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By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
It’s such a misconception by Western women that our sisters in the Middle East only wear the abaya – that black, sheet-like dress that covers everything from tip to toe. In the contrary, Middle Eastern women are highly stylish, and there’s a huge fashion scene in all countries in the region, from Doha to Dubai.
For example, in-the-know fashionistas in the Gulf have been conquered by the beautiful designs of a brand that is not only ethical and beautiful, but is also working to empower women: Herfah by Naeema. This Saudi label, founded by Naeema AlShuhail in 2015, is committed to preserving the craftsmanship of local artisans and supporting them through sustainable fashion.
Admittedly, sustainable fashion is rather new phenomenon in the Middle East, but one that is growing in importance as more people here realise the huge impact their (normally rather large) shopping habits create. For this reason, most of the fabrics used by Herfah are dead stock, and every garment is produced in small batches in Lebanon. Any textiles that are not dead stock fabric are hand-woven by one of the forty local women artisans working for the label in Saudi Arabia, which preserves the region’s traditional cloth-making methods.
As you can see, environmental and social sustainability are at the core of this brand, which pursues the preservation of the region’s heritage, culture and tradition. Training of new artisans who come on board as the label becomes increasingly successful has further increased its ethical mission, not to mention the quality of the work, through the acquisition of new techniques and patterns.
And let’s talk about the designs, shall we? They are simply exquisite, reflecting the regional preference for intricate detailing. Flowing fabrics and elegant lines enhanced by meticulous embroidery characterise the Herfah by Naeema pieces, which are also embellished with traditional Saudi handwoven sadu. Ancient practices get modernised without losing their authenticity, and a contemporary flair is instilled in the Saudi traditional fabric through modern draping and cutting, which has positioned Herfah by Naeema in a place of prominence in the global luxury market.
Of course, slow fashion plays a role with the label, too. Herfah by Naeema never follows trends that would make a dress go out of fashion, and intends to create timeless pieces that can be worn through the course of time, in a variety of different ways. An excellent example is the mesmerising Spring/Ramadan ’18 Collection, with every garment telling a different story. This line is a sartorial celebration of Saudi Arabian culture, coalescing the past with the future. The promotional campaign for the collection will include dancers, oud (the Arabic lute instrument) players and visual artists from across the Middle East to showcase the rich cultural history of the nation.
If the label has one iconic piece that really stands out, it would be their take on the farwa, originally a fur-lined winter cloak worn by Bedouin men to survive the cold desert winter nights (above). Herfah by Naeema has adapted the design for the contemporary woman, using faux fur, of course, covered in metallic jacquards, silk tassels, and handmade embroideries.
To order a piece or for more information: WhatsApp: +966 567967660