Saudi Sartorialst

Published in Villa 88 Magazine, June 2016 issue.

Womenswear designer NASIBA HAFIZ talks fashion, philosophy and philanthropy to PRIYANKA PRADHAN
VILLA 88 JUNE 2016 064-page-001
Download PDF version here: https://www.scribd.com/doc/316861203/Saudi-Sartorialist

It took no less than ten years in the fashion industry for her to realize

her teenage dream. After successful stints in styling, buying and merchandising across Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, life came a full circle for womenswear

designer Nasiba Hafiz when she re-opened her sketchbook, a decade after being rejected from a top fashion school in her late teens. Now, with an arsenal of experience in the fashion industry, Jeddah-based Hafiz sharpens her pencils and her skills as designer-entrepreneur. “I learnt so much in my journey within these di erent roles,” she says. “I think I was meant to do those things and learn everything from scratch, because it helps me tremendously today.”

Nasiba has a trained eye for global and local market trends and creates collections that aim to be both, comfortable for the local climate as well as stylish. This understated and practical style aesthetic forms her signature that’s seen across all her collections. “For example, as a buyer, I learnt that every collection has a story and every aspect of a piece in that collection stems from that story—the fabrics used, the design and ultimately who it appeals to. So as a designer, when I start a collection, I always start with a story behind it and from it, come di erent aspects of design,” she adds.

“My designs are very modern—they’re for working women, designed with a strong functional aspect,” she adds. “For example, most women here wear the abaya over their clothes so the fabrics used in my collections are very light and breathable—I use crepe, silk or blends that are apt for this climate.”

Her most recent collection showcased at Fashion Forward in Dubai this season and combined this practical sensibility with a philosophical touch. Inspired by one of the most powerful and iconic women in Egyptian history, Queen Nefertiti, and the mysteries behind the sun and the stars (which were first worshipped by Nefertiti and her husband), the collection is about the concept of duality. “I wanted to find a balance in my personal life as well as in the chaotic world,” says Nasiba. “So in my collection, you’ll see a lot of silk, monochrome, velvet, a bit of red and burnt thread in my new collection, to represent balance and duality in fabric and color as well.”

The designer is also a campaigner for responsible fashion, with the conviction that one should be aware of where and how their fashion products are made, in order to make ethical choices. For the same reason, she’s an ardent admirer of designer Stella McCartney, who is known to use vegan alternatives for leather and wool for her collections. Inspired by social responsibility, Nasiba works in collaboration with a local CSR initiative for one of her bestselling Ramadan abayas, to support underprivileged women in Saudi Arabia.

Another big inspiration for Hafiz is vintage fashion, seen in her own collection of handmade, vintage pieces made from items her mother has collected over the years and from her father’s timeless collection of ties.

“I started o with a 40s and 50s inspired collection last Ramadan and used a lot of my mother’s vintage flowers and broaches—she never threw away these things! Last season at Fashion Forward, I used my father’s ties to make skirts and tops from vintage ties. They were all handmade and were very intricate and beautiful. Every season I try to do something di erent in this aspect—either vintage or something I can create from my parents’ old things—its handcrafted, sustainable and recycled!”

Post summer, the designer will be working towards the launch of her fragrance, inspired by all things vintage such as old black and white Egyptian movies, combined with her signature style—understated, elegant and functional. http://www.nasibahafiz.com

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True Grit- Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (July 2013)

True Grit

Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine ( July August 2013)

True Grit

The glamorous Ingie Chalhoub, widely recognized as fashion’s first lady in the Middle East, is carving a successful niche in the region’s luxury retail market as head of the Etoile Group.

By Priyanka Pradhan

True Grit- Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (July 2013)

True Grit- Priyanka Pradhan. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (July 2013)

It was at a quaint art gallery in Dubai’s financial district that I first met Ingie Chalhoub. I had heard of her, of course, but what I discovered that day was that

even the chief of the luxury retail firm ‘Etoile Group’, has butterflies in her stomach before every show. I could tell that by the way she paced the floor as her designer label’s Autumn/Winter 2013-14 press preview took place at the same gallery, on a grand runway created especially for her.

She then ascended the ramp, after a little coaxing from her team, to take a bow and pose shyly for the cameras – quite unlike the intimidating persona I had expected.“There is always great excitement but also some stress before any seasonal launch of the collection,” Ingie says. “All the preparation is tiring and energetic at the same time. I am a perfectionist and I feel extremely conscious about every single detail.”
As I also came to realize that day, the ambitious, influential and rigorously detail-oriented Ingie Chalhoub is also exceedingly charming, and truly humble.

even as she single-handedly navigates multimillion-dollar deals every other day in the fiercely competitive Middle East luxury retail market, she carries herself

with rare panache and a certain je ne sais quoi that makes her all the more intriguing.
As president and managing director of the Etoile Group, which operates more than 70 luxury boutiques in six Gulf countries, and as creative director for her eponymous designer label, she has her hands full. But 30 years ago, when she opened the first Chanel

boutique in the Middle East, she didn’t know she was making fashion retail history.
It was serendipitous that the franchise deal was finalized on her wedding day, making her big day even bigger. The groom happened to be Patrick Chalhoub, scion of one of the most established business empires in the region and son of the illustrious Michel and Widad Chalhoub. Having married into a powerful lineage of retail moguls, and with the advantages that come from being part of the influential Chalhoub family, Ingie set out to make a remarkable debut in the regional retail industry and to carve out her identity as a persuasive entrepreneur and luxury retail powerhouse in her own right.
In the years that followed, she worked hard to build credibility and earn the confidence of global luxury retailers such as Christian Dior, Tod’s, Hogan, Valentino, John Galliano, Ralph Lauren, Dolce & Gabbana and Christian Lacroix, and she came to be credited with making a huge contribution to the

UAE’s luxury retail segment.
But before one can call it a charmed life, Ingie says it’s been far from easy. The Gulf War in 1990 changed things irrevocably for Ingie, as her Chanel and Dior stores in Kuwait were looted during the conflict, and her business ran into the ground. But despite the devastating loss, she pushed herself to pick up the pieces and get to work as soon as the Chalhoubs moved to Dubai after the war, even with a newborn baby in tow.
After relocating, Ingie quickly became a formidable retail empire. “Challenges test your mental strength; you need to turn them to your advantage.

Let obstacles motivate you to strive even harder. I am now even more driven and determined to reach more milestones and push myself further,” she says.

The motivation to go on, she adds, came from her supportive husband and her inner resilience. She not only had the task of rebuilding her business from scratch, but now also had the additional responsibility of being a mother, and had to manage the two roles – a balance she describes as most challenging.
“I would say balancing a personal and family life with a professional one is probably one of the most difficult challenges businesswomen face. You need to be disciplined, organized and efficient with your time, and set boundaries, not just for employees and your business colleagues but even for yourself!”

But just as things were settling down, the global economy, and subsequently the Middle East economy, was hit by the tumultuous financial meltdown.

The luxury retail sector was in the eye of the storm, but the Etoile Group showed remarkable resilience at this time. The mood in the retail industry may have been very somber, but just then, in 2009, Ingie launched her own luxury designer label, Ingie Paris, a move that showed nerves of steel and sparkling self-confidence.
Inspired by French sophistication and old-world glamour, she applied her sharp business acumen and innate sense of style to create a capsule collection for the

essential “Ingie” woman, someone she envisions to be a lot like herself.
“The Ingie Paris woman is refined, modern and dynamic,” she says. “My designs cater to her multifaceted, playful nature, interests and lifestyle, from dramatic, glamorous eveningwear that she might don for a red carpet event to chic yet comfortable daywear she can wear to a museum or show off at a relaxed brasserie. That is why I think the collection appeals to women across all cultures; they understand luxury but want it interpreted in a contemporary manner that suits their

international lifestyle.”
The launch of her own label was yet another dream realized for Ingie, but, not one to rest on her laurels, she’s now hoping to expand internationally through

luxury retailers and eventually have more standalone stores. For the Etoile Group too, she says, the emphasis is on expanding horizons to focus on Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
The Ingie Chalhoub success story has been peppered with setbacks, but she has overcome the hurdles each time, due to her dedication and strong belief in herself, something she hopes will inspire other female entrepreneurs and businesswomen.
“[You need] hard work, passion and a strong vision of what you want that can never be downplayed. But there are also those things that are part of one’s character that can also help you to succeed. For me, it’s a strong eye for detail, and my creative ability. I have the ability to look at something and know immediately whether it’s right or wrong, or what needs to be changed; it’s a skill that is rare.”

She adds: “You also need to believe in yourself. We are often our own worst critics, but we need to focus on the positive, as self-belief is a key factor in order to succeed.”

Bohemian Billionaire- By Priyanka Pradhan,. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (September 2013)

Bohemian Billionaire

Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (September 2013)
Bohemian Billionaire

She may be one of the world’s youngest self-made female billionaires, but for Tory Burch, creative director and CEO of her eponymous fashion label, it has never been just about the money.

By Priyanka Pradhan

Bohemian Billionaire- By Priyanka Pradhan,. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (September 2013)

Bohemian Billionaire- By Priyanka Pradhan,. Published in T Emirates: The New York Times Style Magazine (September 2013)

Tory Burch was just another New York socialite with a privileged upbringing and a glamorous life when she decided to venture into the luxury fashion retail business. Despite having no formal qualifications in either fashion design or business management, Burch has built a $3.5 billion women’s clothing and accessories business in less than ten years, ultimately surpassing long-established rivals such as Michael Kors and Coach in revenues.

With starting capital of $2 million, Burch established a boutique in New York with the help of her husband at the time, venture capitalist Chris Burch. By leveraging her previous work experience in the PR and marketing departments at fashion houses such as Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang and Loewe, along with her reputation among New York society’s upper echelons, the designer’s premiere collection sold out on the opening day of her flagship store in 2004.

“People imagine the fashion industry to bevery competitive, but I’ve found the opposite – I have had many great mentors and friends willing to help along the way. This journey is beyond anything I could have imagined, and it’s a journey we’re still on” as a business, she says. “In so many ways I feel like we are just beginning.”

Burch pioneered the concept of “affordable luxury” in 2004, retailing a “preppy-bohemian luxe” style for the masses.

“I love fashion, from Uniqlo to Celine, but at the time I felt there weren’t many options in between,” she says. “I recognized a void in the market for beautiful, well-designed pieces that didn’t cost a fortune. I knew what I was missing from my closet and thought other women might feel the same way, so I began developing the concept, which was embodied by my parents, the most impeccably stylish couple I have ever known. They remain my greatest source of inspiration but, of course, each collection has its own distinct influences; in addition to my parents, my team and I are inspired by art, music, travel and other cultures.”

This is how Burch’s $200 Reva Ballerina shoes, one of the least expensive items found in the luxury category, came to form the backbone of her multi-billion fashion business. Having expanded her retail network to more than 83 stores worldwide, while generating revenues of more than $800 million a year (2012), she has come to challenge large global fashion houses that have been in the business for decades longer.

Burch attributes her success to hard work and perseverance.

“There are no shortcuts – starting a company takes a lot of time, energy and good, old-fashioned hard work. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it if you have a unique idea that you are passionate about,” she says.

Despite coming from a financially secure background, Burch faced challenges common to all entrepreneurs. “Everything that went into building a start-up – raising capital, finding partners, hiring the right team – was a challenge,” she explains. “The two and a half years before our launch were very intense and I worked harder than I ever thought possible.”

One of Burch’s biggest tests came in 2006 with the end of her marriage to her husband and business partner. A messy legal battle followed the divorce, with Chris Burch claiming in court that his wife’s business had hindered the growth of his own fashion retail chain, ‘c.Wonder’. Tory counter-sued, claiming he had created a knockoff brand with mass- market versions of top-selling Tory Burch items. This compelled her ex-husband to resign from the board of directors of Tory Burch and sell his stake in the brand.

Never one to focus on the past, Tory Burch is currently working on her Autumn/Winter 2013- 14 collection. The self-confessed workaholic is creating a “Gustav Klimt and René Lalique-inspired free-spirited and romantic mood”.

Burch says, “We focused on the details: dragonflies and scarabs printed on dresses, as well as wrapped around the heels of shoes; metallic prints and patterns; mixed textures; and subtle volume. It all centers on the idea of 24-hour dressing – special pieces to wear from day to evening.”

Burch has also designed a limited-edition scarf especially for her Abu Dhabi store, opening this year, to woo her target consumers in the region. Burch identifies young aspirational women, collegians and even high school students, as her brand’s main clients. Given this demographic, she says social media remains an important communications tool.

“I tweet and Instagram myself, and our team manages platforms like Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest and Weibo,” she says. “Our social media conversations have to be organic and authentic to who we are.”

Burch is equally invested in her non-profit foundation, which provides grassroots financial support for female-owned start-ups, mainly in the US.

“I wanted to help other women and their families,” she says. Based on our experiences starting a business, I thought we had something to offer aspiring female entrepreneurs. Through research I learned that it was extremely difficult for women to get small business loans in the U.S. But women are a great investment – they pay back their loans at a high rate, and invest earnings back into their communities. I felt loans and mentoring for female entrepreneurs were the best way for our foundation to contribute. We had a mentoring event in Marrakech last year, and we hope to expand all of our programs internationally at some point.”

But despite the hectic traveling schedule, a business empire to run and three children to raise, Tory Burch seems full of energy. She’s looking forward to her fragrance launch and a women’s activewear line in the near future. “I want to be like Wanda Ferragamo and work until I’m 85,” she says.