I’ve never felt more proud to be Middle Eastern. There are tons of incredible initiatives and creative endeavours coming out of the region, not least in the realm of fashion. Originally from Egypt and having grown up in London for most of my life, I feel strong ties to both my cultures, and I love repping Middle Eastern brands.
Ahead of the release of my debut book, the bestselling The Greater Freedom: Life as a Middle Eastern Woman Outside the Stereotypes, I felt it was particularly appropriate to champion some of the incredible designers from the region. To that end, I’ve been wearing Middle Eastern designers to all of my book related events. Below are some of my favourite designers that I’ve been wearing over the last few months…
The King’s Mother
Founded by an old friend of mine from Egypt, The King’s Mother is a contemporary women’s blazer brand which aims to merge the classic and modern. Inspired by couture menswear, the brand elevates the classic blazer by juxtaposing quality fabrics, techniques and embroidery and each piece is super special; the statement piece of an outfit every single time. I’ve been wearing TKM blazers for many of my events, and receiving abundant compliments every time.
Another friend of mine, French Lebanese designer Souraya Chalhoub is always out and about and looking fabulous. Little wonder then that in 2017 she founded her eponymous brand, specialising in evening wear. Merging a luxurious haute-couture feel with eccentric ready-to-wear, her super cool pieces are accessible and mind-blowing at the same time, contradictory in all the best ways. I wore one of her gorgeous pieces when I was invited to attend the BAFTA’s last year with Google and felt fire!
Generally super low-key, I am obsessed with a good statement tee and the like, so I have fallen seriously head over heels with Egyptian designer Dana Frid whose designs have a supremely pop-culture / meme-culture feel to them, and are often heavily inspired by hip-hop, lyrics from the likes of Cardi B and Kanye West surrounded by vintage illustrations. As Bullett wrote: “Fusing her sarcastic take on high-end sportswear with the digital lexicon, she gives consumers the feel of luxury fashion without actually buying into it. And with its effortless approach to anti-luxury, her work remains cooler than the brands she references.” Agreed. Her designs are also made out of Egyptian cotton which, we all know, is the best, super soft cotton out there; another win.
Hailing from Alexandria, Egypt, Ohanna is a super cool athleisure brand I have fallen hard for. Crafted from constructed and deconstructed silk and satin pieces, the designs are in many ways a tribute to contemporary pharaonic descendants, combining elements of powerful Egyptian queens like Isis, Cleopatra, and Hatshepsut and updating them with a modern take, cropped sweaters, head-to-toe fleece separates, white-on-white jumpsuits and neon bodysuits all at once practical, feminine and strong.
Created by Jordanian designer Tania Haddad, Tania George is a kitschy, nostalgia drenched conscious fashion brand brand, inspired by and produced in Jordan in partnership with Arab tailors. Her offerings are, she told me, in part an effort to debunk the tired stereotypes of what constitutes Arabic aesthetic. “I’m like, okay you want something Arabic? Here you go, here’s some cotton candy, here’s some popcorn. That is our culture but in a different way… What I do is I document our daily life, and the everyday things that we see.” To that end, her collections are playful and quirky, and reminiscent of ’90s advertising culture (think milk cartons and bags of cotton candy) – the former which I’m wearing above.
Founded by Jordanian sisters, Nafsika Skourti is absolutely killing it. They recently had their Paris Fashion Week debut, and are stocked in a number of stores, including at Harvey Nichols. Vogue describes their brand aesthetic as “ranging from flirty to seductive” and their pieces visibly merge Middle Eastern glamour with innovative London energy. Their offerings include beautifully cut blazers with winged sleeves, a satin slit skirt with pendant pearl embroidery and this gorgeous jumpsuit I wore for my book launch a few months ago, classic black tailoring juxtaposed with powerful, eye-catching cream puff sleeves. They are, writes Vogue, “a celebration of self-possessed, confident women.” And so bloody beautiful at that.
A super cool brand hailing from Egypt, Kojak Studio is further testament to the uniqueness and cross-cultural prowess of the designs coming out of the region. Case in point this jewel coloured, glittery jumpsuit I wore to an event just last week. Founder Mohanad Kojak blurs the lines between haute couture and ready to wear, crafting pieces that look like they belong in the coolest of costume dramas.
Okhtein is an Egyptian handbag brand launched by two sisters (“Okhtein” means sisters in Arabic). They’ve been enjoying ample success, their pieces worn by the likes of Emma Watson, Kris Jenner, Emma Roberts and more, and their pieces can be found in Selfridges, Browns and Farfetch. I’m obsessed with each and every one of their bags.