Interview with Rayan Al Sulaimani of Atelier Zuhra

AOS

February 28 2019

1) Congratulations on your amazing show last Saturday at London Fashion Week. I’ve heard your show was very well attended, how was that experience?

I feel overwhelmed with the love and response I got after my show on Saturday. It makes me very proud to represent my country and showcase my collection to such a big audience that London Fashion week has helped me achieve. I feel great that I’ve got the chance to be a part of the London fashion week calendar as the first GCC national to participate in a solo show. 

2) What have you been up to during London Fashion Week?

London Fashion Week is a big platform for me to meet designers all over the world and learn and get inspired by them.

3) Can you tell us a little about the company Atelier Zuhra?

Our fashion house was set up in 2015 by my mother Mouza Al Aufi, she at that point passed on the duty and responsibility for Atelier Zuhra to me, where we took advantage of our inventiveness and abilities to make designs of a higher creation and quality.

4) And who are your main clientele? I’ve seen some of your fabulous dresses, who purchases them?

We have a wide range of clients all across the globe. However mainly we get orders from brides.

5) How are your dresses worn? Do purchasers wear them once or multiple times- is there still a wow factor?

Since my dresses are grand and exclusive I think purchasers wear them once in a lifetime for a very memorable occasion like their wedding. Atelier Zuhra makes every customer feel like a princess and makes their dreams come true. I, however, feel it’s the customers personal choice if they wear dresses once or multiple times, it varies from person to person.

6) How long does one of these dresses take to make? And who makes them?

It takes about 3 months to make an entire collection. I have an amazing team who works on making each piece a success. Without my team, I feel my journey would have been impossible.

7) I understand that the brand was founded by your mother, is she still involved now? Do you both design?

My inspiration in the field of design was encouraged by my mother. When my mother saw that I had fashion capabilities she decided to pass on Atelier Zuhra to me. Since then she has not been involved as much. Since my mother has been my greatest source of inspiration in design, sometimes I still go to her for advice, but mainly I do most of the designing part on my own.

8) How is it working in a family business?

It makes me feel exceptionally glad working in my own Family business passed on to me by my mother. It makes me proud to carry forward this heritage. My mother has been my most prominent inspiration of motivation in the field of design and fashion, so yes my sense of style is fundamentally the same as hers.

9) What have been your biggest influences? Which designers do you most admire?

My mother has been my biggest influence; it’s because of her constant motivation that I am where I am right now. She has taught me a lot that has influenced me and has made me a better person as well as a designer. I also draw a lot of inspiration from art as well as nature and I try to incorporate my inspiration derived from the same into my designs. I admire the work of Elie Saab, it’s very inspirational.

10) This year Atelier Zuhra featured in the Stories from Arabia, which is a platform to showcase designers from the Arab world specifically. Do you notice any differences in the fashion coming out of the middle east, compared to fashion by European designers?

I believe that the Middle Eastern trends are manifested in western fashion as well so there is not much difference, although Middle Eastern fashion is comparatively modified and a bit more modest. Our embroidery is more elaborate.

11) Is fashion global these days?

Absolutely. If I’m not wrong, the fashion industry is one of the largest economies and that can only happen if it’s globalised. So many people reach out to us from different parts of the world be it Mumbai or Paris.

12) Do you still maintain a link with Oman? Is Oman an inspiration?

Oman will always be an inspiration, I have a lot of respect for the country and it’s people and I am so happy to receive the same kind of respect from Oman.

13) Is there a difference between design and retail, in terms of what consumers want?

Design is the process of ideation to create pieces while retail is the process of selling the design. I believe there is a big difference. Design is more to do with aesthetic while retail is the experience that a consumer is looking at. However, creating a retail experience may also involve design. So design is an independent process but retail may depend on design in certain stages.

14) A large percentage of fashion houses are still run by men, how is it being a female entrepreneur?

Being an entrepreneur is a tough job itself, but as a woman, I feel there is an added pressure. It is difficult to maintain our social responsibilities along with our work which for a man might not be as extreme as it is for a woman. Having said that I do not feel threatened in any way by the men, my mother being a female entrepreneur herself has passed on this legacy to me which only shows how strong, independent and fearless she was and still is. I try to live up to that and put in all my energy to produce good work.

15) What advice would you give to girls or young women who want to go into design/ the fashion industry?

Firstly, something that comes above everything else is your belief in your work. You have to be confident about yourself and your work and believe in it. Also, be original and don’t follow the crowd. 

16) What’s next, what are your ambitions for the brand?

I want Atelier Zuhra’s designs to be globally recognised. I want to open stores in different parts of the world to make us more reachable edit.

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