Part of my job as a retailer based in the Middle East isn’t to simply expose my clients to up-and-coming designers from around the world; I also support and nurture promising talent from the region. Over the years I’ve not only used D’NA as a showcase for young Arab designers, but also as an opportunity to mentor them on how to create collections that have a unique point of view while still being accessible to customers. For a region with a burgeoning fashion industry, this role is especially important in the Gulf, where specialized boutiques have become incubators for nurturing emerging talent.
Among the young designers I’ve been working with for the past few seasons is the talented London-based Lulwa Al Amin. A Central Saint Martins grad, Lulwa divides her time between her London studio and Bahrain, where she produces her line. An accomplished artist and colorist, she set herself apart early on by creating whimsical prints that she cuts into feminine, modern separates and dresses. This season I asked the young Bahraini designer to create a capsule collection exclusively for D’NA, inspired by her trip to India. “I stayed at the Rambagh Palace on my last trip to Jaipur. While there I came across a beautiful portrait in the grand dining room of the Maharani Gayatri Devi, and I was immediately intrigued by this glamorous style icon who seemed to inhabit two worlds—traditional India and cosmopolitan London, where she kept an apartment,” recalled Lulwa of the chic Indian princess who was once featured in Vogue among the “ten most beautiful women in the world.”
“There was a bookstore at the palace filled with books on maharajas, and I ended up purchasing several, which became the starting point for my Spring/Summer collection. One book in particular, Made for Maharajas: A Design Diary of Princely India by Amin Jaffer, showed breathtaking images of objects designed by top European craftsmen for Indian royalty, such as Art Deco Lesage-embroidered French chiffon saris and Cartier jewelry. There was a cross-cultural dialogue taking place in the design of these beautiful objects that I wanted to capture in my own collection,” said Lulwa.
The India of maharajas also inspired Lulwa’s graphic prints reflecting architectural motifs, plants, and wildlife she’d observed during her stay at the Rambagh Palace. The results are dreamy, colorful prints sporting tortoises and lotus blossoms that she cut into effortlessly chic dresses, perfect for Riyadh or Capri. “I wanted to play with layering sheer and solid fabrics, and combining fine cotton with chiffon, which is perfect for summer,” noted the designer, who created a series of sketches for me to choose from. One of my favorite looks in the collection is the Pink Palace gown, whose floor-skimming skirt is illustrated with golden nightingales and drops of lustrous rubies.
Part of the fun of creating a capsule collection for the store is also the opportunity to collaborate with other regional talents to promote the new line to our clients. For the photo shoot, Lulwa worked with young Bahraini photographer and artist Mai Al Moataz, while fellow Bahraini Dana Al Khalifa, the name behind cult fashion blog TheOverdressed.com, served as both model and stylist for the shoot. “I was inspired by a dramatic image of Gayatri Devi, in which she’s framed by her shadow against a plain wall,” noted Lulwa, who picked the magical rooftop Blue Room of her grandmother’s old house for the shoot. Located in Bahrain’s historic town of Muharraq, it served as the perfect backdrop for her creations.
“I captured the images using a special kind of Kodak film that magnifies the colors without oversaturating the model’s skin tone. The difference between working with traditional film and a digital camera is that you can achieve a certain amount of depth that draws you into the photo,” explained Mai, who worked with Lulwa and Dana to create a series of atmospheric images. “We had an amazing time collaborating together during the shoot, and working in the beautiful setting of Lulwa’s grandmother’s house was an unforgettable experience,” recalled Dana, who styled the looks with custom earrings from Luisa Della Salda by Bahrain Jewelry Center and clogs by Giovanni del Forte created for Lulwa Al Amin.
For more information, visit www.lulwaalamin.com.
Photos: Courtesy of Deena Aljuhani Abdulaziz