We know what you're thinking. Outerwear? In Spring? And in Dubai? But hear us out. Imagine a coat that sits just right on the shoulders, instantly switches a causal look to an eternally chic moment and feels extremely comfortable to wear. It’d be too good not to share, right?
Enter Mariam Alsibai's pieces. The 28-year-old designer has captured the attention of everyone from Gigi Hadid and Priyanka Chopra, to Arab influencers including Rania Fawazz and Noor Elkhaldi since she launched her label in New York.
British of Syrian descent, Alsibai now bases herself between New York and her hometown of London. Here she chats to Grazia about her label, female entrepreneurship, working with family, sustainability and her stylish tips for women on-the-go.
How did your label, Mariam Al Sibai, come about?
We launched in 2017 and it was a super organic process. I was making garments out of graduating from FIDM in Los Angeles where I found myself buying fabric and sewing garments; essentially working towards making a collection. Once I felt like a collection was forming and it was something that I was confident to release to the public at the time with zero following or anything to my name, I worked with Esme (my sister, an interior architect) who also at the time had no intention of working or even being a business partner as she is today, but with her expertise in graphics and creative direction she was able to do the branding/ logo/ website and so on for the brand. Together we were able to create a brand that was authentic without the pressure of trying to please anyone.
Who is the Mariam Al Sibai woman?
She is a woman who values the importance of investing in quality. She is daring and confident in her own skin and age; a woman who loves to be bold, making a statement.
Where does your focus on outerwear come from?
Again, super organic. I found myself thoroughly enjoying designing and creating outerwear more than anything. I also feel like I have something to offer in the outerwear field, I like to focus and master one thing.
You’re involved with the raw atelier processes, and all about being sustainable. As a designer, how important is this for you and why?
So important. I am a very intimate person, I love authenticity, I'm passionate and I love to know that what I am wearing is made with care - so I wasn’t going to have my work be anything less than that. There are many designers that choose a different approach and that is completely fine, but for me the only way to relay my vision was to make my own patterns and play with fabric and bring to life what I dream to make. Being made in the USA has allowed for me to guarantee that my pieces are ethically made. It is very important for me that at the core of my work the values I hold are true to my brand. We run the business between London (my home town and where Esme lives) and NYC.
Was there ever a moment you thought “I made it”?
What I have come to learn about the notion of "I made it" is that it is a façade. There is always room for more improvement and doing better. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely times of excitement and feeling proud of what we have achieved. Saying you have ‘made it’ to me is a way to say I am done. I can lift my feet up and call it a day. For me that isn’t the meaning of life - to keep going keep growing in every aspect spiritual or physical there’s always more that you can do. But the internal peace and contentment that’s the ultimate "I made it" feeling to me. That’s the one I really pray to attain.
The question we all want to know. What was it like seeing your pieces worn by Gigi Hadid and Priyanka Chopra?
I screamed so loud I frightened my son and made him cry hysterically. It was such a special moment and an absolute honour to have an iconic celebrtity stylist like Mimi Cuttrel (and her lovely team) value your work as a young designer.
Tell us a bit more about your podcast, Banter with Mariam Al Sibai.
We LOVE a good chat. I’ve secretly always wanted to be a radio host and so this is sort of me fulfilling a childhood dream, too. We feel like a podcast was a fun way for us to relay to our customer the BTS of the brand. We were getting a lot of interest in the BTS of the brand and so it was a nice way of showing and sharing that. It's a focus on the real life stories, dynamics of running a small business, being a young designer and working with my sister. My husband, Kenan, is also the moderator on the podcast and so it offers a dynamic that is real and organic. We enjoy it as a form of venting, or a space where we can discuss work related topics as well as current affairs or personal matters. It is very therapeutic to us and we enjoy catching up this way.
You started a succesful business on your own. Do you have some tips for fellow female entrepreneurs?
Be kind and do not tread on other women, no one is better than anyone else. I really think one of biggest things is that for some women they see becoming an entrepreneur as unattainable - perhaps due to the sacrifice it entails, whilst trying to balance out motherhood, running a household, being a wife amongst many other things, I say, just get on with it and start small. You can find so many excuses to not do something, but, I remember my Dad would tell me to JUST START, and at the moment that you do, you will find yourself working towards something and going forward.
Your sister does art direction for the brand. What's it like working together?
Yes! She is fantastic. Her creative mindset is different to mine and that’s why we work well together. She is an interior architect and has a great level of graphic design expertise which I have zero interest and skill in, so I think we complement each other in that sense. She has an eye for things when it comes to a good image, or creating a set - things beyond the design process of the garments but crucial for the brand and product to go forward. Like any sibling relationship we get on each other’s nerves and disagree on a lot, but at the end of the day we want what is best for each other and the company.
What are the three wardrobe pieces you’d advise Grazia girls to invest in?
Coat, bag and either a great hat or shoe.
Will we see summer collections in the near future? What can we expect?
We are currently working on our latest autumn winter collection and have just shown our spring summer in Paris, that we'll be releasing some time in March or April. We've created a fun take on a summer organza blazer - that was my go-to most evenings whilst I was in Dubai over Christmas.
- Visit Mariamalsibai.com for more information.