It's a brave woman who requests a fitting with the Tunisian couturier Ahmed Talfit and turns up in anything less than four-inch heels. "The biggest style faux-pas a woman could make is wearing ballerina pumps," he states categorically while backstage at Muscat Fashion Week. "High heels are perfect for strong, independent women."
Of the 12 designers showing in the Omani capital this year, Talfit was the solitary male, something he considered an honour. A risk-taker and an anti-conformist, Talfit was a fitting designer for the event's final night.
"It's wonderful to be the only man among all the fabulous women showing here," says Talfit. "The most important thing is that we all come together to do something positive for Arab women and regional fashion. To empower and raise the importance of women in society - that's our collective purpose. I'm committed to making women as beautiful as possible, emphasising their elegance and determination."
Known for his master manipulation of animal skins and unconventional materials like glass, Talfit's spring/summer 2013 runway show was an eclectic retrospective of his past three collections.
Structural, geometric designs featured prominently in a line-up with an unmistakably far-eastern feel.
"I used a lot of silk, chiffon and of course leather in shades of black and brown. The first of the main themes of the collection was the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Every dress also has a touch of the modern Oriental woman about it - that's the second theme. The third theme was the apocalypse."
Despite the somewhat macabre inspiration behind the collection, Talfit shrugs off the suggestion that he's fatalistic.
Heightening the dramatic tension of Talfit's show and in keeping with the sombre theme, requiem-esque choral music accompanied his models down the runway.
An Esmod graduate, Talfit's imaginatively crafted, eccentric designs are full of promise - and underlying messages stitched into every seam.
"My clothes represent my opinions about the world - be it historically, socially or what's making headlines right now. It's a way for me to transmit my ideas," he says.
But he's not a young man with an axe to grind, nor is his highly-sculptural couture inaccessible or unwearable. Whether you laud or lambast him, one thing seems certain, be it on the regional or international circuit, in the coming years you certainly won't be able to ignore him.
For more information, visit www.ahmedtalfit.com
* Rebecca McLaughlin-Duane