A vintage carnival in Australia provided the inspiration for Emirati designer Lamya Abedin's show at Arab Fashion Week in Dubai that combined frills and sequins with Muslim modesty.
Abedin said she followed every detail of the century-old fair, which she visited while travelling with her husband and children, for her collection “Voyage of the Carnival” — right down to the music and make-up.
“I loved the vibes,” the designer told AFP in an interview following her Thursday night show.
“There were the crazy mirrors, the music, the whole ambience attracted me. I felt that this is my inspiration,” added the mother of three, who was accompanied during the show by her husband, uncle, and children.
“I wanted to show how in vintage fairs in the past people used to dress up” unlike today when they just wear jeans and T-shirts, she said.
To achieve this look, “I mixed modernity with the vintage feel,” explained Abedin, dressed in a long silver sequin-studded coat and a traditional black scarf covering most of her hair.
Her show was preceded by men in tailcoats and black hats on unicycles and stilts entertaining an audience of mostly women — some in mini-dresses and others in traditional black Abayas and even a niqab face veil — before her assistant came in singing an American dance-pop song.
Carnival music accompanied a background video of acrobats and a circus tent as models in strawberry blond wigs with hats and flower headbands strutted down the catwalk, some in chequered circus stockings.
“I follow a theme,” said Abedin.
“The look should be complete with the theme so I could let the people live the story,” she added.
“This time the story is happiness.”
Dressed in a long purple dress and a flower headband, Brazilian model Karine Graf said she found the concept “very funny” and “unique”.
“I think it’s a very cool collection and very new,” she told AFP backstage.
Abedin’s collection is mainly made up of flowing layered dresses and skirts mixing tulle, dentelle, sequins, embroidery, jacquard, and brocade — all in vibrant colours.
“We did lots of patchwork and panel work. There was art and craft in the outfits,” accompanied by belts, hats, and even handbags.
“We wanted to show how you could change your clothes using accessories… It was more of a styling show than anything else,” she said.
– ‘Long dresses, sleeves’ –
While she steered away from traditional Gulf Arab clothing, Abedin still made sure her models do not reveal much skin in accordance with her society’s Muslim codes.
Abedin’s local touch is evident from the “very conservative” look of her models, said Noura Khaled, a 23-year-old Emirati attending the show. “The long dresses (and) long sleeves reflect the culture.”
Abedin acknowledged that she made sure models in short dresses wore stockings to cover their legs “because I would wear it like that… But it’s a personal choice.”
In a wedding dress, Czech model Kaya noted the difference between the five-day Arab Fashion Week that opened Thursday in Dubai and similar events in Milan which she said were actually “more conservative” in their presentation.
“Nude make up, sleek hair and us going straight and back without thinking of the concept so much,” she said of the Milan catwalks. “I like that this show has an idea: circus.”
Abedin’s show featured three bridal gowns — one was light and short suitable for beach weddings, the second a little more formal.
But it was the third dentelle gown that was more formal with a vintage touch that she said was similar to her own wedding dress.
She made a similar peach-coloured one for her own little daughter who made an appearance hand-in-hand with the model wearing the final bridal gown, drawing applause from the audience.
Even the wedding dresses were inspired by the Australia carnival where she saw three brides coming for a photo shoot at the fair, Abedin said.
“I loved the idea!”
One of the brides was even wearing a blue bridal gown. “It was very cute,” said Abedin. “I felt they’re happy.”
The Emirati designer, who has her own brand titled “Queen of Spades”, said the aim of her show is to spread joy among her audience.
“We are living in a country where we’re always busy and have lots of work, so it’s nice to switch off and live in a different bubble” even briefly through an array of light, colourful fabrics.