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Thu 19 Mar 2015 02:55 PM

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Five minutes with… Syrian fashion designer Rami Al Ali

Dubai-based designer has dressed celebrities such as Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez and Ivana Trump

Five minutes with… Syrian fashion designer Rami Al Ali

His designs have been worn by many celebrities, including Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez and Ivana Trump, he was named one of the most influential Arabs by Middle East magazine, and this year he marked his seventh appearance at the Paris Couture Fashion Week. We’re talking, of course, about prominent Syrian designer Rami Al Ali.

1. As you are a visual communications graduate, what inspired you to get into fashion design? From a young age I was always interested in creative pursuits but it wasn’t until my final year as a visual communications student at the College of Fine Arts, in Damascus when I realised I wanted to pursue a career in fashion. I organised and created a fashion show for my final project, which was an unconventional approach and a huge risk, but the result was overwhelmingly positive. I received great feedback from my professors and this encouraged me to further pursue a career in the fashion industry.

2. Seeing as you are based in Dubai and the Middle East, was it difficult for you to get recognition on an international level? Establishing the brand in Dubai has certainly made the road to international success a lot more difficult. The international fashion scene reached its ultimate years and years ago so it’s very difficult to compete with such a mature industry. Designers based in fashion capitals, such as London, Paris and New York, are closer to the right international media and celebrities so anything done in this region requires a lot more effort. As with anything in life though, you get out what you put in and overcoming obstacles only makes you more determined to succeed.

3. What do you think of the opportunities for designers in Dubai? It’s still an uphill struggle for designers in this region, as anything that international designers do, Middle Eastern designers would have to put in ten times more effort and still wouldn’t achieve the same end result. It’s not down to the quality of work here but rather accessibility. However, over the past couple of years, there have been a lot of very promising developments within the fashion industry in the region, such as the introduction of the Dubai Design District, which should hopefully open doors and create more opportunities for upcoming talent.

4. Is there a need for more catwalk or fashion shows? Do designers still need to go abroad to get recognition? In the Middle East, fashion is experiencing a wave of success, with many upcoming talented graduates emerging. Outlets such as Fashion Forward are definitely contributing to the progress. However it’s still important to be able to showcase your talent and creativity alongside the big industry players in Europe, as this is where the main buyers, magazines and celebrities are and is a steppingstone towards international success.

5. Do you have any advice for Middle Eastern fashion designers looking to make it on an international level? Express yourself, be unique and be original. It takes more than work and effort to achieve success; you have to be really passionate about what you do. It’s also important to stay true to your design philosophy, have confidence in your creations and not to give up.

6. For your Spring/Summer couture collection, why did you choose Japanese culture as your inspiration? Japanese culture possesses an undeniable hidden richness. I was drawn to the organic serenity of Japanese gardens, the complexity of the country’s culture and the juxtaposition of pureness and mystery evident throughout its history.

7. What are your plans for the coming season? Will you take inspiration from another culture or concept? If so, which one? The inspiration for a new collection can come from anywhere or anything, whether it’s architecture, art, travel or culture – I’m drawn to anything authentic and real. The theme for the next collection isn’t finalised yet though I do have plans to travel this year so who knows where the next idea might spark from.

8. Last January, you told Arabian Business that you’re starting a ready-to-wear line, is that going as well as you wanted it to? I’m very happy with the feedback I have received on my debut prêt-à-porter collection. It took time to get everything right with the production of the garments as it’s a very different process to couture, but I’m happy with the outcome and hope that as with my couture, the line will continue to develop with each new season collection.

9. Who do you consider as your idol in terms of fashion designers and the fashion world? I don’t have a particular idol or muse I can name as I’m more inspired by eras than individuals. The golden Hollywood period of the 1950s is a continuous inspiration as the silhouettes and designs are so elegant, feminine and timeless.

10. Which celebrities would you like to see wearing your designs? I’ve been lucky enough to dress some of the world’s most beautiful women, including local and international A-list celebrities. These women are strong yet feminine, confident and effortless, the epitome of a Rami Al Ali woman. I would love to see Sarah Jessica Parker wear one of my designs – she represents sophistication in a contemporary, fun way.

11. Is there a way for fashion to highlight/reflect what is happening politically in the region? It definitely affects it indirectly through client spending behavior, and designers do occasionally express their feelings and opinions through their creations.

12. Lastly, with the situation in Syria, as a Syrian yourself, do any of the proceedings from your designs go to donations or charities for Syrian refugees or victims of the war? Whether through my work or personal life, I always do my best to help the situation in Syria in every way possible.

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