x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Dress code with Zeena Zaki

The designer behind the Dubai shop Julea Domani, talks about her life in fashion.

Zeena Zaki says her career in fashion came naturally.
Zeena Zaki says her career in fashion came naturally.

I did not decide on a career in fashion. It just came naturally, without any planning on my part. My first memories of fashion are from a very, very young age. I started loving fashion when I was four or five as far as I remember. My mum, who has a couple of fashion stores and has been in the industry for decades, used to travel to Milan, Paris and various other places to buy garments for her shops. She used to take me with her because she had no one to look after me while she was away.

I was influenced by my parents. My father is an interior designer, so I lived and breathed fashion day and night. I said to myself from an early stage in my life that I was going to be a fashion designer. I told myself: "I'm going to do it. And I'm going to correct all the mistakes that I can see, to improve fashion for everyone." I used to catch mistakes regularly in the clothes my mum bought. When I was around eight or nine, my parents started to ask me for suggestions, which they would then implement. This really helped me because it gave me a lot of confidence in myself. I used to suggest that they should remove a little something here or add a minor detail there, and they did. Everything always ended up looking fabulous.

My fashion sense has always been a little different. I've always admired the vintage look and fashion from the Victorian era. At our high school prom we had to wear evening gowns, but I didn't want to go out and buy something ready-made. I asked my mum to take me to a fabric shop and after I had chosen the materials I liked, I took them to a tailor and explained what I wanted my dress to look like. I ended up winning an award on the night of the prom for being the best-dressed student. Things like this all helped to push me in the right direction.

My fashion sense for my line of clothes has changed considerably over the years. In the UAE, there are so many different tastes to cater for. Working in the UAE is a very good experience for me because I have to cater my dresses for six or seven different kinds of people. Satisfying the needs of this many people in just one item of clothing is not an easy thing to do. But I manage it. I can design other things - and design them brilliantly for that matter - but my heart lies in designing dresses. I think that if I continue to concentrate on just one thing, I can improve on it, as opposed to working on several different ranges at once.

My clothing line is heavily influenced by my love of Edwardian and Victorian fashion. Of course, my designs are far simpler than the huge dresses women would have worn back in those days, but the influence is obvious. The colours and fabrics I choose are light and soft, and it's this mix of Edwardian and Victorian as well as my own style that helps me create my designs. My personal taste is influenced by the 1930s and 1940s as well as glamorous women like Marilyn Monroe. All my clothes are reminiscent of these time periods. I think the style back then was so romantic and feminine while still being comfortable to wear. My make-up, my house, my furniture, my car - even my music - are all influenced by the 1930s and 1940s. The music at my last fashion show was from that era, as was the make-up and hairstyles of the models we used. I find it all so inspirational.

I have been in this industry for nine years. My plan is to go to New York, Paris or Rome to display my collection. When I was young I had a dream to accomplish, and I believe I can do it. Today, as I see myself headed in the right direction. I know that I have the ability to do it.