After establishing himself as the king of kanduras with his brand Toby, the Dubai-based designer has debuted a traditional and polished women's line.
Hatem Alakeel turns to womenswear
How long have you been thinking about doing a women's line?
It's been an continuing process for a while. I launched some pieces in 2009 at Dubai Fashion Week and teamed them with Christian Louboutin shoes that he loaned me, before they were even available in the region.
The woman I was designing for back then was very European in style and probably a size zero. This time around I've taken into account different figures, which I didn't before. Now I think I have it right because my clients are all types. Many come to see me with their husbands and kids.
So what I did was go back to my Toby roots and try to translate menswear into womenswear. It's a traditional, polished and modern collection, which pretty much sums up the Toby ethos.
How does the Toby signature reveal itself in the womenswear collection?
I love asymmetry so there are plenty of those lines. There's a lot of tradition but with a modern twist. My thobes for women are perfect for Ramadan when not too much should be revealed but I'm also noticing women in Saudi wearing them at dinner parties and at home. Some wear them as shirts, others as dresses, belted with the sleeves rolled and collars up. It's a very chic look and suits women with a certain aesthetic.
I'm aware that women want to be comfortable in this weather, so my fabrics are light and airy with plenty of chiffon, lace and even lamé silk. The idea is also that the pieces can easily take the woman from day to evening with choice accessories.
Another new development is that I've been offered a couple of bridal dress projects, which I've always wanted to do. I'm very lucky to be given the opportunity and step outside of my comfort zone.
How does designing for women compare to designing for men?
Honestly, men's collections come easily. But even then, there always comes a point when you have to stop and not overstep certain borders. For example, you don't want too much embellishment, femininity or extravagance. The pieces I might show on the runway are great, but men need something that's always wearable and highly practical.
Ladies, however, might not be as concerned with these things. With women, the sky is the limit in terms of creativity. The more you dream and think outside of the box, the more women like that.
Who would you love to wear your new collection?
Hands down, Sheikha Mozah of Qatar. Three times over - Sheikha Mozah. She has revolutionised the whole perception of how traditional women can dress. She's an exceptional example of elegance. I would say she's our modern-day Audrey Hepburn.
Check out the new line at Saks Fifth Avenue, BurJuman Mall, Dubai, 04 501 2700. For private consultations, email email@example.com or go to www.urtoby.com
• An Arabic play on words meaning "my thobe"
• Alakeel was born in Saudi Arabia but grew up in Europe and the US
• He previously designed an outfit for Mattel's Barbie
• The label debuted at Dubai Fashion Week in 2008
•Ranges are called Classic, Trend, Bohemian and Professional
• Toby Junior line for children and babies ages four months and up
• Includes thobes, shirts and vests
• Fabrics include shantung, soft denim and Italian cotton blends
• Matching father and son collections available
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