There was something in the cut, the yards of teal-green flowing chiffon, the sheer panel and gold decorative trim at the waist, not to mention the distinctive romance of form, that had people asking: did the dress Florence Welch was wearing during her stellar Sandance concert at the weekend come from the East?
It turns out the dress came from none other than the Dubai-born Asian-British designer Marina Qureshi, who graduated from Esmod Dubai in 2010 with a degree in fashion design and pattern-making.
Based in both Dubai and London, Qureshi then studied Business in Fashion at Central Saint Martins in the UK and during that time worked under Alexander McQueen.
"Esmod initially seemed like a mirage in the desert - it was the first of its kind here in the UAE and I was given the opportunity to learn from some very inspirational artists from France," says Qureshi. "Our techniques were fine-tuned; my intentions were affirmed and our creativity was challenged by the distinctive aura of fashion that engulfed everyone in that one building in the middle of nowhere."
Denis Ravizza, the associate director of Esmod Dubai, knew earlier than most that Qureshi was working on something big.
"She quietly told me a few weeks ago she was working on a dress for an important figure on the world stage - I thought it was a clever move," he says. "We try to teach our students to look outside of themselves, outside of their own culture, at things they have never seen before. Where Qureshi has succeeded where others may not, is in finding the fine balance of mixing marketability with creativity and flare."
Sandance was not the first time Welch has worn one of Qureshi's creations. She was discovered by the London stylist and contributing fashion editor of Vice magazine, Aldene Johnson, who has worked with Welch on editorials, television, film and on stage since dressing her for the cover of her 2009 debut album Lungs.
"I was first drawn to Marina Qureshi when I came across the incredible black dress from her fall 2012 collection that Florence wore for her Reading and Leeds performances last year," Johnson explains. "Florence is an incredible person to dress and together it wasn't so much a decision we made, but more a natural organic progression. I obviously have my favourites, but it's more about finding the right piece for the performance rather than only looking at certain designers. It all really depends on what I'm working on, in that it's event specific. I look at which designers work best for either stage, red carpet or day looks, and, of course, whether we fall in love with it."
The dress Qureshi made for Welch, a combination of two looks from the current collection, clearly reflects the Middle Eastern influence on the designer.
"You'll always find pieces in my collection that are either heavily embellished or simple in cuts, but rich in content," says Qureshi. "Swarovski crystals, exotic feathers, intricate details and deeply textured fabrics - these are all some of the various details that I have picked up in my travel and experiences. I feel like my multicultural upbringing reflects very well in my designs. Since the performance was in the Middle East, I wanted to reflect the vibe in her apparel: a kaftan suitable for a stage performance."
While Welch's dress is one of a kind, anyone inspired by the look can visit an Abu Dhabi or Dubai branch of the local fashion boutique S*uce, which stocks a few of Qureshi's intricate pieces.
Having Florence wear that dress in front of a crowd of thousands "was an important occasion for regional design", says Zayan Ghandour, S*uce's owner.
"Witnessing a Dubai-born designer on one of the most incredible songstresses in the world as she sang her heart out was a special moment," she says. "We hope to see more and more talent looking to the region for inspiration and more Dubai-based designers gracing the red carpets and stages world over."
Read a quick fire Q&A with Marina Qureshi go to our All Dressed Up fashion blog here.
For more information on Marina Qureshi and her designs, go to www.marinaqureshi.com
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