x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Arab luxury hits the US at New York Fashion Week

We talk to one of the cousins behind Noon by Noor, a Bahraini label that has just had its first showing at New York Fashion Week to a great reception.

The duo behind Noon by Noor, which had its first New York Fashion Week outing on Friday, clearly know about luxury. Not luxury in the sense of lashings of satin, swags of fur and encrustations of diamonds, but the luxury – and the effect – of simplicity.

Sheikha Noor Al Khalifa and Sheikha Haya Al Khalifa, 27-year-old Bahraini cousins as charmingly alike as two peas in a pod, took their bows wearing slick black tuxedo jackets, but their collection was bright, vibrant, silky and spring-like, with fluoro orange tailoring and shirts, floating silks in blousy chartreuse and teal florals and shimmering metallic weaves.

“We wanted something fresh and young, to design for the on-the-go woman, to keep it simple and keep the focus on the colours and fabrics,” said Sheikha Haya backstage after the show, once all the kissing, photos and congratulations had died down. “Sometimes it’s risky doing bright colours but I think we had a good balance with the neutrals, and I think the neon just gave it something fresh.”

For a brand as young as Noon by Noor (the name comes from the pronunciation of the Arabic “N”), putting on a show at New York Fashion Week – bang in the middle of the important second day, no less – is no small undertaking. A damp squib of a collection could be catastrophic, and designers often take years to really refine their designs into enough of a trademark to really be noticed. The fact that Noon by Noor, which launched in 2008, is the first Gulf-based label ever to show on-schedule at New York Fashion Week would not have made things easier.

“I think New York is the best place to start. It was important for us,” explained Sheikha Haya who, with her cousin, studied fashion at Marymount University. “It’s a lot of pressure; we have to exceed everyone’s expectations, but I think we did a good job.”

As it turned out, the show went down a storm, with Olivia Palermo and Nicky Hilton front-row, wearing pieces from the resort collection. Especially pretty were the peachy-orange chiffon, silk or metallic-shot jacquards used in a playsuit, loungy, wide-legged pyjama sets and pared-back evening gowns. The edgier fluorescent orange trousers, city shorts, shirts and biker jackets were sharp and urban and the romance of long, floaty dresses was spiked by that uncompromising shade and by asymmetrical cuts.

Yet there remains a certain Gulf aesthetic, with the metallic brocades of the pyjama suits and frocks inspired by features of traditional Gulf dress and a fluid, drapey feel to the fabrics that clearly has its roots in the region’s costumes.

“We always try to bring something from home, whether in the fabrics or the embellishments, so in every collection you see that part of Noon by Noor,” said Sheikha Haya.

The catwalk showed a tight, coherent edit, and it seems that the duo have found a way to successfully overcome those sartorial squabbles that are inevitable when two strong-minded individuals work together.

“We both design the pieces and we combine the elements, so a dress can be designed by both of us. We always argue but we always agree at the end.”

Currently available online at www.noonbynoor.com and at Harvey Nichols Dubai, and soon to be at Saks Fifth Avenue Dubai (as well stockists in Bahrain, Riyadh and Kuwait), the cousins are clearly intent on breaking the US. An event last summer in Los Angeles, with Kim Kardashian and Demi Lovato in attendance, paved the way somewhat, but New York Fashion Week will be the key to their success and, if the cheering crowd at the end of the show is anything to go by, the cousins’ strategy is likely to pay off.

See our Scene&Heard blog for daily updates on New York Fashion Week