Emirates Woman - - Womanoftheyear - SARA JAPANWALLA Fash­ion Il­lus­tra­tor at Cap­per World­wide AYAH AL BITAR Founder and CEO of AYA The Art of Liv­ing MAY BAR­BER Owner and Man­ag­ing Direc­tor of the cAR­Tel Wear­able Art Gallery and Fash­ion Con­cept Store LAYLA KARDAN Artist/Singer/Song­writer TARSI

Although Ayah Al Bit­tar only launched her la­bel in Oc­to­ber 2015, the young Saudi prod­uct and fur­ni­ture de­signer has found tremen­dous suc­cess in the time that has fol­lowed, so much so that she re­branded at the start of this year “to el­e­vate my de­sign house to the next level.” Of her de­signs, Ayah says, “I have a strong be­lief in merg­ing tra­di­tion with moder­nity to cre­ate di­a­logue and so­cial con­ver­sa­tion and trig­ger so­cial change through de­sign. I [suc­ceeded] by rein­vent­ing our her­itage and by ad­dress­ing our cul­ture in a mod­ern per­spec­tive, marketing Is­lam and the Arab world in a pos­i­tive man­ner.”

Over the years, “pri­vate clients, GCC roy­als, VIPs and em­bassies” have pur­chased her in­no­va­tive de­signs and it’s clear that Ayah is whole­heart­edly pas­sion­ate about her work. “Set­ting up my own busi­ness has been, and con­tin­ues to be, a un­pre­dictable jour­ney, but I am very proud and love what I do.” Since be­gin­ning her ca­reer as a fash­ion il­lus­tra­tor in 2012, Sara Japanwalla has worked with brands like Bloomingdale’s, Ralph Lau­ren, Har­vey Ni­chols and Maserati. The lat­ter, she ex­plains, was her big­gest achieve­ment. “I was se­lected as one of 100 cre­atives from around the world by Maserati to con­trib­ute to a lim­ited edi­tion cof­fee ta­ble book. I felt hon­oured to be an artist rep­re­sent­ing Dubai on a global cam­paign.”

Dubai is a city she holds close to her heart. “I love the en­ergy and di­ver­sity of this bustling, vi­brant city. Fash­ion in par­tic­u­lar is some­thing I en­joy ob­serv­ing in Dubai. I love how women here carry them­selves with a sense of bold­ness. They know what suits them and how to in­ter­pret trends to make it work for them. No-one pulls off colour and prints like the women in Dubai. I like to cap­ture that eclec­tic vi­brancy in my illustrations.” Be­fore launch­ing the cAR­Tel, May Bar­ber en­joyed a ca­reer as an “award-win­ning ar­chi­tect who later ven­tured into the art world be­fore land­ing in fash­ion.” It was in 2013 that she launched the busi­ness, which she de­scribes as “a tri­an­gle of art, ar­chi­tec­ture and fash­ion. This en­tre­pre­neur­ial ven­ture was a move­ment to launch and sup­port emerg­ing tal­ents and up­lift the lo­cal taste and con­sump­tion of fash­ion into some­thing more mean­ing­ful, rich and avant-garde.”

Whilst the store’s ac­com­plish­ments have been many, there are two that stick out in May’s mind. “One of the most prom­i­nent ex­hi­bi­tions was pre­sent­ing the world’s first 3D printed haute cou­ture by Iris Van Her­pen for the first time in the Mid­dle East. I am also ex­tremely proud to be one of the first plat­forms to show­case and sup­port lo­cal de­sign­ers and ‘ex­port’ th­ese tal­ents, such as Bint Thani and Rula Galayini, to global mar­kets via our part­ner­ship with Far­”

Be­gin­ning her ca­reer as a street artist nine years ago, Tar­sila Schu­bert has since worked with the likes of Her­mès, Pepsi and Sephora, and was “the first woman to paint a mu­ral in Jor­dan for the FIFA Women’s World Cup.” Most re­cently, Tar­sila has opened Blue Cave Art Fac­tory, a 10,000 sq. ft. space in Down­town Dubai. “This is where the best cre­atives in Dubai have their res­i­dency and col­lab­o­ra­tions with rev­o­lu­tion­ary firms and in­di­vid­u­als take place to bring real art to this city. Un­for­tu­nately Dubai is of­ten per­ceived as a plas­tic city thanks to stereo­types, but we are try­ing to change this.”

As for what in­spires her art, Tar­sila says “Cul­ture is what shapes my paint­ings. Cul­ture is in­trin­sic in some­body’s per­son­al­ity and it comes out nat­u­rally. Hav­ing a real and un­bi­ased view of some­body’s soul through cul­ture is the best in­spi­ra­tion any­body could ask for.” De­cid­ing to pur­sue a mu­sic ca­reer was not a de­ci­sion Layla Kardan took lightly. “I learnt from a young age that I had a nat­u­ral tal­ent for singing and song­writ­ing but I wasn’t en­cour­aged or sup­ported to fol­low my pas­sion, as the story usu­ally goes for Mid­dle Eastern girls. Af­ter com­plet­ing my Masters de­gree in busi­ness, I worked for al­most 13 years un­til I re­alised that if I didn’t fol­low my dream, I would al­ways feel un­ful­filled.”

Even with an EP and an al­bum on the way, Layla says “some of my fam­ily are against the idea of me singing which is try­ing” and adds that “the so­cial stigma that comes with be­ing a fe­male per­former in the re­gion” is an­other hur­dle. How­ever, she re­mains un­de­terred, telling EW: “I want to be the first Mid­dle Eastern fe­male crossover artist in the elec­tronic soul/ pop genre on the global stage.”


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