"I always saw my designs as modern with a touch of my Middle Eastern background, which is full of cultural heritage..."
Ghada al Rashid: A Saudi designer in Paris
The Paris-based, Saudi-born designer Ghadah al Rashid talks about her life in fashion. As a child, I was very hyperactive. I used to design my outfits and I also used to cut into all of my dresses and redo them. So it was natural for me to design for the rest of the family and friends. I always had an idea as to how everyone should dress and also how clothes should be made. It started mainly when I was a teenager. I used to help my mother a lot with tailoring, choosing and matching her clothes before she went to any party. I did the same thing for my sisters. To my friends I was more of an adviser to help them with what to wear in weddings - especially at my wedding, where I had to approve everyone's dress and I actually designed dresses for some of my friends. It was mainly eveningwear as the parties and events in Saudi were always at night.
Growing up in Saudi at that time was more conservative than it is today. So my main influence came from outside the country, either through travelling or watching movies. But when I grew up, I started looking into my own culture and realised that it is so deep and rich. I believe this is how I got the mix of western and eastern in my designs. In Saudi, when a girl reaches a certain age, the abaya becomes a must. I had to wear it and everyone else in the country has to wear it too. But I always found it the chicest element ever in fashion. I find the idea and the concept behind the abaya so mysterious - it makes me always wonder: what is hiding beneath this veil? I remember I used to hide and watch my mother's friends coming into our house for a party, just to steal the moment of truth when they take off their abaya. When they reveal what is hiding beneath it. To me, it's the moment that defines every personality.
I wear jewellery. As they say: "Diamonds are a girl's best friend." I also love Lanvin designs - they're so couture. But since we wear abayas most of the time, we invest in shoes and bags big time because it's the only thing that shows how fashionable we are. Well, nowadays, I only wear my own label. But during the day, I wear very relaxed, comfortable clothes from various brands. I enjoy shopping everywhere - I like to go around and discover new shops and new ideas especially when I travel to new countries. I love to get to know its fashion culture - it's my passion.
Since I had my primary studies in Saudi Arabia, I've got quite a fascinating background that is a mixture of eastern and western cultures. Although I received a BA in international business and an MBA in London at the American University, and an MA in marketing management at Westminster University, I was craving more. I had a passion for fashion and so I attended short courses in fashion design at the London College of Fashion, which gave me a solid creative foundation. In tandem, both my rigorous design and business academic experiences have helped me to not only establish my own label but also manage the company. To my knowledge, talent and inspiration are the secret tools for success.
I started my own label because I always pictured myself in the world of haute couture and I have always wanted to do something in fashion built from my own two hands. In my opinion, there is a void in womenswear, and I wanted to fill that. It's not easy to find a chic, elegant dress that's a little quirky with a modern twist and at the same time can satisfy truly refined tastes. As the first Saudi woman to have a couture business in Paris, I always saw my designs as modern with a touch of my Middle Eastern background, which is full of cultural heritage that deserves to be globally exposed. To achieve this, I use rich silk fabrics with Arabic-inspired elements rendered in gowns with pure straight, lines and simple cuts.
Like music, fashion is universal because it reaches people's hearts. Although all women do not share the same tastes when it comes to fashion, every single woman in the world deserves to look glamorous. My goal is to achieve just this and to make them feel confident in my line. Ghadah Couture is available at Bugatti, Dubai (04 222 7853) and Green Bird, Abu Dhabi (050 612 6416).