For sisters Nada and Noor Alawi, scarves are what shoes are for many: an obsession. They talk to us about creating a medium between art and fashion with local talent.
Going to Riyadat Mall in A’ali is a departure from mass produced, commercial brands and an arrival to the offbeat and the quirky. The mall houses innovative designers and is growing in popularity but in a way that still allows it to be unique.
In the corner of the 1st floor, somewhat hidden but making it that much more exclusive, is Annada’s headquarters where the scarves are presented as if in a botanical sanctuary. Having started in September 2011, Nada and Noor Alawi have gone from strength to strength by putting ornate paintings onto scarves of all sizes.
“A scarf is an accessory that has stood the test of time. It’s a smart accessory; there are so many ways you can wear a scarf. You can pass it down too.
“We found that there is a lot of beautiful art in the Middle East – we approached artists and got their exclusive agreement to print the paintings on scarves. We involve artists from around the GCC – we started off in Bahrain and have branched out to Iraq and Austria. Abbas Almosawi was the first artist we approached with our idea and he was very open to work with us and then more and more artists came on board.”
Adding a positive message, Nada and Noor will get the artwork and give it a name and a story if it doesn’t already have them. “The story will always have a personal message: to follow your dreams, to never give up and to find yourself in the things that you love. We like that because people think of our brand as the perfect gift because it comes pre-packaged with a story inside the box. It speaks to people and their friends.”
Although they are responsible for digitally treating the artwork before it gets printed onto a scarf, Nada and Noor work closely with the artist. “We have to treat it in a certain way to make sure the colours come out the right way, while making sure we don’t take anything out of the artwork.” Nothing is superimposed – instead, Annada wants to make the most beautiful version of the artwork.
Nada is the creative component to Annada while Noor is the business arm within the production. Neither have an art background and none of the paintings are done by them, but they have the administrative and marketing experience that has seen their brand come to fruition.
Despite not having a traditional art background the Annada duo have invested so much time and love into the brand, they’ve become masters of their field.
Do they add their own touch though? “If a painting is really small and we want to scale it up, with the cooperation of the artist, we’ll tweak the colours to get the maximum effect on a larger scale. And sometimes we feel a certain shade of colour works better on a scarf, so again, we work closely with the artist.”
The scarves are limited editions – without any repeats – and they make a small number of each so as to preserve the artistic quality. And what started off as just square scarves, has now turned into an entire collection of long, pocket, handbag and winter scarves.
As part of the three-year anniversary at Saks Fifth Avenue (which also stocks the scarves) last year, Annada launched a book – Art is a Gift – which makes for the perfect coffee table volume and has a forward from both Nada and Noor along with a rich visual insight into the makings of Annada and how it came to be. Each scarf’s story is a testament to the emotional quality of the artwork and the poetic inspiration that brought them to life. In recognition of the four best-selling scarves, the book comes in four different covers.
Something that really stands out with Annada’s collections is the intense use of colours. Put together, the scarves make a rich tapestry of expressive texture. The content and detail with each scarf deserves more than just a fleeting glance, but there are some more subdued and monochrome pieces, which beg the questions: what is Annada’s central aesthetic and would the brand ever launch a plain scarf?
“We feel it would defy the purpose because the scarfs are paintings, but we never object to variety. There have been times when certain scarves have sold out which we wouldn’t necessarily wear ourselves.”
As part of the sisters’ all-inclusive local talent spotting, artists can submit their paintings on Annada’s website where a panel of judges decides if the artwork is viable to be printed on a scarf.
So what would make the girls say yes to a painting? “It’s not so much what we’re looking for, it’s what we’re not expecting. The paintings vary in style: calligraphy, cubism, impressionism and we are always looking to add even more scope to the artistic quality of the brand.”
Visit: www.annadaonline.com or call 33 374 004