For the Dubai fashion designer Badreya Faisal, the abaya is not just an outer garment. For her, it is the essence of her cultural and personal identity and a vital part of what she calls her "Emirati lifestyle", an experience she is passionate about sharing.
The 30-year-old is the founder of a new fashion label, Bleach, which aims to bring elements of the Emirati lifestyle and culture to the mainstream market. The label is the first of its kind: offering both abayas and abaya-inspired fashion, and looks set to become one of the country's biggest domestic brands.
Bleach's new ready-to-wear collection collection is a unique and striking range of womenswear that has been deliberately and specifically designed to appeal to those who choose to wear the abaya and those who don't.
Using experimental cutting and tailoring and bold detailing, the pieces retain the traditional shapes and conventions of the abaya, yet each has been designed so it can be styled and worn in a way that is as individual as the woman wearing it- whatever her background or culture.
"I see this collection as offering designs that 'bleach' boundaries," Faisal explains, in a nod to her label's name.
"Whether those are boundaries of style, convention or geography, the most important aspect for me is that Bleach offers women the chance to experience an Emirati sense with our fashion."
For a debut collection, Faisal's efforts are seriously impressive. She has not only produced something that's not only supremely elegant and feminine, but also directional, contemporary and very easy to wear. They are also very well priced - ranging from Dh1,800 to Dh4,200.
"I wanted to wear clothes that were made for me," she says, "that complement my taste as well as my personality."
Her love of what she does is obvious and she says she is driven by her love of design.
"I need to have a constant creative outlet in my life, along with a challenge," she says. "This has inspired years of research and experimenting in fashion, so it's now an absolute thrill to be dedicated to it professionally."
Born in Abu Dhabi and raised in Dubai, Faisal spent years pursuing her passion for design and fashion in Italy, Spain and the UK, gaining experience in a number of ateliers to broaden her skills. While her designs are partly inspired by her European travels and work experience, she is now rooted firmly in the UAE.
Her heritage is clearly instrumental in her output.
"The essence of what it means to be an Emirati woman is what I reflect in my designs," she says. "Strength, ambition, creativity, elegance, intellect and femininity."
Bleach is very much a local enterprise and all the clothes in the collection are made here in the UAE ("it means I get to keep a close eye on the quality and final finish we produce") and every piece of fabric used is sourced in the textile souqs of Dubai.
Fabrics play a big part in her designs. By incorporating flashes of jewel-bright raw silks into the pieces, the plain black abaya fabric is offset with contrasting colours, textures and patterns, and so each one becomes not just an outer garment, but an outfit in its own right - and one that demands to be shown off.
An asymmetric cut dress with three-quarter length kimono style sleeves is finished at the hem with a wide-cut, scalloped border in deep burgundy lace. On another, a panel of silk in a striking cobalt-blue with a baroque-style print highlights the garment's beautiful cut.
"I've always been more of a 'garment trimmings' kind of girl," Faisal explains. "That comes from how simple my style is, which is translated into the bold borders and keeping the work and the detail focused on them.
One of the most appealing designs in the collection is a two-piece set with a loose-cut top and harem-style trousers. The generous use of fabric means the lines are fluid, feminine and supremely flattering. Each piece falls and drapes around the body beautifully, combining on-trend style with a casual elegance.
Faisal cites an impressive list of labels including Balmain, Stella McCartney, Kenzo, Marchesa, Julia y Renata and Osklen as influences. She also agrees that her creations are often reminiscent of the style typical of Japanese designers such as Comme des Garçons.
"Japanese minimalism has somehow always been evident in my work throughout the years," she says. "I didn't intend for it to be so, yet it is always represented which I am certainly not unhappy about."
One principle of the Bleach manifesto is that 10 per cent of all proceeds from each sale is donated to a locally based charity. It is also involved in a number of charitable collaborations, again with local organisations and stores.
She is also about to announce a number of new collaborations with local stockists, along with a second collection, which Faisal says will feature brighter colours, pattern mixing and new cuts and textiles.
"I can't say anything yet," she says. "Just watch this space."
Bleach is available in S*uce boutiques in Dubai Mall, Village Mall, and Marina Mall Abu Dhabi and Ush Boutique, Al Wasl Road (behind Emarat Petrol Station and Town Center area)Dubai. To view the collection in full, visit bleach.ae