Nestled amongst the chaos of London Fashion Week this season was the DXB>LDN showroom; a beautifully curated space for Middle Eastern designers to showcase their latest work.
Shahzad Bhatti is the brains behind Share This Space, a regional online-booking platform that offers brands and designers short-term access to retail spaces. He tells Grazia how he “wanted to create a platform for emerging designers to showcase their work on an international scale, while also benefiting from the mentorship to enable their growth.”
Shahzad, who previously started a co-working space in Dubai, goes on to explain how his objective has always been to support start-ups and new concepts from the region by connecting them with spaces where they can sell and promote collections.
Entering the vast space of the London Fashion Week showrooms, it’s easy to understand the competition young designers are up against. With every area filled with clothes that various hopefuls have spent all year working towards showcasing, it would be easy to feel intimated. But tucked away are four incredibly inspirational women who make beautiful and functional clothing.
First is Saudi-born Nasheen Bakhsh, founder of jewellery brand Sheen. She is the first Saudi jewellery designer to ever participate in London Fashion Week. She explains how this is her sixth collection and is inspired by the Indian walls of great palaces in Kashmir. Usually working with silver, Nasheen also decided to tackle both gold and colour. And aside from beautifully crafted jewellery, Sheen also provides funds for worthy initiatives and social issues worldwide, donating a percentage of her sales to selected causes such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Sheen has also been awarded the Positive Fashion certificate by the British Fashion Council for establishing a brand with moral and ethical ideals.
Next is UAE-based designer Hebatullah who introduces her brand, Lou by Hebatullah. Her second collection is inspired by tech in the '90s. Aptly named Glitch, every piece features a flaw as she believes the beauty of this world lies in its imperfections. Handmade and sold in Dubai, Lou by Hebatullah is a collection that features cut-out shorts, shirts with oversized sleeves, skirts with awkward cuts, vinyl waistcoats and more. Hebatullah wants those around her to be brave, to accept things aren’t perfect and embrace that ideology.
Fresh, comfortable and inspired by her mixed ethnicity, Esther Bou Antoun speaks of her diverse roots from Paris and Lebanon and how she found her collection important in bridging cultures. Her designs range from modern Oriental pieces to Arab with a dash of Parisian. Antoun gels her worlds together effortlessly. She explains how she hopes to inspire those around her to see their own mixed roots as a celebration of culture.
Simple yet inspiring is the last designer of DXB>LDN, Dahlia Hage. Formerly Dubai-based and now setting up shop in Los Angeles, Hage titled her collection ‘Also, Freedom’ with the tagline: “Don’t postpone your freedom”. She begins by explaining the importance of the comma after ‘Also’ which highlights her belief that freedom is an afterthought to many people. She goes on to explain that her previous negative experience in the corporate world led her to quit and start her line. “I felt stuck and so unhappy and all I wanted was freedom.” Her collection is a range of unisex T-shirts made from the finest Peruvian cotton, embroidered with various inspirational quotes and messages which Hage says she has specifically chosen to “inspire the reader and in turn invite them to re-examine their happiness.”
It’s clear after speaking with the four designers, Bakhsh, Hebatullah, Antoun and Hage, that they’ve each been chosen by Bhatti to represent ‘Share This Space’ as they all share a different yet equally important message about the world. Fashion is not just about clothing – it can also highlight important issues in society. As Bhatti explains, “Women are powerful and inspirational and [can be] far from what is perceived by the rest of the world.” The fashion industry in the Middle East is evolving rapidly and Bhatti’s space empowers designers, like these four women, giving them an international platform which will continue to enrich and grow their voices.
Photos: Supplied and Instagram @lou_by_hebatullah