SIS­TER ACT

Harper's Bazaar (Arabia) - - The Highlights - Pho­tog­ra­phy by OR­LANDO GONÇALVES Words by KATE WILLS

Sib­ling de­sign­ers Mariam and Yas­mine Yeya blend

their aes­thet­ics

They are the sib­ling de­sign­ers be­hind two of the re­gion’s most revved-up fash­ion la­bels. This month, for the first time, Egyp­tian sis­ters Mariam and Yas­mine Yeya blend the aes­thet­ics of their re­spec­tive brands for

a win­ning cap­sule col­lab­o­ra­tion

When you con­sider the many perks that come with hav­ing a stylish sis­ter, rang­ing from bru­tally hon­est fash­ion ad­vice to an ex­tra closet to bor­row clothes from, Mariam and Yas­mine Yeya won the sib­ling lot­tery. Yas­mine, 36, is one of Egypt’s most prom­i­nent couture bridal de­sign­ers. Men­tored by Elie Saab, her ele­gant and in­tri­cate Mai­son Yeya dresses – think beads, feath­ers and sculp­tural drap­ery – are loved by sheikhas and fash­ion roy­alty alike. Mean­while, Mariam, 35, is a so­cial me­dia star (110k In­sta fol­low­ers and counting) and for­mer Bazaar Best Dressed alum­nus, whose ’70s-in­spired boho-luxe ready-to-wear line Mrs Keepa (the name is her Le­banese hus­band’s nick­name for her) is win­ning fans and critical ac­claim around the world. As tal­ented, re­spected, yet nonethe­less di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed, de­sign­ers in their own right, the Yeya sis­ters have now de­cided to work to­gether for the first time to create a cap­sule col­lec­tion which Yas­mine de­scribes as “schizophreni­cally beau­ti­ful”.

Fash­ion his­tory is filled with cre­ative sis­ters. Both in terms of de­sign­ers – Kate and Laura Mul­leavy at Ro­darte, Ash­ley and Mary-Kate Olsen at The Row – and muses – Bella and Gigi Ha­did, Cara and Poppy Delev­ingne, Joan and Erika Smalls, Ken­dall and Kylie Jen­ner. And in many ways it’s not sur­pris­ing that the Yeya sis­ters ended up in the fash­ion busi­ness; both their stylish mother and French grand­mother taught them how to make their own clothes grow­ing up. Al­though only a year apart in age, as chil­dren shar­ing a bed­room in Cairo they had their dif­fer­ences – or what Yas­mine refers to as “sis­ter drama”. But when it comes to cre­ativ­ity, it is this op­po­si­tion which has led to such suc­cess.

“I am the so­cia­ble girl with so many friends, plans, ac­tiv­i­ties and so lots go­ing on in my life, and Yas­mine has al­ways been the calm, in­tro­vert,” says Mariam. “We didn’t have much in com­mon grow­ing up.” Yas­mine adds that their close friend­ship didn’t be­gin un­til their twen­ties. “I al­ways felt a pro­tec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity to­wards her,” she says. Al­though they had dif­fer­ent in­ter­ests, they shared an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of fash­ion and dis­cov­ered that their con­trast­ing per­sonal taste made them ideal shop­ping part­ners. “What’s great is that we never fight over pieces,” laughs Mariam. “We ap­pre­ci­ate each other’s styles so much but we don’t re­late to one another’s shop­ping picks. I love ev­ery­thing ex­ag­ger­ated with lots of colours, prints and fab­rics that mis­match, whereas Yas­mine is so clas­sic with earthy colours in her pal­ette.”

The con­tra­dic­tions and con­trasts present in Dubai have also shaped their work. Mariam has lived in the city since her twen­ties, work­ing in me­dia for 12 years be­fore mak­ing the tran­si­tion to de­signer, while Yas­mine moved from Cairo to join her a year ago. “I owe my ca­reer as a de­signer to Dubai,” says Mariam. “It of­fered me great ex­po­sure to fash­ion from dif­fer­ent back­grounds, cul­tures and eth­nic­i­ties and helped me im­prove my own per­sonal style – mix­ing Mid­dle Eastern colour­ful fab­rics and prints with Western sil­hou­ettes and clean cuts. When the so­cial me­dia move­ment started, I was re­ally sur­prised by my fast­grow­ing au­di­ence and that was a real en­cour­age­ment to me.” Yas­mine agrees that liv­ing in such a vi­brant, multi-cul­tural city has shaped her work. “Since I started work­ing with the lo­cal clien­tele, and the con­tra­dict­ing mix­ture of con­ser­va­tive and lib­eral at­tributes, I have been in­spired to create more deca­dent yet avant garde de­signs.”

They’ve put their minds to joint fash­ion projects be­fore – not least when Yas­mine de­signed her lit­tle sis­ter’s wed­ding dress. “It was one of the highlights of my ca­reer,” she re­calls. “It was emotional and I worked my heart out.” And the sis­ters say that they’d long fan­ta­sised about merg­ing their dis­tinc­tive per­sonal styles to­gether to create one line. “We felt that now was the right time to join forces and in­tro­duce a line with a mixed DNA,” says Mariam. Yas­mine adds, “We dis­cov­ered that there was a re­ally big gap in the mar­ket for edgy couture, ap­peal­ing to a very in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic wo­man with glam­orous events to at­tend. She is not shy.”

In the de­sign room they be­gan by de­sign­ing on one man­nequin “but two opin­ion­ated strong-headed roost­ers started to clash” says Mariam. So they de­cided to bring in another man­nequin, de­sign with the same fab­ric on their own model, be­fore switch­ing man­nequins so that the other sis­ter could add her own touch to the other’s de­sign. “Our ap­proach is quite dif­fer­ent,” ex­plains Mariam. “I go crazy with my de­signs as I de­sign for what I would wish to wear with not so much con­sid­er­a­tion to the com­mer­cial as­pect of the de­sign, whereas Yas­mine has a laser fo­cus on her client and what they want, which plays a big role in her de­sign di­rec­tions.” Their style icons re­veal their di­ver­gent at­ti­tudes – Mariam ad­mires Ri­hanna while Yas­mine prefers Au­drey Hep­burn.

De­spite their dif­fer­ences in style and process, they do have one thing in com­mon. “So far we only es­tab­lished the fact that it runs in our fam­ily to be strong-minded opin­ion­ated women,” says Yas­mine. “The de­sign room be­comes a mad and artis­tic war zone where each is fight­ing for her own style. The pro­duc­tiv­ity is re­mark­ably slow be­cause of all the opin­ion clashes, yet when we agree the out­come is fas­ci­nat­ing!” Fit­tingly, Mariam dis­agrees. “Ac­tu­ally, I would de­scribe it as an easy col­lab­o­ra­tion as there is no sen­si­tiv­ity or red lines in com­mu­ni­cat­ing our in­put,” she laughs. When you put two op­pos­ing forces to­gether sparks may fly, but no one can deny the results aren’t elec­tric.

Bag, Dhs9,000, Prada

Mariam Yeya wears: Gown, Dhs36,500, by her sis­ter’s brand Mai­son Yeya. Jew­ellery, shoes and sun­glasses through­out, Mariam’s own. Yas­mine wears: Jump­suit, Dhs3,125, by her sis­ter’s brand Mrs Keepa. Jew­ellery, shoes and glasses through­out, Yas­mine’s own

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