­nis, the white villa that sits on a lush cor­ner in Dubai’s Jumeirah dis­trict would be equally at home on that Bev­erly Hills-bi­sect­ing boule­vard, Rodeo Drive. A gown in the win­dow shim­mers with se­quins and beads like a thou­sand eyes wink­ing in the daz­zling sun­light, and be­hind the im­pos­ing black doors, seam­stresses bus­tle be­tween per­fectly ap­pointed rooms with colour­ful bolts of chif­fon or charmeuse.

If a few blue­birds flew in through a win­dow to give the ar­ti­sans a help­ing hand, wrap­ping the fab­ric around a princess per­haps, it would hardly seem as­ton­ish­ing, but this isn’t Dis­ney – this is Rami Al Ali Cou­ture, the com­pany founded by the son of a Syr­ian ar­chi­tect who dresses a slew of pri­vate clients and celebri­ties, Jen­nifer Lopez and Bey­oncé among them.

As we en­ter the pala­tial space, Al Ali de­scends his mar­ble stair­case with all the ef­fort­less el­e­gance you would ex­pect. Greeted and seated, he talks Paris and the chal­lenges of pre­sent­ing a col­lec­tion each sea­son, while his dili­gent and clearly de­voted staff ready the dresses we’ll shoot later that af­ter­noon in a desert ghost town near Al Madam, Shar­jah. “Paris is the most im­por­tant cou­ture fash­ion week in the world and all the best de­sign­ers show there,” he ex­plains. “That makes it quite chal­leng­ing - to pro­vide some­thing up to that stan­dard that’s al­ways orig­i­nal, new and rel­e­vant.” With so many shows clam­our­ing for the at­ten­tion and val­i­da­tion of the fash­ion ed­i­tors and buy­ers whose opin­ions most brands live or die by, that chal­lenge isn’t easy.

But if rave re­views are any in­di­ca­tion (and they are) Al Ali is tack­ling those tra­vails tri­umphantly. Fol­low­ing a de­gree in Vis­ual Com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Dam­as­cus’ Col­lege of Fine Arts, he showed his first col­lec­tion at his grad­u­a­tion pre­sen­ta­tion, which led to the found­ing of Rami Al Ali Cou­ture in Dubai in 2000. His con­sis­tently fresh, breath-tak­ing col­lec­tions have since been sought by some of the most glam­ourous women in the world.

When asked about his suc­cess, he cred­its much of it to his ex­po­sure to ar­chi­tec­ture as a child. “The train­ing I got from my fa­ther was the best foun­da­tion I could have asked for,” he ex­plains, with ref­er­ence to the struc­tured sil­hou­ettes and so­phis­ti­cated shapes that have come to de­fine his cou­ture. “I grew up with an in­stilled abil­ity to imag­ine vol­umes, and how to build 3D shapes from flat sketches,” he adds. “It gave me the skill to ma­te­ri­alise con­struc­tions in my head be­fore bring­ing them to life. For me, ar­chi­tec­ture was the big wide world, and fash­ion de­sign was the beau­ti­ful de­tails.” Al Ali has been pre­sent­ing his col­lec­tion in Paris dur­ing the cou­ture sched­ule since 2012 – that’s twelve sea­sons so far and in Fe­bru­ary he will present his thir­teenth. Often men­tioned in the same breath as other Mid­dle Eastern cou­turi­ers such as Elie Saab, Zuhair Mu­rad or Noured­dine Amir, Al Ali is in fact the only cou­turier based in the GCC. And while 80 per­cent of his cus­tomers are based in the re­gion, a per­ma­nent cou­ture show­room in Paris is some­thing he is work­ing to­wards. “Twenty years ago when I started the com­pany, Dubai was the per­fect lo­ca­tion,” he says. “The seam­stresses here are some of the best in the world.”

Al­though his lo­cal cus­tomers cur­rently en­joy the lux­ury that prox­im­ity af­fords them – jet­ting in for fit­tings from Bahrain, Kuwait or Saudi Ara­bia – the ver­nac­u­lar of fash­ion does vary across con­ti­nents. As Al Ali ex­pands his ready-to-wear of­fer­ing, he ac­knowl­edges a more reg­u­lar pres­ence in Paris as an es­tab­lished part of the Euro­pean con­ver­sa­tion will serve him well. “When it comes to cou­ture, trends don’t fac­tor in as much,” he ex­plains. “Cou­ture has dif­fer­ent mea­sures when you com­pare with ready-to-wear – you’re less com­mit­ted to trends and there’s more free­dom.”

Al Ali might be bet­ter poised to prof­fer his ready-to-wear to key U.S. and Euro­pean bou­tiques and de­part­ment stores from Paris, but for him, cou­ture is key – whether the cou­turier is in Dubai one week or Paris the next, he in­sists he will still be eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble. “The world is so much smaller now,” he says. “And whether they come from the US or the Mid­dle East or Asia, cou­ture clients all want the best – the ul­ti­mate in lux­ury and crafts­man­ship, and that is what we will al­ways give them.”

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