This mother-daughter duo is the designing team behind renowned brand Dar Naseem AlAndalos. We get an insider’s view on their haute couture line.
Twenty-two-year-old Bahraini designer Hayaa AlFadhel and her mother Nabila AlAissaoui has shaped a new breed of luxurious kaftans by blending Khaleeji and Moroccan design elements together. Dar Naseem AlAndalos is the result of practising attention to detail, embracing traditional handwork and creating modern designs.
The brand, which is an established name in the Arab fashion industry, debuted in 2010 at the first Al-Abaa Exhibition. Their first haute couture collection was launched at The Bride Show at Abu Dhabi in 2012.
Although it is a young name in the market, Dar Naseem AlAndalos has a lot to be proud of, including a show at London’s prestigious multi-brand store — Harrods. The unique designs have been preferred by regional celebrities like Mayssa Maghrabi, Lojain Omran, Nada Fadel, Sabrin Burshaid and Balqees Fathi.
We speak to Hayaa AlFadhel about her latest collections and how they came about creating the brand.
Woman This Month (WTM): Tell us about your new collection.
Hayaa AlFadhel (HF): We did a lot of pieces during the whole year, particularly inspired by the royalty of Andalusia.
This line is an exclusive collection of those luxurious pieces. The beauty of our designs is that they never go out of style. We’re focusing on creating just one haute couture line in a year. We’ve thus consciously delayed the promotion of our latest works.
WTM: We hear there’s a story behind the photo shoot for the line. Can you tell us more?
HF: We wanted a regal setting for our shoot; something that fits as the backdrop for our collection. We’ve been relying on fashion show shots; we wanted to do something editorial. Since we were going to Dubai for an interview, we chose to do our first haute couture shoot at Atlantis.
The PR team took us on a tour of the venue. We saw a lot of locations, especially since we wanted to do something outdoor.
My mother is inspired by the sea, which is evident in our turquoise pieces. She loves shades of blue; so we decided to have the sea as the backdrop.
But then when they took us to the Royal Suite, we fell in love and we didn’t want to leave. We knew this was it.
WTM: What’s it like working with your mother?
HF: It’s fun! Yes it gets difficult sometimes. It’s not just my mom that I work with; there’s my dad too.
He takes care of the management end of things; my mother handles the design part. I’m the creative side of the brand. We really depend on each other.
Sometimes people ask us which piece is mine and which one was designed by my mother. The truth is there’s no such piece. We can’t design a garment unless we both decide on what we want to do with it. We fight a lot; it happens (laughs)
WTM: How did Dar Naseem AlAndalos come into being?
HF: My mother is Moroccan. So when she got married, her mother would send traditional kaftans for her. But the fully embellished and heavy pieces do not suit us in the Gulf. So she decided to design her own clothes and started small. However, she had to halt the project for a while.
It was when I was about 16 years that we got involved into designing again. At first, it was a small boutique. By 2010, we were part of exhibitions and held fashion shows.
My mother’s idea is to use Moroccan elements as its part of her heritage. I’m proud of it as well, but we want something more comfortable and suitable for the Gulf region. We didn’t like the four and five layers with big belts. In fact, my mother was the first to implement Moroccan work on Khaleeji abayas. She did a lot of different stuff and people liked it.
WTM: Did you always have a calling for fashion?
HF: my grandmother used to sew her own pieces. When my mother moved to Bahrain, she took sewing lessons as she was new to the country. However, she didn’t complete it as she was already ahead of the game.
I remember her calling me her Barbie doll when I was around five years old. She would make my dresses. For her, it is instinct — designing comes from within. And I grew up in that atmosphere. I’d even go shopping with her for fabrics.
I’ve always been interested in design, but I didn’t know where I fit in. when I got great grades, it seemed natural to go into architecture, which I enjoyed for the first two years as it was very artsy. Once things got technical, I realised that architecture wasn’t my thing. I get bored very easily. (laughs)
In my teen years, I wasn’t into fashion at all. It came to me suddenly. When I started helping my mother, it was because I wanted to support her while she worked so hard on something she was passionate about.
I would hang around the store all day; she would ask my opinions and take me to exhibitions. And before I knew it, I was into fashion! And now I’m studying it at Royal University for Women.
WTM: Where do you get your fabrics from?
HF: Resources in Bahrain are very limited, especially with fabrics. And we’re very picky. We have dealers who get stuff from Italy and France. My mother loves the dyeing and prints in India. We’ve just seen some luxurious fabrics from Turkey.
Most of our lace is French. The silk is mostly Italian. We love French brocades; clearly we’re into luxurious materials. We have tried to settle for less, but we just couldn’t. (laughs)
But the stitching happens in Bahrain. Initially, we’d cut pieces and send them to Morocco, but we weren’t happy with the results. My mother guides the team here with every single piece. They’re all stitched in our expanded studio in Riffa.
WTM: What challenges have you faced on your way to success?
HF: To be honest, we never realised how big the brand would get. The challenge was to get people to accept our work. People were not a fan of Moroccan work in Saudi; now our biggest market is Saudi.
Most people had a mentality that it’s just a jalabiya. This is a couture line; it’s a dress. It’s cut as a dress and not as a jalabiya. Even in Dubai, women were used to traditional pieces.
WTM: What do you consider as the best memory throughout your journey?
HF: There are some celebrities that are now friends. That’s what I love. We have a good relationship with everyone; it’s not a business rapport. We hang out together.
That beign said, I’d say the best memory is the first time I walked on a runway by myself. It was at the fashion show at Abu Dhabi in 2012.
WTM: What are your plans for the recent future?
HF: We’re working on creating our own prints and fabrics. Also, I’m working on creating my own line. I am very modern, so my read-to-wear collection is going to reflect that, but with hints of traditional elements. A lot of people are trying to do that, but what I have in mind is something very different. I’m hoping to launch by September.