A profile of Dubai resident Fatma Al Mulla, an Emirati with big ideas who runs a design company.
My UAE: Fatma Al Mulla, a designer with a difference
Fatma Al Mulla had always been the creative type. But when she started at the American University of Sharjah, she realised that she didn’t even know her full potential.
“Ever since I can remember I was very interested in art,” she says. “But studying design was something else completely. I used to paint with acrylics, but when I entered university I didn’t even know the meaning of design, to be honest.”
She took a chance on a visual communications course and loved it. Al Mulla, now 22, left the school as a graphic artist and freelanced for a while before joining Romantic Flowers and Events, an events company, as a partner and its creative director. But it wasn’t enough for her.
“I was bored. I was looking for a job at the time, but nothing seemed to suit me. Then I started a blog [fatmaalmulla.wordpress.com] last year. When I started it, I just posted illustrations, but I didn’t think anyone would look at them. After four months, I had more than 100,000 followers and views.”
Propelled by friends’ suggestions, she started her own company, FMM, and began putting her designs on T-shirts, mugs and other merchandise, and sold them at local boutiques.
“I’ve been getting a lot of requests by boutiques to create something special just for them. But it’s hectic! It’s one thing to think of one design, but it’s another to create five different designs at the same time.”
So how does she balance her creative interests with a family life? Al Mulla has the secret. “Everything is busy, but I’ve always been the type to make lists. I’m organised about where I spend my time and how.”
Still young, this creative Emirati has always been proactive with her objectives. But she remains restless.
“Whenever I want to do something I do it. But I was telling my husband that I need to make a new set of goals, because I’m getting bored again!”
What is the one thing you own that you can't live without?
My laptop. It's my life because it has everything: memories, work, ideas, inspiration. It connects me.
Is there anything that you haven't done that you want to?
I like to travel, and I'd like to visit places that I haven't been before, like America.
In Dubai, it's La Petite Maison in DIFC. Simply because of their burrata cheese.
Favourite thing about living in Dubai?
There are so many things to do here; it's not like it was 10 or 15 years ago. But my favourite thing to do is still drive around in my car to get a karak tea.
Marie Antoinette, the 2006 version. Obviously because of the colours, the visuals, the cinematography; but it also plays with your emotions. It defines the story in a way not everyone knows; it gives a little hope at the end.
I like instrumental jazz when I work. I like Nat King Cole, but mainly his instrumental music.
Describe your style
I'd like to say chic, sophisticated, but not too much Elizabeth Taylor!
What's been your favourite place to travel so far?
Japan. You really enter a different world; I've been to three cities there but I still feel I haven't seen enough. In Tokyo, everything is different; I always see something that surprises me - even their vending machines are different and beautiful!
How do you relax?
I force my husband - he's also very busy - to take a weekend with me and just leave Dubai. We either travel for a couple days or just check into a hotel here and switch off our phones.
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