x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Emirati sisters step back in time for clothing line

Designers inspired by Bedouin fabrics and traditional styles used by their grandmother to create women's clothes.

Roadha Bin Khedia, left, and her sister, Khawla Bin Khedia have launched a collection of clothes for Ramadan. DELORES JOHNSON / The National
Roadha Bin Khedia, left, and her sister, Khawla Bin Khedia have launched a collection of clothes for Ramadan. DELORES JOHNSON / The National

DUBAI // Two up-and-coming Emirati designers have created a range of clothes using traditional Bedouin fabrics and techniques - and a little help from their grandmother.

Sisters Khawla and Roadha bin Khedia have launched their second clothing line in time for Ramadan using rarely used fabrics and styles passed down through the generations, from their grandparents and great grandparents.

The entrepreneurs, aged 20 and 18, chose to come up with a more sporty, casual line of garments rather than what they describe as the "predictable" abayas designed each year for the holy month.

The special fabrics were sourced from traditional souqs and stores in old Dubai and by adding Arabic letters and embroidery. The sisters hope they have found a way of educating their customers about a little piece of UAE history.

"Ramadan is a very cultural time and we wanted that to be reflected in the collection," Roadha said. "We educate ourselves religiously through the Hadiths and it's a time for learning."

The sisters sought advice from their grandmother, who makes her own clothes. She taught the girls about traditional Bedouin handmade fabrics used to make garments such as a shayla munagatah, a transparent head covering for women, and a badla, worn by men underneath their kandura.

"Through this project, we haven't just learnt the religious history but the cultural history too," Khawla said.

The name of the fabric is written in Arabic on the back of the girls' tops, T-shirts and dresses, while on the front Arabic numbers are written out from 1 to 31, representing the days of the month.

"Our great grandmother who is 90 is so happy we are learning about these things," Roadha said. "She was really surprised we knew this because today nobody knows the names of these. They may see them on the Freej cartoons but we actually did something with them and brought them back."

Tags explaining why the fabric was chosen, its history and its name are attached to each piece of the collection, which has lines for men and women.

Khawla and Roadha, who are both students at Zayed University, said support from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, had been pivotal in inspiring them to pursue their dream.

"Sheikh Mohammed really cares about education and the future of young Emiratis," said Khawla, who will start her fourth year of strategic communications after the summer break. "This is why we were so encouraged to take this further than just doing our clothing. We felt there was a lot of support."

Roadha, who is due to begin her second year of graphic design, said: "Other girls have seen what we've done and it's made them realise we can all do this if we really want to.

"It's great to be able to inspire other people to do what we've done. It's been a case of time management. In our free time at university we design, we go to meetings. It's not been easy but we love it."

The girls, whose family is split between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, will continue to work on their clothes throughout Ramadan.

Their creations have already attracted attention from customers in Saudi Arabia and Britain.

"People are hearing about us through social media. We were amazed to have a woman get in touch from the UK," Khawla said.

The clothes are sold in four boutiques in Dubai and are being taken on by the House of Fraser group.

"We'd love to go international," Roadha said. "We sold out when we put our products in a bazaar in Qatar, so this is our next step."

Natalie Vesaloo, a Briton who lives in Dubai, saw the collection when it launched last week at O Boutique in Jumeirah.

"I love to see fashion blended with something more authentic," she said. "There's a real gap in the market for this kind of clothing.

mswan@thenational.ae