The Life: Palestinian designer Khalid Khalil describes his career making bridal wear for Arab royals, selling big-budget gowns starting at Dh30,000.
The designer to call for a royal Arab wedding
Khalid Khalil, a 42-year-old Palestinian designer, specialises in bridal wear for Arab royals. He was in the Emirates last week for his first appearance at the Bride Abu Dhabi exhibition.
How would you describe your bridal dresses?
My wedding gowns look massive, in budget and drama; big and dramatic. My dresses can start from Dh30,000 [US$8,167] and go up to hundreds of thousands of dirhams. But the models and bride move [like these are] featherweight because of the way they are built. We have reached 14 kilograms to 18kg. We also do the entire wedding trousseau, including lingerie, suits, jackets, dresses for honeymoon and events prior to and after the wedding. Sometimes an entire trousseau can have 40 pieces, and we would be working on a single customer for six to eight months.
What are the materials you use?
It comes from the best manufacturers in Switzerland, Italy, London, and beads and embellishments from Swarovski,and the best manufacturers in Japan and London. These are manufactured exclusively for us. We have a contract with Swarovski through which we get crystals that are ahead of the market by six months. We buy silk from an Italian manufacturer that has made lace for 1,400 years and for Queen [Marie] Antoinette. At April's Bride Dubai show we will feature the first gold thread weave lace, from a French designer and a Swiss German manufacturer.
Who are your clients?
Around 60 per cent of my clients are the royal families of the Arab world. For me, the top markets are Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman. I sell only to private clients. If the palace calls, we are there. Others have to come to our office in Amman. But we deliver personally to all clients. I am in talks to open an office in the UAE, but nothing has been finalised yet.
When did you come to Dubai?
I came in 1994 and worked for [the haute-couture bridal and evening-wear brand] Arushi Fashion for two years after having my own atelier in West Hollywood. In 1997, I opened up Khalid Khalil Fashion Design.I left Dubai five years ago because I wanted a break.
How different are Gulf wedding dresses from those elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa?
It is a sea of options, but for us we have a certain standard and look. My philosophy is I am Arab and trained in European and international standards. My customers want traditional Arab feel and royal weight of the gown, but with European cuts and designs.
How big is the wedding dress industry in Middle East?
It's huge. Even European designers, at least one season of the year they tend to give very Middle Eastern-looking evening clothes with long sleeves and full-length skirts. The entire region is very attractive, especially the Gulf region, for their taste, style and money at the end. Also, all girls plan their wedding night to be a fantasy, but Arabic girls want it to look like a fairytale.