Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Mariam el Accad hangs dresses in 1/2 Pint, which is next to her brother's cafe in Dubai.
Philip Cheung Staff
Mariam el Accad hangs dresses in 1/2 Pint, which is next to her brother's cafe in Dubai.

'You have to keep environmental balance'

This much I know Mariam el Accad designs 1/2 Pint, a handmade childrenswear range, and works for the Organic Foods and Cafe in Dubai.

Mariam el Accad designs 1/2 Pint, a handmade childrenswear range in Dubai. She also works for the family business, the Organic Foods and Cafe in Dubai. She has lived in the UAE on and off since 1967. My mother was German and really into eating healthy, organic food without any chemicals. She taught us to respect the environment, whether we were walking in the forests of Germany or the Arabian desert. My brother started and now runs the Organic Foods and Cafe. It goes beyond selling organic produce and also has an environmental policy to reduce energy and waste. We recycle all our paper, the staff share cars and my brother makes sure the company vehicles have energy efficient engines.

1/2 Pint is named after the English expression for a child, when the British government ruled that every child should have half a pint of milk a day. My designs are quite old-fashioned in style, and don't say things like "Kiss Me" on them. I like dressing children in comfortable, pretty things designed for children, not little adults, and I make sure all the cotton is locally-sourced. I used to have a couture boutique in London making eveningwear and wedding dresses, but when we moved back to Dubai and my son was born, I wanted something I could do in my own time. I started making clothes for friends' babies and it went from there.

The more money people have, the less environmentally aware they are. They're so removed from it and can't see down through the process. Whenever I go into a grocery store, I explain what happens to plastic bags and the Indian shopkeepers understand because they're involved at the base level as well. It's up to everyone to do everything they can. My mother died of cancer in 2001. When she was diagnosed, she started taking nutrition courses and learning about food, but I don't believe cancer is caused by a bad diet or using too many detergents; it can be the result of stress, unhappiness or you can be predisposed to it in your family. I guess I am predisposed to it, but I make sure I eat organically because I don't want my immune system to suffer. I believe in prevention rather than cure.

Other supermarkets here have jumped on the organic bandwagon, but it's important to check whether something is organically certified. Packaged food should always have a seal and fresh food usually comes in a box so you can see where it's come from. With the internet, it's very easy to inform yourself these days. The beaches in Dubai used to be much cleaner. My mother would be horrified if she could see what's become of them. We've belonged to the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club for years, but the water is full of sewage now and all the marine life has gone since they started dredging the islands. You can't stop progress, but you do have to keep an environmental balance. It's impossible to offset if afterwards; you need to have it planned as you go along.

These days, I work in the store most of the day, until about 4.30pm, when I spend time with my son. We go for a swim at the beach or just go out somewhere. I work on my computer at night and then go to my atelier. 1/2 Pint is a pleasure, not a chore, so I don't mind the long hours. I started working for my brother's business recently because I saw I could be useful. I stay in the background though and support him. He has a very clear vision of what he wants and is extremely driven. He believes in doing the right thing.

My father came here in 1967 to tender for building Port Rashid. He then supplied schools with nutritional lunches and built mosques and schools. We lived in Sharjah for the first eight years, in a traditional bastakiyah style house without air conditioning initially. We used to walk down to the souq where you could buy fish, coriander, little bananas, dates and not much else. Apples and oranges were very rare. There are lots of things I prefer about the way it used to be here, but at least you can get a cappuccino now. kboucher@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Thoughtful tailoring at Asudari

The womenswear label Asudari showcased a collection that featured sharp masculine tailoring, but with feminine silhouettes.

Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games.

Designer Lamia Asudari says she was influenced by Delftware ceramics from the 16th century, as well as the imagery of weaponry and artillery. Indeed, pistols, grenades and guns were emblazoned over jackets and dresses.

 Several of Jo Baaklini's pieces featured fruit prints. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: At Starch, watermelon shirts, anyone?

“We need to cultivate our own fashion heroes — our own regional brands,” stressed Fashion Forward’s honcho Bong Guerrero in a press con two weeks ago.

Aptly, the slot for this season’s opening runway show was given to two newbies: Jo Baaklini and Timi Hayek, whose talents were scouted by Starch, a group dedicated to launching emerging Lebanese designers.

Between the two, Mr Baaklini had a stronger showing.

 Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece. Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Jean Louis Sabaji’s debatable debut

Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece, the floral crop top, and the radiant yellow pleated skirt.

But most of the time he went too far. There were bell-bottoms, separates that looked like costumes from The Jetsons, and a yellow dress reminiscent of Bjork’s infamous Oscars swan dress — several disparate elements in one multicoloured, multilayered show.

 Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all.” Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Kage pleases all palates

Did the designers of Kage aim to showcase every type of basic clothing on their latest show?

Because there were skirts, shorts, trousers, off-shoulder tops, short dresses, cocktail dresses, long flowy dresses, spaghetti straps, jackets, hoods — and even pyjamas, which with the incoming summer heat, looked especially appealing.

Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all”, they said in their statement.

 The standout was a grey hooded cape that created a tension between edge and elegance. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Polish, craft (and fur!) at The Emperor 1688

The best show of Day 1 at Fashion Forward was delivered by the three Golkar brothers behind The Emperor 1688.

The coats and capes were the clear winners: they came in all sorts of interesting colours and sizes — and featured exceptionally tailored proportions. There was a lot of volume, but also stiffness.

And whimsy: two favourites were a green double-breasted suit and a blue overcoat with a red clover pattern and gold buttons.

 Midway through Ezra's show, snow started falling from the ceiling. Ian Gavan / Getty Images for Fashion Forward

Fashion Forward: Ezra stuns in snow-covered show

Turns out the Filipino designer Ezra, known for his dreamy couture, still had a few surprises up his sleeve.

Midway through his show, snow started falling from the ceiling.

It created a starkly beautiful atmosphere for his intricately constructed gowns that seemed to be designed for an Ice Queen transported back to the 1950s.

He showed a collection that had a lot of technical firepower behind it: glittering iridescent fabrics paired with head and neckpieces that were moulded and stiffened to stand out in odd angles.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National