Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 March 2018

For Lebanese designer Dina Khalifé, every scarf tells a story

The Madrid-based designer combines quality craftsmanship with quirky motifs in her scarves and clothing collections.

Dina Khalifè  (Courtesy: Dina Khalifè)
Dina Khalifè (Courtesy: Dina Khalifè)

Oversized sunglasses, mascara wands, paddle brushes and granny-style pumps encircle the profile of a red-haired woman, which is outlined like a vintage cameo brooch and printed onto the centre of a square-shaped scarf. In between the vanity-table-themed icons are illustrations of scattered bobby pins. It’s an eclectic group of graphics that may seem random to some, but that is actually reflective of almost every woman’s beauty routine. “They’re items that we use daily to make ourselves look pretty and glamorous. The idea is to pay tribute to these objects that we can’t live without,” explains Dina Khalifé, the illustrator and designer behind the scarf.

Khalifé worked as an accessories designer for the Spanish fashion label Bimba y Lola before launching her namesake brand in 2011. The scarf stamped with dressing-table icons is from her autumn/winter 2016 collection, dubbed The Powder Room. Clusters of banana leaves, antique hand mirrors and red lipsticks are some of the other illustrations sprinkled across the clothing in the collection. Loose silhouettes are crafted from soft textiles, subtle pleats, off-the-shoulder cuts, on-trend ankle-lengths and breezy culottes. Accessories are absent, save for some granny-chic glove pumps in white leather and red suede.

See more: 10 alternative ways to style your scarf

Neither low-key nor elaborate, Khalifé strikes a rare balance with her clothing – one that combines quality craftsmanship with a kitschy, artistic flair. She retails locally at The Dubai Mall’s Symphony Boutique, where her maxi dresses and kaftans, with romantic necklines and inimitable prints, are proof of her familiarity with the Middle Eastern market. Khalifé was born and raised in Beirut, but has lived in Madrid since 2009. “I am inspired by both cities – Spain and Lebanon are similar in many ways,” she says. “We are very close to Spanish people: both are friendly, warm and generous.”

Cool and contemporary with a touch of shabby-chic, Dina Khalifé clothing celebrates print in all its glory. Each element is hand-illustrated by Khalifé, who works with watercolours, pencils and felt-tip pens before bringing her prints to life on fabrics. She tells us how the design process works: “First, I design the scarves. I try to come up with a theme, and stories unfold through the squares. The prints are developed from the drawings of the scarves. I study these illustrations and see what could be developed into patterns, and then apply them on clothes.”

Her clothing is produced in Europe. “The fabrics are printed in Como, Italy, an area traditionally known for its textiles and finest printing techniques. The sewing is done in an atelier in Madrid,” she says. By using small manufacturing houses run by local artisans, her fabrics are given a “unique and exclusive touch”.

Khalifé’s lookbook reflects her fresh and non-traditional approach, incorporating relevant props to complement the motifs shown in her illustrations. In some images, models are shown in motion, as hands holding hairdryers enter the frame from one side, or while a comb is being run through a model’s hair. The pictures were all captured by Spanish photographer Lourdes Cabrera. “I love her photos – they are delicate and refined,” says Khalifé.

See more: This season’s statement scarves – in pictures

Having a strong background in accessories design, Khalifé continues to create scarves and jewellery, along with her seasonal ready-to-wear line. She works with a palette of playful, peppy shades, and finds inspiration in people and everyday objects. Her vibrant scarves feature everything from acrobats and plastic straws to lemons and tea leaves. Khalifé’s jewellery pieces are equally quirky – recent designs feature hand-painted wooden figurines.

“When I was young, I was in love with bookstores. I used to collect pencils, paper and stickers – I used to dream of being an artist,” she says. Now, Khalifé is living the dream: her creative outlet is her eponymous fashion brand, sold in countries across the globe. And, when she wants to unwind and take a break from the madness of the fashion industry, Khalifé simply takes a peaceful stroll along the streets of Madrid, where there is plenty more inspiration to be found.

Read this and more stories in Luxury magazine, out with The National on Thursday, September 8.