For him artistic creativity is a divine gift. It is an innate talent that can be brushed up with mere practice and experiments. It is an expression of inner feelings and life experiences. K V Noufal, an Indian expatriate from Kerala, is a water colour artist and art teacher. He comes from a family that faced lots of financial challenges when he was a kid. His talent was however recognisable at a very young age and he went on to study art at the university level. During schooling in Thiruvangoor, a village in Kerala, he took deep interest in arts as he was duly motivated and inspired by the works of his art teachers. He completed his professional training from Calicut Universal Arts in 1996. Community recently spoke to Noufal, who is an art teacher at Shantiniketan Indian School, about his interest in art, works, and thoughts about art. “There was a culture centre close to my house. Young children used to learn dance and music there. One day, a teacher from the centre noticed me making a drawing on a wall with charcoal. He informed my father about my artistic talent and urged him to let me study art,” said Noufal. The talented artist always felt the need to financially support his family. “I did not get a regular job soon after completing my university studies. Being the eldest son, I needed to earn money. I started doing wall chalking and painting — painting stories on the walls of different schools in my area. After some time, I got a job at a nursery school. It was finally in 2009 that I got the art teacher’s job in Qatar.” The artist did not start painting regularly till he joined the school in Qatar. “I got a lot of encouragement and appreciation from the principal of the school for my creative strain. I have taken part in many exhibitions in India, Qatar and other Gulf countries. I have made over 5,000 paintings and continue to enjoy my work.” Noufal primarily paints with water colours. “I love water colours. From the beginning, I have been into these colours. I have tried other materials, but I find real enjoyment and satisfaction with water colours.” The artist has been predominantly portraying rural life in India and modern architecture in Qatar. “I come from a rural area. I grew up living very close to nature. I am often nostalgic about my childhood memories and experiences, and revisit them through my paintings. I bring out nature in raw and its connection with human beings. “As for Qatar, I have portrayed different mosque architectures in the country. I am fascinated by both the old and modern infrastructure of Qatar.” For Noufal, art is a passion and dedication. “It is an expression of one’s own experiences chained together in an attractive manner. It [art] takes shape within an artist based on the personal experiences related to the outside world. “Artistic creations should be able to influence people [viewers] and lead them to right thinking and action. A creative piece gets complete when it serves the purpose of bringing different people together. Art, for me, is actually an expression of inner feelings and reaction to outside experiences.” As an art teacher, Noufal considers art a language and medium of expression. “It is the language of colours and images. A child can learn much better through art forms and artistic illustrations. Every child is attracted more by colours and images than verbal communications. The impressions created on a child’s mind by colours and images are long lasting. Not only the art but also the teachers of other subjects can make the learning process effective by using different art forms and techniques. The young minds learn pretty quickly by means of visualising a story or a concept. The majority of the young students carries an earnest desire to make an artistic performance. I value this desire among my students. It helps me get connected with them in a routine class. This connection gives me a sense of professional satisfaction as a teacher.” Noufal deems artistic creativity more as talent than skill. “No-one can teach [force] art, but everyone can learn it. The style of students learning art differs from that of grownups. Adults have varied experiences in life and they have different reasons for learning or pursuing art. Children, however, learn art for its sheer enjoyment and satisfaction. As a teacher, I identified students who have artistic talent through my interaction with them. These interactions are done both directly and indirectly. There are a lot of ways to identify their talent. For example, from the way they write, arrange their personal things, do some craft work etc. The art teacher is all praise for the art scene of Qatar. “It is a country that welcomes art and artists irrespective of their backgrounds. There is always something taking place related to art here. It promotes art and encourages artists. One gets a chance to see a lot of exhibitions and art competitions. Even at schools there are numerous art contests. There are beautiful art galleries and museums here. Katara is really a hub of art and cultural activities. “Usually, a teacher’s work is confined to the school campus but as an art teacher the encouragement and support I get from my principal — Dr Subash Nair — my students and their parents is amazing. This becomes possible only because Qatar favours and values art. I love Qatar because it was the home of late Indian artist M F Husain. Noufal has plans to use his income as an artist for charity purposes. “Artistic talent is a gift given by the Almighty. I don’t want to waste it. I consider it as my responsibility to extend the benefit of my gift to other people, who are badly in need of support to keep their life going. I have already started contributing to charity organisations from the earnings that I have from my artwork. Now, I am seriously thinking of forming an association of artist solely for the purpose of charity work. I am also planning to create a YouTube channel to spread my artistic creations and attract more people to buy these paintings and ultimately to contribute to charity.”
The Qatar’s fashion industry is booming. With Fashion Trust Arabia, the industry is on the rise and on its way to place itself on the cultural map of the world. Doha’s youth game is unmatched in the competing capital, but there is also a blazing tension between the experimental side of the fashion industry and the establishment of going classic. Going classic wins the game of sartorial fashion, well usually, but this season Grazia Style Awards 2019 gave the hint of something otherwise, hurling the fashion forte with millennials and aesthetics of futuristic approach. The electric tension between huge power houses and emerging designers makes for an unpredictable award show with winner list you can’t really pre-empt, but sit back and applause. It’s always exciting to see industry veterans and mover-and-shakers appreciating new industry entrants and giving them a space of their own to flourish and create something even more appealing. The annual Grazia Style Awards 19, now in its fourth year, was held at Mondrian Doha with over 370 guests and awards presented to Qatari and international achievers in fashion, art, culture, and philanthropy. Staged by Grazia, the awards celebrated female achievement in Qatar and beyond. The Grazia Style Awards (LSA) collaborated with Salam Stores, Qatar Airways, Lexus Qatar, Mondrian Doha, Aldo Coppola, L’Occitane, Trinity Talent Qatar, and Doha Gossip, since you cannot put up grand shows without a sponsor. Where the perceptive Mazini’s decedents of Fil Noir (Modest Wear Brand of the Year) takes the brand to a whole new level with cutting edge, practical designs and clothes that are even more imaginative when one begins to explore the garment construction – the zany style aesthetics and craftsmanship with finest cotton fabrics, it is the unassailable layering of Amal Ameen Almehain (Lifetime Achievement Award) of Amici di Moda (Best Luxury Boutique) that protrudes her in the ceaseless list of designers and veterans existing in the fashion industry. Amal defines haute couture with her painstakingly intricate details, embroideries and sheer cuts. Playing with couture, cuts and silhouettes has been an idea that seemed unfathomable few years from now in the region, but in no time we’re all have been calling Amal a change – maker, for the aesthetics and volume she brings. We are all in a mire of fashion choices in 2019. With abundance frills, volume, shoes dripping in crystals, leopard capes and 3D roses, the focus today towards a fashion forward approach has been rudderless. But then there are those millennial designers who takes on a classic and give a modern spin to it, so wonderfully that you cannot but stop and appreciate — redefining the shapes and tailoring timeless it-pieces. Some of the brightest names in Qatar fashion industry — spanning the worlds of womenswear and shoe wears — have been witted down to just two winners (Breakthrough Stars of the Year): Yasmin Mansour and Hissa Haddad. Where Yasmin stands behind the unfussy-yet elegant womenswear collection that’s proven a draw for fashion editors and retailers alike and getting a nomination and making it to the final rounds of Fashion Trust Arabia previous edition, the only designer from Qatar to establish footings at such a platform, Hissa, an engineer turned shoe designer, is the only Arab footwear designer to have had made a debut with a capsule collection at Paris Fashion Week 2017. Her breakout debut is only half the story of her success, the other, and more significant half is the fierce energy, motivation and aesthetics with which she represents Qatar worldwide, including the likes of London Fashion Week. Glitz and glamour is one of the centrepieces of GSA. An awe-inspiring activation curated by Salam Stores featuring mannequins, recalling the glamour of the Great Gatsby era, showcased some of Salam’s most dazzling new season collections. Floor-sweeping shifts in clean white satin and provocative sculpted black dresses with rivulets of crystals and embellishments, couture lets a designer go all out and about and play along the creative aesthetics. That’s exactly what Tiiya by Alanoud Alattiya (Fashion Gamechanger Award) has been doing for previous quite some years, earning acclaim one after another for its lush fabrics, ranging from heavy gazar, to lighter organza, crepes and taffetas, sculptural shapes and meticulously ornate beading. Grazia has produced some of the finest and most iconic images of modern times and played a pivotal role in portraiture, fashion and beauty photography. The magazine has been encouraging and promoting photographers and designers to produce some of the most influential and stunning imagery in the history of fashion. Grazia honoured Sara al-Obaidly, Qatari photographer and filmmaker, with Artist of the Year Award. Sara’s work is so exceptional and often unique with the style of posing sitters and usual backgrounds that keeps the focus on subject articulately. Clothing may make up the majority of an outfit, but accessories are more significant than you may think. You might find yourself spending just as much time shopping for accessories as you do for clothes — and rightfully so, Ibrahim al-Haidos, founder of Fursan (Luxury Accessory Brand) understands that. The fact that all pole-apart trends can coexist alongside rainbow sunglasses and an unstoppable straw bag renaissance from Fursan makes the brand unbeatable. Grazia’s Award for Social Media influencer was bagged by Almira Kahrobaie. Grazia Qatar’s Publisher and Editor in Chief Bianca Brigitte Bonomi hosted the evening, so well that one wonders how this woman does it all, all the time. Keeping it so perfect and flawless. Not a pitch out of place. “Glamorous than Oscars,” she said candidly. And it won’t be erroneous to say, that it really was, considering all the couture statement gowns that had made it to the award gala. “We’ve seen so many wonderful feats achieved by women in Qatar this year. From the opening of the National Museum under the leadership of HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, to the staging of Dana Alfardan’s Broken Wings musical; Yasmin Mansour representing Qatar-based designers at Fashion Trust Arabia, and the 150 women that took part in Grazia’s Real Beauty Revolution – the first magazine cover ever to feature its readers – women have shone over the past twelve months. At Grazia, we celebrate women in all of their technicoloured, brilliant diversity. Our guests come from different backgrounds, lead different lifestyles, and speak different languages but we are united in our appreciation of female achievement and that is what the Grazia Style Awards are all about,” she said. As this edition of GSA paid tribute to the women of influence, Jessica Kahawaty, a Lebanese Australian, TV Host, beauty queen, model, and philanthropist, was awarded with the prestigious Woman of the Year award for her outstanding humanitarian work. In 2016, Louis Vuitton approached her to be part of their Make a Promise campaign, designed to help children in urgent need through its support for Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund. In 2018, she became a member of the Unicef Leadership Circle, which gave her the opportunity to visit and support a variety of refugee camps around the world as well as sit amongst major philanthropic donors in the Middle East to discuss Unicef’s objectives and fundraising. To date, she has embarked on three humanitarian missions and the connection with the people she has met over the course of these missions has had a profound impact on her outlook. She ended her acceptance speech, in which she outlined her personal experiences on these missions, with a call to action. Speaking on the occasion, she said, “There are no words that can describe what I have witnessed … I met elderly crying in their final days because they had lost everything. A life lived for nothing they say. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed and imposed in 1948, but the world today is so far from recognising dignity, equal and valuable rights for all. Are we going to publicly proclaim our values online rather than turning our words into actions? We must change the culture of greed, social indifference and superiority that has thrived,” she added “Someone once quoted Andrew Sullivan to me, if you change the society and a culture, the politics will follow. This award is to remember those we have lost in crimes against humanity and for the survivors who are still pursuing their fight for justice in this world.”
Life is all about what you make of it. One can find out what one wants and get anything even if it gets tough. There are many things in life that one cannot figure out, but that simply does not matter. Esther Jackson, a 19-year-old Nigerian expatriate, believes that one can get what one wants in life through dedication and hard, work no matter what difficulties are hardships we face in life. Esther, who is fast establishing her feet as a model in Qatar, has been selected to participate in the Miss Global pageant that is going to be held in Mexico in January. Miss Global is an annual global beauty pageant for single women ages 18–35, the widest age range in pageantry. Contestants compete for the crown of Miss Global on an international platform. In February 2019, Miss Global held its 7th anniversary pageant in Manila, Philippines, which attracted more than 60 female contestants from 60 countries around the world. In a recent talk with Community, the young model, who is facing financial impediments to make it to Mexico next year, spoke about her dreams of representing both Nigeria and Qatar at the international platform. Esther, who has been living in Qatar for 11 years with her parents, is a student of business management. “My father is an engineer and my mother is a teacher. I have a younger sister and a younger brother. I will soon be attending a university programme for business management. I am going to represent my countries Nigeria and Qatar in the contest. Qatar is my second home. I will be more than happy to represent Qatar. I think I am the first Nigerian girl to take part in the beauty pageant from Qatar.” The promising model is excited to represent her country at the contest. “It will provide me the opportunity to highlight what my country is capable of. Basically, the people will learn about my country. Girls from different countries will contest for the crown. I was accepted by the organisers as they said that I would be a very good candidate for Nigeria after they went through my profile. This is going to be my first beauty contest.” Esther finds the Miss Global contest different from other international beauty pageants. “It is in the same concept. But, the Miss Global is different because they just do not want to know if you are beautiful and intelligent, they want to know your heart. They want to know you as a person from a specific country.” The Nigeria girl always wanted to be in the line of beauty and fashion. “My motivation behind attending the contest is not just to show how beautiful I am. The contest is all about you as a person – how you are able to function as a person and help others. My biggest motivation has been to be able to help other people.” She believes that being a part of the beauty contest will help her in knowing herself. “It will definitely help me figure out some missing parts of myself. I am growing and I still need to learn. I still need to explore different things. Being a young contestant, I think the pageant will help me know what I need to do to achieve certain things.” Her participation, Esther thinks, will support Nigeria and Qatar in many ways. “I just want to show my fellow country people that you can find out what you want. You can do anything, even if life is tough for you. Of course, life is not a perfect thing. I just want to show the people that if you want to get something, you will be there. Even if you fail, it does not matter. Failure is just a push for you towards further gains. I want to show that things might be hard in Nigeria but you can still achieve anything. Life is all about the way you make it.” The model also praised Victor Ikoli, President of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation, saying her community had really pushed and helped her. Talking to Community, Victor said: “She has great talent. She has passion for modelling. The community is ready to extend every kind of support she needs. “Indirectly, she is an ambassador of Qatar as well. We call on corporate organisations to come forward and support such kind of young talented people.”
What is the link between Michelle Obama’s fierce White House State Dinner look, Taylor Swift’s Golden Globe Awards haute pink appearance making headlines and the official photographs of Meghan Markle in a leaf printed chiffon gown in Morocco? They were all seen pulling off Carolina Herrera. Wes Gordon joined Carolina Herrera as a design partner in 2017 before taking over complete creative control as Creative Director last year and he’s doing quite well when it comes to street style and bridal wear, whilst being utterly faithful to Herrera’s legacy. Aesthetics like his and the uproar they’ve caused by accessible to the vibe on the street is largely responsible for other designers taking it easy and having fun with fashion as luxe gets comfy. High fashion moments, big business and chic in the real sense of the world. This is how the business of fashion is unfolding in NYC this season, and we witnessed it as Wes Gordon at Carolina Herrera sent down his models on the runway for an exclusive showcase at Fifty One East. Intricate inlay craftsmanship is used to create his striking aesthetics. It’s just there, in his choice of fabric and textures, a myriad influence and how he mixes them all up to bring to the runway, an aesthetic rooted in the west but still paying a nod or two or twenty to what’s happening everywhere else in the world. His bridal wear, such a clean work of art, that was the show-stopper silhouette weaved its usual magic spell, not because the choreography was sharp or the models were walking fine, both being true though, but because the silhouette on display were breathtakingly beautiful — it swayed effortlessly with intricate embroidery work. The rundown featured Herrera’s Spring/Summer 2020 Ready-to-Wear and Bridal Collection. Inspired by the botanical phenomenon of the Californian super bloom adding texture via velvety polka-dots placed on floating tulle and playing with the proportion on sleeves, Gordon put out clothes as pretty as a picture with not a stitch out of place, understated, frothy and sleek, even if the skirt was billowing. Crisp white shirts just looked sleeked with those printed skirts draped in lilies, verbena and lupine. The show started with a half-pint print which was soon followed by more giant flowers on a floor-grazing easy-breezy gown and a flirty frock embellished by a belt. Dress up or dress down! The energy dipped somewhat in the middle section of daytime separates in plaids and shirting stripes, but it zoomed back up again with black-and-white polka dots, more super blossoms, voluminous sleeves and off-shoulder gowns and exuberant bows. Gordon could’ve played with the bows a lot more than he did, and for real it could’ve only added well to the collection — but what we noticed was his penchant fondness for the belts and how they create an effortless picture for the dress that could’ve easily be taken down the street for some evening glitzy business. Clean lines and tailoring with a take on all things classy and a symmetry of shape and colour made Herrera’s a talked about collection of day dresses. Known for sleek wears and designs, sported by celebrities around the world — this collection was all about having fun with fashion while keeping the collection cohesive. The aesthetic yet effortless shaped wearable collection was goaded by the melding of modern era and street chic sensibility, using the myriad fabrics of silk shantung, organza, linen, taffeta and lace in the bridal wear. Meanwhile, the Herrera’s trademark orange was there in peachy and burnt tones used to devastating affect with a hint of black belt here and a solid block of white there. Commercially viable pieces? Hugely. Wes understands the market and – he just served right. Nothing too extravagant or nothing out of inch or lines. However, he did adapt to Middle Eastern culture featuring Kaftans with intricate embroidery in delicate tones or solid blocks. Kaftan’s volume was just right – nothing extra, just the perfect cuts. He knows where to stop and make a statement. The few dresses that couldn’t really live up to the puffery of Herrera’s trademark were the bombing voluminous silhouettes, that were only unstructured with no depth to the overall piece, and one lemon zest cape polka dot dress. That polka had too much happening in the dress all at a time. But speaking for others, were timeless pieces that are created for one simple reason to make women look like a million dollars. The woman should wear the dress, the dress shouldn’t wear the woman. Gordon has pushed himself well and explored dresses with more shape and structure — that could be Herrera’s future for the best. Here’s kudus to sharp, edgy and fast paced choreography and direction of Mohammed Kabis (Simo). For a flash it was happening so rousingly, we couldn’t even afford to look left or right – but stick to the ramp before we miss out any details.
Think of ethnic wear, and the first natural association is a growing tribe of indie labels that have extended their pared-down sensibility and sustainable mindset to traditional silhouettes. The line between inspiration and adoption is often blurred, especially in fashion. Nobody knows this better than the ethnic community, whose consecrated prints, hand-burnished leatherwork, and beaded appliqués and embroideries have been imitated by local and international fashion houses for centuries. Often it even happens, that designers travel to those ethnic places, place orders, corporate ethnic designs in their collections and don’t even give enough credit to those skilled ethnic workers. This type of cultural appropriation, where labels draw from deep-rooted design codes without crediting the culture they are taking them from, is particularly harmful to indigenous people, who have been, and continue to be, marginalised — rather invisible for the world. In these dark days, one good thing about fashion is the way young designers are using their platforms to enlighten, and to effect positive change. Thankfully, Pakistani indigenous fashion is finally gaining some ground on international platform thanks to Stella Jean, an Italian designer. Jean should be more than proud of her ability to use her fashion for good. Her activism goes far beyond slogan tees and hashtags and actually incites economic and social change. With her penchant for ethical fashion, Stella had previously worked with artisans from other countries, intermingling their craft with her design sensibility. Now, she decided that she wanted to work with the craftswomen of the Kalash. Stella recently showcased her collection employing Kalash embroideries, from the remote valleys of the Chitral region of Pakistan, at Milan Fashion Week earlier last month and then at Fashion Pakistan Week Winter Festive 19. Stella herself lived in Chitral for about two weeks to learn about the embroidery techniques women use to adorn their dresses before collaborating with Chitral Women’s Handicraft Centre, founded by the 22-year-old Karishma Ali for the collection, in her endeavour to help build an Italy-Pakistan bridge. The women in Kalash embroidered fabric according to her instructions, patterns and sketches and then their finished work was sent to her in Italy, where the final garments were stitched. Tedious but worth-it, socially and commercially. Stella’s collection at FPW featured waisted sundresses in crisp stripes, logoed sports jersey with slim tailoring — bright embroideries and even brighter prints. Her sense of shape and silhouette is her most exciting calling card. These were happy summer clothes, with circle-skirted dresses, puff-sleeved blue and white shirting, off-the-shoulder necklines and tiered skirts — it was the best collection that went on the runway of FPW this season, and the best how she employed ethnic values with modern silhouettes; spot-on trend-wise for the season. The colourful stitching wrapped around dresses, adorned belts, and decorated the hemlines of Jean’s summer dresses. Jean’s multicoloured canvas served as an apt homage to the beauty and skill that is inherent to Pakistan. The Kalash embroideries stood out as did the truck-art prints. The well structured white dress with its swathes of layers and blue embroidered border and peeking blue leaves, worn by model Mushk Kaleem, was the highlight. But, in a room full of people donning the staples, how do you make yourself stand out? Jean’s piece is ideal for a woman who likes to keep it traditional yet make a statement.
Grief and pain lay behind my obsession with buying new clothes. Moving in with my fiancé forced me to shed the material burden, and the persona I had been hiding behind. I was brought up with certain religious rules about what I could and could not wear – no bare arms, no bare legs – and, as a teenager, I longed for the sort of outfits I wasn’t allowed. Once, on a shopping trip to Birmingham with school friends, I tried on halter necks, skirts and flimsy summer dresses in the Topshop changing rooms, just to see how they looked. I remember the wild excitement, gazing at a reflection that didn’t seem like me. I suppose this was the first time I realised that clothes meant I could pretend to be someone else. At university, my friends nicknamed me Fashion, because I was always buying new clothes. I had a weekend job at a bookshop and saved my meagre wages to purchase entire outfits: shoes, tops and bottoms, all chosen to be carefully put together in a way that I hoped looked effortless. I loved the way it felt when I received a compliment about my clothes. It was when I was studying for masters in Paris that my obsession started to get out of hand. I felt out of depth on my politics course. My hours were long and intense. Making friends as a postgraduate was hard. I was lonely. More than once, I felt like giving up the course. My university was tucked down an elegant side street surrounded by boutiques filled with the sort of clothes that took my breath away. In these stores, the staff would complement me on my taste and all my anxieties would vanish. I slipped purchases on my credit card, telling myself I would deal with it later. I reasoned that the money that most people spent on socialising, I could spend on clothes. My father fell gravely ill and I returned to England, worried, and scared, with a suitcase of beautiful clothes. When he died, I felt deeply alone and out of place, at this point in a new job and new city, trying to process the grief that I carried around inside me all day. Somehow, buying clothes took my pain away. I shopped online in my lunch break or on the way home. I didn’t particularly feel a thrill from the purchases. I just did it because it was something to do. My heart was heavy, but being able to mindlessly pick out a pretty top each morning meant that in that moment, I didn’t have to think about how lonely I felt. I accumulated so many clothes I had to order a spare wardrobe to hold everything. I was working in personal finance at the time and once wrote a piece about shopping addiction, acutely aware of the irony. “You try and substitute what you need to survive in the world with material goods,” a psychologist I interviewed told me. I knew what he meant – not to mention the environmental impact of buying so many clothes – and yet kept doing it anyway. I was careful not to fall into debt (and in this way, convinced myself it was not an addiction after all), but the cost of my purchases crept up. A Malene Birger dress, a Marc Jacobs coat, a Missoni skirt, a Mulberry bag. Eventually, I met someone who would become my fiancé and for the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel lonely. Life became brighter, lighter, and simpler. There was hope and possibility. I was to move in with him after our wedding, but there was one big problem, there definitely wouldn’t be enough room for all of my clothes. As I emptied my wardrobe, trying to pack for life as a newlywed, I felt repulsed and embarrassed by it all. Seeing my clothes, some still with tags on, in a messy heap made me realise that none of it meant anything at all. All it reminded me of was my loneliness, how I had tried to hide it, and also, the recklessness with which I had spent so much money. I didn’t want to start the next chapter of my life weighed down by a reminder of this sadness, packaged up in pretty clothes. So I invited friends over and let them pick whatever they wanted to keep. I sold the more expensive items to secondhand stores and donated the rest to charity. I kept around a tenth of my original wardrobe, none of it particularly fashionable at all. Eight years on, I still love shopping but I’m far more considered when I buy things. The act of giving away so many clothes was a way for me to shed all the layers of personas I had been hiding underneath for so long. I came to see that I didn’t have to dress up to pretend to be somebody else. That I didn’t have to hide any more. I could just be me, and that was more than good enough. – The Guardian
A utopia is an imagined community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities for its citizens. The recently-concluded five-day-long Qatar International Art Festival (QIAF) was a kind of event that created a short-lived utopia for the artists that came from all corners of the world. In the words of an Iranian artist, “the artists had one language that is art and one message that is love.” A dazzling closing ceremony was recently held at the drama theatre of Building 16 in Katara where awards and certificates that given away to the participating artists. There were 200 artists who came from over 60 countries. The ceremony was attended by ambassadors of different countries in Qatar and art lovers in large numbers. Different artists from various countries expressed their excitement for being a part of the second edition of the international art festival that is considered one of the largest art events in Qatar. MAPS International, a Doha-based art company, in collaboration with Katara Cultural Village brought the event that offered a range of activities for both the participating artists and the visiting art enthusiasts. On its opening day – November 1 – the festival witnessed over 1,000 people attended the launching ceremony. Dr Khalid bin Ibrahim al-Sulaiti, General Manager at Katara, formally inaugurated the festival. The opening ceremony was also attended by the ambassadors of Turkey, Iran, Mexico, Argentina, Australia, Ethiopia, and Ecuador in Qatar. The festival kicked off with the exhibition of paintings, art works, sculptures, handicrafts brought in by the artists. The guests and visitors appreciated and enjoyed the artistic and creative talents that came together from different parts of the world. There were more than 400 artistic pieces at display in the exhibition that includes the works of as many as 90 artists coming from different countries to Qatar, most of them for the first in the country. Among the 110 Qatar-based artists, 25 were Qatari nationals. On the second day of the festival, the living painting show was held. In the evening of the same day, there were master classes conducted by eminent artists for other participants and the visitors explaining different techniques and genres of the paining. The most significant event of the day was a film about the works and achievements of late M F Hussain, a world-known artist. The film is produced by his son Mustafa Hussain, who was present on the occasion. Soon after the master classes, there were panel discussions on different topics related to various fields of the art. On third day, in the morning, the festival participants took part in the live painting. However, the evening was made beautiful with an art fashion show named as MAPS Artistic Fashion Show. The fashion show, first time in Qatar, saw 50 models highlighting different art designs on their costumes. The show also included art designs depicted on different wearable items. It actually opened up a new avenue for the artists to show their skills. The show had three different parts. The first part was fashion wearable items. The second one was interior and home décor. The third part was exhibition of artistic designs pasted on different utensils and other usable items. On the fourth and final day, the artists continued their live paining show. Later in the day, after the live paintings were completed, the works were put on display in the exhibition. In the evening, all the visiting and the Qatar-based artists attended the closing ceremony that continued for over three hours. All the participant-artists and members of the organising team were awarded with medals and certificates. Speaking on the occasion, Rashmi Agarwal, founder and president of MAPS, thanked all the artists and Katara for making the festival a success. “It feels very good if you give food to hungry people. It feels even better if you help someone fulfill his or her dreams. It is a real blessing from the Almighty.” She added: “Passion and lover for art cannot be defined by a degree in arts or in commerce. It is an immortal thing inside everyone. You need to nourish the seeds with passion, devotion and ceaseless efforts. QIAF is an event in this regard that that connects artists worldwide. We had live paintings, group exhibition, cultural tour, art fashion show and award ceremony.” The organiser further said: “This year we introduced a unique feather in the festival – the art fashion show. Art is not related to the canvass only. It has different surfaces. The fashion show has three ‘Fs’ – fancy, fashion and fantasy. “My dream towards QIAF is very simple. I want to bring different artists together. It is not easy. I have to face many problems. I however believe that a wish changes nothing but a decision changes everything.”
The past decade in Pakistan Fashion Industry, social media, streetwear, street style and luxury wears have been on the rise. It has been minimalism, maximalism and minimalism again. Now, as a new decade dawns, the cycle is beginning all over again. And this time it seems to solidify the power of super brands and luxury couture, while also birthing a new generation of savvy independents whose influence far exceeds their size. The recently showcased collection ‘Lost in my French garden’ by Hassan Riaz at Fashion Pakistan Week — Winter Festive ’19, was a clamouring proof of it, with looks that captured elusive insouciance — the undone ruffles and layers, the waves of embroidery — but also ones that paid homage to Paris, the fashion capital of the world. Hassan transported showgoers back to the 18th century with some silhouettes with a flair for the dramatics as a through line. Fantastical flourishes were omnipresent and the evolution of Parisian fashion was translated in between the lines, largely the story of liberation — first from fascinator hats, then from skirts, and finally from teetering stiletto heels. His mesh of traditional French embellishments of bold beadings, applique work, cut-work, and embroideries with experimental and regular silhouettes was the dizzying, super-surrealist cascade of eye crystals. The large three-dimensional florals and uniquely placed sequins were interesting. His runway started with Sadaf in emerald green pencil skirt paired with candy pink applique work and closed with a real bang of French ruffles in yellow and white, showstopped by actress Nimra Khan. Gogi advocated fiercely, for sheer sleek jackets, exaggerated shoulders, and body-hiding luxury jumpsuits, while simultaneously creating sexy little scarf dresses, miniskirts, and see through pants with pointed busts. There were looks that demanded a red carpet or a high street appearance day — an asymmetric explosion of lace and ruffles anchored by half of a tailored jacket—and others that demanded a very chic day (a patched, striped shirtdress with swaggering sleeves and a sleek bodice). Few looks appeared eccentrically stitched together from old slips and patterns of cut-outs that deserved to be psychoanalysed. But to the extent that the feisty Wizkid usually indulges his colourful tendencies, the sum of these impressively executed parts actually felt less profoundly melancholic, more palpably enchanting. This came through in the seductive bias cut and drape of certain otherwise minimalist dresses, and the maximalist monochromatic embroideries that turned the final looks into couture-like creation. However, Hassan clarifies that he had no intention of taking it along the couture lines. “A lot of people confused French garden and related the collection to French couture, which is not true. ‘Lost in my French garden’ was used as to describe the adoption of the beautiful and vibrant French tulip colours and details of embellishment derived from the organic and planned landscaped of French gardens with different attractive elements found around their gardens which can easily be embraced in the collection.” Did Hassan get lost in that elaborate collection of mish and mesh. “For some it might be elaborate and for some it may not be. I won’t say it was too elaborate or all over the place, it was just very detailed. Some of the pieces in this collection were showcased at London Fashion Week last edition, where they were highly appreciated. I believe the runway shows in Pakistan still have to go a long way for the acceptance of experiment and innovation.” But a detailed collection of such can be nearly of no use, to the designers, fashion goers and buyers, if not translated well to the rack. “Rack is something which everyone considers while designing, but it doesn’t mean that it stops you from creating new market and something unique. We’re already in demand for our this festive collection, that shows that is has been already accepted by the masses for the racks. They’d buy it, just the way it was showcased, except a few tweaking here and there; fulling our purpose of providing uniqueness and something new for the market,” said Hassan.
From their wedding dress to the clothes they opt for on international appearances and tours, what a Royal wears can tell us a lot about who they are, how they feel and the message they’re trying to convey. The Royal Family may not say much, but their fashion choices can kick off trends, make careers and promote social change. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (the British royal couple known as William and Kate among masses) are back in UK post their recent Pakistan tour, the first royal visit in 13 years. It has been, by all accounts, a highly successful five days of outreach. They met with Prime Minister Imran Khan (friend of William’s late mother Princess Diana) And schoolchildren. Played cricket. Saw many sights. Met the movers and shakers of Pakistan entertainment and fashion industry. And smiled for every photographer, paparazzi and person that came in contact with them. These are culturally sensitive times, and those sensitivities are culturally relative. Their clothes made silent statements with cross-border respect, cultural awareness and outreach in focus. No detail, or earring, was overlooked. Kate Middleton and Prince William kicked off their tour of Pakistan by touching down at the Pakistani Air Force Base Nur Khan in Chaklala, Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Suffice to say that our fascination with all things royal style runs deep and well, we know we’re not alone here, because we could see Kate trending on Instagram and Twitter like anything every few hours with her choice of wardrobes. Where people often took over social media to compare her fashion choices with what her late mother-in-law opted for during her visit to Pakistan, others just appreciated how gorgeous she looked with a 100 watt smile and that perfectly blow-dried hair. Deplaning and the morning leg As she landed, for Day 1, Middleton chose a special look: she wore an ensemble that recalled the late Princess Diana’s visit to Pakistan back in the 90s. The Duchess chose an ombré dress by Cathrine Walker, one of her favourite designers, and paired it with matching pants underneath. The ensemble appeared to be inspired by shalwar kameez – a mesh of a tea dress and a shalwar kameez. The look also bore a striking resemblance to the long, light blue button-up top and trouser combo that Princess Diana wore during her Pakistan tour in 1996. Middleton made the outfit her own by adding her signature nude pumps. The next morning as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge went out to learn about the work of Teach for Pakistan — an organisation that recruits and trains graduates and young professionals for a two-year fellowship in which they teach in low-income schools, and visited the Islamabad Model College for Girls, Kate paired nude ballet flats with a periwinkle shalwar kalmeez and dupatta by Pakistani designer Maheen Khan. The dress was fuss free with exquisite embroidery detailing on the neckline paired with a chiffon dupatta. Kate seems to have had loved Maheen’s design, no wonder she wore two outfits by the designer and also a pair of white pants that she had paired with her green Catherine Walker trench coat meets tunic, when she met the Prime Minister and President of Pakistan. Meeting the president and prime minister of Pakistan To meet Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Dr Arif Alvi, Middleton chose an eye-catching emerald coat-dress by Catherine Walker. Then she added Pakistani labels to balance out the rest of her ensemble, including cream trousers from Maheen Khan, earrings from Zeen, and a printed scarf from Bonanza Satrangi. Her matching suede bag and pointed pumps finished off the look. We just loved how she tossed the crinkle embroidered dupatta as a statement. Middleton saluted local fashion without straying far from her signature style. The glamorous affair One word: Glam! The Duchess enlisted beloved British label Jenny Packham to help make her arrival to a reception hosted by the British High Commissioner of Pakistan one to remember, in a Pakistani ricksaw. She complemented the emerald green gown with statement earrings by Onitaa. To achieve an almost liquid effect while enhancing the body contours, Jenny was all about silvery emerald green crystals — encrusted with lace appliqués and embroidered with a generous amount of pearls and sequins. Almost costume-y in its unabashed glamour. Kate paired an emerald chiffon dupatta with the full length silhouette. Also, apart from Kate, William was wearing a matching emerald sherwani by Pakistani designer, Nauman Arfeen, and Oh! He looked handsome. The Duke and Dutchess met the movers and shakers of Pakistani entertainment and fashion industry at the reception, including the likes of Mahira Khan, HSY and Mehwish Hayat among others. Warm hues amidst picturesque mountains After travelling to the north of Pakistan to the Hindu Kush mountain range in Chitral, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited the Chiatibo glacier in an attempt to highlight the climate crisis. For the trip, Middleton opted for a cowgirl-ready outfit that was chic. Wearing a waistcoat by Really Wild, the mother-of-three looked ready for adventure, pairing it with a slip skirt, shirt and boots. Gold earrings and a pashmina shawl added an extra touch to the look. The royals were presented with traditional Chitrali hats and white coats, which Princess Diana also received during her visit to Chitral in 1991. Touching down Lahore Touching down in the city of Lahore the next day, the Duchess of Cambridge stunned in a white shalwar kameez by Gul Ahmed, which featured intricately embroidered jasmine flowers, the national flower of Pakistan. The ensemble was paired with an off-white shawl by Maheen Khan. Keeping the outfit sleek and chic she paired it with beige suede heels by Gianvito Rossi and a blush clutch by Mulberry. And later on, white sneakers and a pony tail when she headed out to visit National Cricket Academy in Lahore to stroke a bat or two. Visiting Badshahi mosque Kate Middleton sported a turquoise Shalwar Kameez by Maheen Khan for her official visit to the Badshahi Mosque. The well-structured silhouette featured a gold trim that perfectly matched the gold detailing on the front panel, an embroidery drawing inspiration from the Egyptian motifs and calligraphy. Her head scarf with gold pipping looked as traditional as it could. A fashionable farewell For the final day of the royal tour, Kate wore a cream Elan kurta with black embroidery, Gul Ahmed pants, UFO earrings, and J.Crew nude heels, and carried a black Smythson purse. Kate later changed in a Beulah black blazer coat, a white tunic, white pants and black Russell & Bromley flats before she and Prince William attended their final event, a visit to Islamabad’s Army Canine Unit, where they met dogs and puppies trained to identify explosive devices. Stylists game strong Here’s to the stylists that put together some fabulous looks for Kate, incorporating so many traditional and Pakistani detailing. Va Va Voom!
Growing up shopping clothes used to be an occasional event for me – when either the seasons changed or when we outgrew the clothes we had or when it were festive occasions like Eid or birthdays. As the youngest sibling in the family, I used to get a lot of hand-me-down clothing from my older sister which were then passed on to my younger cousins, when I used to outgrew them. This was the norm in many households back then and clothes were repurposed and reused again and again. However, in last two decades, things have changed. Clothes have become cheaper; fashion trends are changing rapidly and shopping has taken a form of entertainment, with global chains dominating the high street fashion. Even online shopping is like that cherry on the top for shopping savvy people that gets them accessible to everything, just a click away. This has created a trend of fast fashion. But what is fast fashion? And how does it impact people and the planet? ‘Fast fashion can be defined as cheap, trendy clothing, that sample ideas from the catwalk or celebrity culture and turns them into affordable garments at a fast speed and the latest collection from a designer’s collection are soon be seen on the racks of a high street fashion brand” We all love a bargain outfit that is trendy, affordable and hence we buy fast and often wear it at times of two and then throw them out – That’s fast fashion. Our planet is suffocating because of the increasing desire for fast fashion. Let see explain how… In order to produce trendy clothes in a short amount of amount and at low cost, lots of compromises are made that we consumers are unaware of and are oblivious to. But it’s time to stop and think about what we are doing to the planet with our increased desire of shopping more and more and wearing a new outfit at every event. Lots of synthetic materials are used to produce these garments which not only implies the use of a lot of chemicals in the production of these fabrics but also means that trillions of synthetic microfibers (that comes off when clothes are washed), go back into the ocean and pollute the environment. Since the time frame for the garment production to the racks of the store is so short, their quality is compromised and hence doesn’t last very long, creating waste. Also because of the need that we have developed for fast fashion, we end up buying the latest trends and not wearing the clothes we bought last season. This causes a lot of wastage and billions of garments ending up in landfills every year. By producing billions of clothes every year, the fast fashion industry is also releasing waste and chemicals into our world, polluting and driving species to the brink of extinction And last but not least, there is also a human cost involved in this Fast fashion Multi-Billion Dollar industry. These fast fashion global high street brands get their garments manufactured in countries like Vietnam, Bangladesh, China, Taiwan, Pakistan, and others, where the labour laws are either not in place or are not followed strictly. The garment workers have been found to work in dangerous environments, for low wages, and without basic human rights. So next time you see a high street brand shirt or jeans made in your home country, it’s not because you have excellent raw material but it’s because unfortunately, your labourers can be exploited easily! Facts and Figures about Fast Fashion Industry 1- Each year, over 100 Billion items of clothing are produced globally using 1000s of different chemicals yet 3 out of 5 items end up in landfills within 12 months! 2- The fast fashion industry emits 1.2 billion tons of CO2 equivalents per year. 3- The industry is responsible for producing 20% of global wastewater. 4- It produces 97% of our clothes overseas in countries where labour and environmental laws are nonexistent. The choice eventually lies with us. Every time we invest in an item of clothing 1- We can consider every purchase (if we need it or just want it) and love our choices. 2- We can buy quality items that would last longer and hence consume less. 3- We can recycle and repurpose and swap clothing. Together we can change our attitude towards fast fashion and choose sustainable fashion. As a small step in this direction in promoting sustainable fashion in Qatar and saving and protecting the environment, Roots Salon recently hosted an event ‘Fashion Swap’. The event was conceived and executed by Carolyn Collins, General Manager of Roots; Lia Bonfio, Founder of Just Wow Qatar; Pooja Adam, Fashion Stylist at Les Rebelle Squad; and Laura Brennan, Founder of Eco Souk Qatar. These four women urged other women to clear up their closets and select items that can have a new life in someone else’s wardrobe. They were asked to drop their used clothes and accessories at Roots and in turn, would get a chance to swap them with other pieces to create new looks. With an overwhelming response from people, it was one helluva task itself to sort through and organise the clothing in order for the swap day. The fast fashion industry is, unfortunately, one of the biggest contributors to climate change and pollution. Reusing, repurposing and upcycling pre-loved clothing is a small step towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Planet and wallet-friendly! Do think about the environment, next time you shop.
Fashion is a social marker. People can understand someone by looking at the fashion they wear. You can also derive what kind of personality an individual has by looking at the way they dress and the colours they wear. Prasad Bidapa, a well-known Indian fashion consultant and stylist, believes that many messages come through fashion designs “Therefore, fashion becomes extremely important as a sociological tool because it gives you a marker of which nation you are from.” Bidapa was recently in Qatar on the invitation of the Embassy of India to attend a special event at VCUarts Qatar to highlight the importance of Khadi, a fabric popularised by Gandhi whose 150th birth anniversary was marked on October 2. Community interviewed him about Khadi and contemporary fashion. Bidapa, who has been in the Indian fashion industry for about four decades, is also very interested in education. He has travelled around the world to attend different fashion shows. “About five years ago, I became very interested in Khadi. It is a very emotional fabric for Indians and other South Asian nations. We call it the fabric of freedom. This is because of Mahatma Gandhi, who used it as a tool to strike against the colonial power. “Khadi can further be defined as a hand spun and hand woven fabric. If there is any element of mechanisation in it, it is no longer Khadi. It is a fabric that is biodegradable and it is sustainable. Today, India produces a large amount of Khadi because the country still has handlooms and spinning the charkha is still a very heavy activity all over the country. Khadi is particularly suited for new born infants. We always tell people do not use synthetic fabrics for children. “Further, Khadi is a kind of spiritual fabric. First of all, spinning of Khadi becomes a very concentrated and philosophical act. If your concentration breaks, the thread on the charkha will break. They say that you have to get into a state of absolute nirvana literally to be able to spin fine thread. Now, there is a big revival of this form. It can create further jobs and income opportunities for over 20 percent of India’s population. Khadi is now a fabric of luxury. We want it to become something more exclusive. When you are creating something with handcraft, you are creating something exclusive that can never be copied by anyone. That is our message for the young designers. We have to inspire them to feel that they can have some lasting values and they can contribute to this wonderful unbroken chain of 5,000 year history of the subcontinent textile.” Bidapa says the fashion in the subcontinent has come a long way since its independence from the British Raj. “Women in combined India have always been very fashionable. Even with nothing they would creating something wonderful. Fashion always existed. But, it became a serious matter with certain fashion designers in 1960s. Then in 1970s and 80s things picked up momentum with new generation of designers.” The experienced designer believes the ethnic arts of the subcontinent will never be in danger. “Sari is as popular as it used to be. In fact, women in the West have started wearing sari. We have to cater international markets. My message is to use fabrics of India and create a global product with it. That is the challenge for the new generation of designers.” The designer does not see Bollywood really promoting fashion in India. “Bollywood does not really dictate the fashion. However, a star can wear a certain design and make the designer successful. But I do not think that Bollywood has created a certain kind of fashion trend. India is a big country and Bollywood is not followed in all of the country.” Bidapa, who was in Qatar for the first time, was impressed with the country in many ways. “Qatar is fast becoming an education hub. I felt very welcomed and very much at home. “Khadi is a perfect fabric for tropical and desert climate. Wearing Khadi, we feel very cool. It can help us in coping with fluctuations of the temperature. Khadi will help you preserve your body temperature.”
My designs are a way of expressing myself and my culture. I use fabrics as canvas. I really enjoy expressing my art or thoughts on fabrics. These are the words of Amrit Kaur, a young promising Doha-based Indian fashion designer, who won ‘Design Your Dream Career’ competition organised by Gulf Times, Community in collaboration with Istituto di Moda Burgo Qatar. The results for the fashion design competition were announced yesterday. The first runner of the competition is Chandrika Conjeepuray Palaniraj. The second runner up is Judith Camacho. Talking to Community, Kaur, who holds a fashion design degree from Istituto Marangoni in Paris, said: “I love fashion so much that I will work for months on it. I would work for 24 hours even without eating, just standing and stitching on mannequin. Sometimes, I would think why am I doing this but when the designs go on models’ runway, I get the feeling that I work for this. That makes me realise that this whole thing is worth it, just to see my art pieces in movement. I enjoy fashion more as an artwork.” About the designs that won her the competition, the designer, who graduated from the 7th top university in the world with reputable alumni such as Dolce, Gabbana, Moschino, Rahul Mishra & Manish Arora, said: “I have designed two unisex sports T-shirts. The designs are made keeping both men and women in mind while considering their comfort in sportswear. Both designs take the two main colours from the mood board with elements of Qatar’s contemporary architecture. “My first design includes a fusion of the future along with the traditional touch of the Islamic print. The futuristic element is seen through sleeves which are inspired by the petals of the desert rose represented by the National Museum of Qatar. My second design holds a surface manipulation of a patchwork of rippled fabric in different segments. I have made this manipulation by hand which I would be happy to show in person. The fabric portrays a ripple effect due to high tensity knotting which when released, leaves a permanent fluid illusion on the fabric. This fluidity is also found in the abaya and dress in the mood board.” Kaur, who has been working to get established in Qatar, further said: “I started my own brand, Amrit Kaur Paris, in my second year of college and went on to present it during Paris Fashion Week three times. My first collection was called Patakhas in Paris [smiles]. The idea was my being a multi-cultural person. I am originally from Punjab in India, born in Singapore, moved to Qatar and then went to Paris and now back in Qatar. The collection was the fusion of all these. “I started designing when I was studying at high school in Doha. I returned to Qatar in 2016 and since then I have been working with different companies as a designer. Now I have the idea what people in Qatar want in fashion and who my target people are. Recently I released few more collection on the occasion of my birthday in August. When asked what prospects she sees for herself as a fashion designer in Qatar, Kaur said: “I have seen fashion of different cultures. Qatar has a luxury factor to it. People seem to buy whatever clicks with them. I think that is what resonates with my potential customers. Further, there are people who come from different cultures and live in Qatar.” Kaur sees Qatar as a country that offers immense opportunities to nourish creative individuals. “One thing that I learnt from Qatar as a fashion designer is how to communicate with clients. Here you learn to communicate with the class and understand the perspective of the customers. When I see how Qatar supports creative things that happen here, I think it is on the right track.”
Qatar is a land rooted in tradition and culture. It is popular for having an authentic soul. It is a place where learning from the past informs the contemporary vision. With all its traditional attractions and modern advancements, Qatar is fast becoming a place where the world comes together. Its multi-cultural demography has ushered in tastes from every corner of the globe. On the eve of the World Tourism Day, Community approached different ambassadors and diplomats, seeking their point of views about Qatar as a tourism destination. Belen Alfaro Hernandez, Ambassador of Spain to Qatar, is all praise for different attractions available in the country for the tourists. About the places she likes, the ambassador said: “There are many wonderful places to visit in Qatar with its spectacular modern buildings and cultural heritage. Doha has been recently named as one of the 7 New Wonder Cities in the World. “Souq Waqif is a great place for shopping and dining. I like the modern and traditional architecture and culture combined in every part of the city. What I like the most is many museums that Qatar has, such as the Museum of Islamic Art, the best in the world, the Museum of Arab Contemporary Art, a centre for Arab excellence, and the newly opened National Museum of Qatar, which is at the vanguard of its kind, creating a new concept of a museum.” Ambassador Belen speaks highly of Qatar as a tourist destination. “Hamad International Airport has fast become the global gateway for overseas travellers. Qatar offers true Arabian hospitality with a rich variety of food, safari desert adventure, beaches and dunes. It needs to be mentioned here that Qatar has many attractive sporting events such as the ATP World Tour, which stops in the capital every winter, attracts tennis giants, the Qatar Moto Grand Prix, World Superbikes and Qatar Masters Golf Tournament and much more, including horse racing, camel racing and hunting season for falcon lovers.” Ivonne A Baki, Ambassador of Ecuador, sees Qatar as a country fast becoming a tourist destination. “It is considered one of the safest tourist destinations in the world, where the tourists are able to observe the generous hospitality which characterises the Arab culture. This has been helped by the remarkable renovation and the establishment of tourism facilities and the giant urban development. Several new sports stadiums for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, well-connected metro systems, trams in smaller areas, new hotels, new interchanges and highways and other infrastructural projects will definitely boost tourism. No-one can overlook the efforts of the authorities in offering visa facilitation that allowed the visitors’ entry to Qatar. I can say that the Ecuadorian Government is extremely interested to open more channels between Qatar and Ecuador and has great plans for co-operation to bring more Ecuadorian tourists to Qatar.” Ambassador Ivonne, who has been in Qatar for two years, believes the life style here has made her active and energetic. “If I would speak or recommend some landmarks to visit in Qatar, I would mention Souq Wagif – a place where you can view Qatar’s identity and traditions with its beautiful ancient-style buildings and alleys, mud-rendered shops that sell traditional garments, food and spices, and restaurants of different types of cuisines. “I have to also mention the museums, one of the best is the new National Museum of Qatar, which is a distinctive architectural masterpiece, telling the unique story of the Qatari people from earliest era to the present day. Katara - the Cultural Village is also one of the venues that gathers Arab heritage, art and music. There are many other places that deserve to be viewed such as Qatar National Library, Banana Island, the Pearl and Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum.” Faizel Moosa, Ambassador of South Africa to Qatar, also speaks highly about the diversity at Souq Waqif – blending traditional and contemporary trends. “I have been here for two years and try to visit as many places as possible. The souq is one of my favourite destinations. You get a chance to see traditional and modern Qatar besides meeting people from diverse backgrounds. I always take my guests there for dinner. They get a chance to see the multiculturalism of Qatar. “I also love being to Banana Island. I spend wonderful quality family time there. Being an outdoor person, I love going to the sea and desert. I enjoy desert safari and dune bashing with my family.” The ambassador has been putting all his efforts to increase bilateral tourism with Qatar. “I have been at the forefront of the efforts to further the cause of tourism in both countries. As Qatar offers excellent tourist sites and sporting events – 2022 FIFA World Cup, I encourage South Africans to visit the country. On the other hand, my country offers exciting tourist attractions – mainly wildlife safari. We have made the visa process very easy for Qatari nationals and will also make it easier for residents of Qatar.” Though Kithsiri Athulathmudali, Ambassador of Sri Lanka, is new to Qatar, he sees a lot of attraction for visitors in the country. “I have been here only for eight weeks. However, I have visited different dining areas, including Souq Waqif. I like the souq for its traditional offerings and the variety of dining options. I was happy to see people from different cultures converging at one place.” He added: “I see a lot of tourism potential in the country that offers excellent modern structures and traditional ways of lie.” Noelia Paolo Romero, wife of the Ambassador of Argentina and an active member of the international diplomatic community in Qatar, is all praise for QNL. “The best place I have visited in Doha is the Qatar National Library. It is simply one of the most beautiful libraries I’ve seen in my life, and believe me, I know about libraries, since I’m a proud bookworm. All the facilities are incredible: the study rooms, the computer labs, and the amazing innovation stations. She added: “There are simply so many amazing places to visit in so many areas! Besides all the sports events taking place, now that winter is coming, we can all go out and enjoy those beautiful and huge parks, and walking through Katara and Souq Waqif.”
It was a session on the marvels of nature and the interest human beings take in them. One such marvel of nature is diamonds, which are like dreams for most people. A lecture by a Qatar-based diamond jewellery designer at Qatar National Library (QNL) highlighted different aspects of diamonds and shared informative guidelines that customers need to take into consideration while buying diamonds. The session about diamonds titled “A Journey through the World of Diamonds” was headed by Jewellery Designer Einas Mohammed tomorrow. The interactive session also provided an opportunity to different jewellery industry specialists to share their knowledge and expertise in diamonds and provided audience a chance to ask interesting and probing questions. The talk was also attended by Dr Sohair Wastawy, Executive Director of the Library: Ammar Al Kurdi, President of the Arab League for Measurement and Calibration of the GCC Countries and CEO Zabarjad and Diamond: and Yousuf Saad al-Suwaidi, Director of the Department of Consumer Protection and Commercial Fraud. Einas shared her passion for precious stones and the knowledge she has gained through her professional experience. The lecture helped participants learn more about the origin of natural diamonds, beginning with the process of extracting the stones from the ground. In addition, Einas also spoke about countries most famous for diamonds, including Russia, the world’s leading producer of gem-quality diamonds, Angola, South Africa, Canada and Australia, famous for its yellow diamonds. The lecture offered jewellery enthusiasts expert advice on how to add to their collections when buying or selecting high-quality diamonds, and it was followed by an informative discussion with the specialists in the field. Women were the major part of the audience who took keen interest in the lecture and then asked relevant questions. Einas mainly highlighted four aspects related to the precious stones. She said: “When you are buying more than one carat of diamonds as a complete piece, try to apply for a certificate of Diamonds from HRD Belgium or GIA America.” She further said: “Remember when buying any diamond (ring or bracelet), the cut of pieces will reflect light so that diamonds do not appear pale.” She also advised the participants by saying: “Define your budget. You can make your shopping easier because prices of diamonds depend on the size and extent of their brightness for a positive and comfortable buying experience.” She added: “Follow your senses and previous tips also help you to understand – the price you offer to buy but in the end you should choose the closest to your heart.” The expert further highlighted the difference between natural diamonds and industrial diamonds. Einas said: “We should have an understanding to differentiate between the two stones. It is better for the customers to buy heavier diamonds.” In respond to a question about from where most of the diamonds come nowadays, she said: “An overwhelming volume of the diamonds in the world are made ready in India. The reason is that India has cheaper labour. The industry is also growing in China. Earlier, the major production of diamonds used to be done in Belgian but now India has the modern technologies to cut and polish the precious stones with cheap labour. The labour in Belgium is five times costlier when compared to India.” In response to a question about how diamonds are formed, the expert said that a natural diamond is made from carbon and is the hardest natural known substance on earth. Natural diamonds are created over a period of millions of years and miles below the earth’s mantle under natural conditions of very high pressure and high temperature. Once a diamond has been created in these underground conditions, it travels via molten rock to the earth’s surface, where it is mined, refined, and turned into beautiful jewellery or used for industrial purposes. In response to a question about how the quality of diamonds can be verified in Qatar during different exhibitions, Yousuf Saad al-Suwaidi said that every company taking part in different exhibitions has to have a local representative from Qatar. In case of a claim, the local representative of the company is responsible to address the grievances of the buyers.”
Even if you were willing to shell out hundreds of dollars to have your eyebrows done by Kristie Streicher, she couldn’t see you. That’s because at the start of 2019, with her roster already full with celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Adele and Mandy Moore, she stopped taking on new clients. She wanted to spend less time at Striiike — the Beverly Hills salon she runs with her sisters, Ashley (hair) and Jenn (makeup) — and more at home, focusing on starting a family. The endeavour worked: Streicher and her husband, an orthopaedic surgeon, are expecting a son come winter. The lucky handful who do get to see Streicher, 43, pay a pretty penny for the honour. The brow guru charges $225 for a 30-minute “feathered brow” session, during which she tints and tweezes. Those looking for a more permanent fix opt for her signature “micro-feathering,” a more subtle take on traditional micro-blading, which deposits pigment into tiny incisions created by a fine blade. Two sessions run $2,500, but the results last between eight and 12 months. So how did Streicher become so in-demand with the Hollywood set? Growing up in Northern California’s Grass Valley, Streicher and her sisters were self-described tomboys who never spent that long getting ready. But after high school, she took a job at the Clinique counter and became fascinated by the beauty world, which led her to enrol in aesthetician school. In 2001, she moved to New York and got a job doing facials and brows at the Warren-Tricomi salon. But unlike most of her peers, Streicher never waxed eyebrows — only tweezed. This was long before the likes of Cara Delevingne and Lily Collins popularised a fuller brow, and Streicher had to work hard to convince her clients to embrace a more natural look. When she requested some leave their brows untouched for six to eight weeks before seeing her, many balked. “People thought I was crazy,” she recalls now. “All these city women worked so hard and had these harsh faces — and they had these thin, harsh brows to match.” But her work really caught on after one of her clients, an editor at New York magazine, decided to feature her in the publication’s “Best of” issue. Suddenly, she was doing Julia Roberts’ brows and offering tutorials on The Today Show. Although you can no longer nab an appointment with Streicher in person, she has trained two specialists at Striiike to do the feathered brow — and their appointments run a mere $140. And if you’re down for some virtual advice, for $100, you can upload some photos of your brows to Streicher’s website and receive detailed personal instructions from her on how to properly tweeze and trim. But if you’ve already spent all your money on your summer vacation, we’ll do you one better. Because Streicher is currently serving as the brand ambassador to the Hourglass cosmetics brand, and I was offered a sit-down in her chair at the Grove pop-up last week to demonstrate how to get the perfect brow. And I took notes. NO TOUCHING YOUR BROWS FOR SIX TO EIGHT WEEKS If your ultimate goal is to get a fuller brow, you’re going to have to stop doing them for a while. That’s right — no tweezing, waxing or threading for at least six weeks. The logic here, Streicher says, is to let your natural hair grow back so you can see your brow’s “fullest potential.” Once you repeat this cycle about five times — nearing a year in total — you’ll have trained your eyebrow hair into a growth pattern that works for you. “Before I do any micro-feathering on my clients, I actually make them go through the year grow-out process to just see the natural brow,” she says. “Eyebrow hairs are like people — they can be trained to do whatever you want them to do. If you’re tweezing them every day, they’re gonna grow every day. But if you put them on a cycle, they’ll start to grow where you want.” LEAVE THE STRAGGLERS ALONE Although I normally tint my brows at the Benefit Brow Bar, I actually haven’t visited the store in almost a year out of sheer laziness. As a result, my brows are already really full, but there are a few of what Streicher calls “stragglers” under the arch. To my surprise, she doesn’t tweeze those, wanting to create a “softly diffused look.” “I keep them there on purpose,” she says. “90% of people fill in their brows, and having a bit of native hair there makes the product look so much more natural.” BRUSH OUT YOUR BROWS Using a spoolie brush — the tool that looks like a mascara wand — brush your brow hair up and out to get the best shape before applying any product. “This helps me see the natural hair pattern,” Streicher explains. “It’s amazing what a difference brushing can make in the shape. Brushed down, they can look so skinny.” FIGURE OUT THE SHAPE YOU’RE GOING FOR Take any instrument with a straight line — a brow pencil, a real pencil — and run it from the outer corner of your nostril up to your eye strip. Your brows should extend at least this far, Streicher says. Mine go even further, which she says she’s into because she’s a fan of a “sprouty, Brooke Shields look.” To figure out where the arch should be, use your pencil and run it from that same place on your nose across your pupil. Then set it up in a line from that nose point to the corner of your eye — this is where your brow line should end. Again, Streicher says, they can be longer than this, but never shorter. INVEST IN A GOOD BROW PENCIL Now that you know the shape you’re going for, you can fill in any problem areas with some makeup. Right now, of course, Streicher is obsessed with Hourglass’ newest product — the Arch Brow Micro Sculpting Pencil (retailing for $28, it officially launches today). But this is the only brow makeup she’s ever partnered with, so you know she must really stand behind it. “It’s easy to make little hair strokes with this pencil, whereas most pens you use to fill in, it just looks solid,” she says, applying each stroke in the direction of the hair’s natural growth pattern. “Seeing every hair in place like it’s drawn in looks contrived, and to me, it’s not pretty. I think it’s OK when it’s not perfect. It’s so hard to maintain. What if you want to jump in a pool and do a cannonball?” HOLD YOUR SKIN TAUT WHILE APPLYING PRODUCT Getting the skin as flat as possible gives you a “really even, consistent stroke and allows the product to glide on,” Streicher says. Pull up in the direction your brows should go, otherwise the product “almost goes on a little bumpy.” TRIM IF YOU MUST, BUT BE CAREFUL Although she doesn’t do any tweezing on me, Streicher does trim a bit. She uses pointy gold Rubis scissors that come in her Essentials Grooming Kit, which retails for $225. “They are sharp, so you have to be careful,” she advises. “You can do just as much damage trimming as with tweezing — but with trimming, at least it grows back. With tweezing, the follicle can get damaged and then you’re screwed.” FINISH ‘EM OFF WITH GEL To get an even darker, fuller look — “This might be only for you at night,” Streicher tells me — add some brow gel on top of the pencil look. Though she used the soft brunette pencil on me, she opts for the dark brunette colour in the Arch Brow Micro Fiber Gel to create a more dimensional, less “ashy” look. After running the brush over my brows, she uses it to backstroke them, getting the product on all sides. “This not only colours the brows but it adds these little microfibres to look like you have more hair,” she says. “It’s a fuller, fluffier look that adds shine and colour.” DON’T LOSE HOPE If you’re still desperate for Streicher to work her magic on you, don’t fret — she says she’s considering opening her business back up to new micro-feathering clients in the future. Because the appointments can last up to two hours, she typically does about 15 of them a week, on top of the 20 she sees for feathered brow sessions per day.n “I feel like I’ll open it back up, because I feel really strongly about my aesthetic on that,” she says. “I created something new and different that’s a lot more natural than what’s out there, but right now, I’m the only one that does it. Once I train someone, I feel like I will have time to open it up to new people. It’s really fun, because imagine this look lasting 10 months and just having to put on clear brow gel in the morning.” — Los Angeles Times/ TNS
We all know that life is an opportunity that we only get once. We need to utilise this opportunity to the best of our ability and reach out to the helpless and needy people. When we die, we should have no regrets. This is the crux of an English language-novel written by an Indian expatriate based in Doha. The novel The Soul of Truth narrates the story of a man who meets sudden death and repents over what he could not do during his lifetime. Inspired by a real life incident, Shaji Madathil, who has been in Qatar since 1999, authored the novel highlighting the importance of being alive and being regretful after death. The author, who first wrote the book in his native Malayalam language, spoke at length about his experience, the book and the lessons he has learnt in an interview. Born and brought up in Kerala, Shaji has a son. He has been working with Qatar Airways for the last 20 years. “I have largely been influenced by M V Devan, my paternal uncle and a well-known writer and artist in India.“When I was in my college, I used to write a lot of articles and short stories. I was also fascinated with paintings. My paintings used to be published on the cover page of our college magazine. Since I moved to Qatar, I stopped writing and painting.” A colleague and close friend of Shaji died of heart attack in the office in 2011. The sudden death actually pushed Shaji to think deeply about life and hereafter. “The sudden death of my colleague compelled me to start thinking about the value of my life. I thought my colleague who came to the Gulf to have a better life for himself and his family but what would happen to them after his death and how many things my friends could not do because of his sudden death. I repeatedly visited the mortuary where the dead body was kept for about seven days before it was flown back to India. He was a very good guy. We used to share everything with each other. I thought what his soul would be feeling as he had left many unfinished tasks.” The thoughts sparked Shaji to write a novel about how dead people feel when they die suddenly and leave behind many unfulfilled desires and tasks. “My idea was to write the story from the perspective of a departed soul. I started studying and researching about the concept of soul in different religions and believes. I visited different countries as well. I also started observing more keenly the life and struggle of expatriates in different Gulf countries.” Shaji started writing his novel in Malayalam language in 2015. The name of the novel is Pathirappattile Thennilappakshikal. The book received LIMCA award for the first 3D cover in Indian Fiction History in 2016-2017. This year he got his book translated into English for the larger audience after the Malayalam book received a good response from the readers. “The story revolved around a young protagonist who dies in a foreign country – Bahrain – and his body is transported to Kerala, India. The soul of Uthaman, the protagonist, spends 41 days with his body and his loved ones. The soul, already burdened with cares worth a full life, painful to sift through – is less more or more less? “Uthaman’s soul is pulled in all directions by the love, the grief and the unrequited longings of the living, as in these final days they hold him down to an earth that is no longer his. The evergreen memories of his childhood, youth, and adulthood unfold each night, taking Uthaman along well-loved paths of life: man and nature, friends and foes, victories and disappointments. Each night the memories pull him in a deadly hug, bringing on a medley of emotions, each night also taking the sting out of them: an uneasy peacemaking and none more than those of Ruby, his innocent love, lost, yet never forgotten, not in life, not in death.” Through the wonderful story, Shaji has tried to convey the message that the people need to take care of their lives. They need to pay attention to what they wanted to do. “In the story, the soul stays in the world for 41 days. On the last day, Uthaman is very upset as the Almighty takes the soul away in another world. The story shows that more or less we are just puppets in God’s hands.” The author, however, believes that all the regrets and sadness felt by a soul after the death is the fault of the same person. “We are given a chance. When we are alive, we do not care about life. We all make mistakes in our daily life. We have got everything free like air and water in the life. We, however, do not take care of such important things. Our life span is very small. We can leave this world any time. The moral of the story is that you have to do a lot of good things when you are alive. You have to help the needy and take care of your old parents. Only then, you can go very peacefully. The transience of life has also led Shaji to start charity work and help others. “I have a new perception of life after writing the book. I have prepared a check list for myself and everyday I look at the list. I gave away all the royalty of my Malayalam book to a cancer patient society in India. I have started contributing towards our society. Whatever royalty I will get from my English book, I will give it all to an old-age home in Kerala. “For the last 20 years, I have been in the same old car that I purchased from one of my colleagues who later left the office and I am keeping it as his memory. I live a simple life. Material things do not bring happiness. I believe that creative people need to become role models for the society. We need to practise what we preach. We need to make the maximum use of this one life.” Shaji said that being in Qatar really helped him in writing the novel. “Living in Qatar helped me understand the life of an expatriate. I also had sufficient time to research and write the book. “I have also resumed my painting works and planning to organise a solo exhibition in Kerala.” As far his future plans are concerned, the author has already started writing a book on the topic of reincarnation. “It will take time to finish this project in three to four years. I have to do a lot of work.”
Ralph Rucci is a name we all should know, but only fashion scholars seem to. The Philadelphia-born designer, 61, is the king of beautiful tailoring and craftsmanship whose understated pieces have been purchased by some of the world’s most important women including first ladies — Laura Bush and Michelle Obama — and celebrities. We’re talking Martha Stewart, Diana Ross, Whoopi Goldberg, and yes, even Kim Kardashian. His work was featured in a 2007 exhibit at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. But his most impressive accomplishment is that he’s only the second American designer to show a collection at Paris’ haute couture presentations, considered the most elite fashion shows in the world (the first was Main Rousseau Bocher back in the 1930s.) Rucci hadn’t been to Paris in 12 years. And those were tough years for him: He lost the rights to his eponymous brand, the use of his name and his entire catalogue of garments spanning back to the early 1980s, Rucci. Now, under his new moniker, RR331, he returned last month to the Hotel Ritz, where he kicked off Paris Couture Week with his latest 34-piece collection, signalling to the fashion world that he’s ready, and capable, to return to his former greatness. “This is big for me, really big,” Rucci told me over the phone from his Upper East Side apartment, a few days after he returned to the States. He’s hoping this show will re-establish his name in the industry. But instead of trying to do ready-to-wear, he’s focusing just on haute couture. “The past couple of years have been a great struggle and my raison d’etre — my reason for being — is caught up with my work. Not being able to fit garments continuously or work with my individual clients ... I was not myself.” Even though we talked a few days after his show, Rucci is still exhausted from the gruelling prep. But the looks, fashioned from double-faced cashmere, sable, and silk in rich hues, all erred on the side of amazing. In a twist, he delightfully paired each of the ensembles with a flat. To know Rucci is to know he prefers height and stature. Still, these looks were tailored yet dreamy clothes that you can assume feel as soft as they look. But most of us will never know what they feel like because they have price tags in the tens of thousands. Rucci may have been banished from his own kingdom, but he still orbits in his own “classic Ruccis” space. Rucci’s couture show was dedicated to the famed Tiffany jewellery designer and — and longtime friend — Elsa Peretti. About 150 of some of the world’s most quietly powerful people were in attendance, like Susan Gutfreund, the wife of the late John Halle Gutfreund, former CEO of Salmon Brothers Bank. Those with an eagle fashion eye may have recognised Josephus Thimister, former creative director of Balenciaga, and Marc Audibet, formally of Prada. Both men breathed new life into their respective houses back in the 1990s. Couture shows, however, are defined more by the people who don’t come to the show. Couture is made-to-order, it isn’t mass-produced like its ready-to-wear cousin, so department stores like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue — stores that once sold Rucci off-the-rack — do not come. Neither do the stylists or influencers. When you spend the equivalent of a luxury car on one garment, it’s gauche to talk price. As a result, couture is cloaked in a mystery that Rucci does his part to keep alive. “You can’t quote prices in couture,” Rucci said. “You can’t sell the same two items to people in the same city.” This is also why Rucci is loath to talk about who his clients are. And more loath — if you can believe it — to let celebrities borrow pieces for the red carpet. Some might say this is why the Rucci label never made it to Dior or de la Renta heights, despite Rucci’s remarkable skill. “I just don’t fit in,” Rucci said quite candidly. “I never wanted to fit in. I wanted to do things respectfully. Perhaps that was misinterpreted as being heady or dismissive...” His voice now trails off. That stubbornness is part of what makes him quintessentially South Philly. Rucci attended Waldron Academy, now Waldron Mercy. He has a bachelor’s in philosophy from Temple. He studied fashion design at FIT, completing his studies in the late 1970s. He launched his line in New York in 1981 and began building a name for himself as a couturier to the city’s rich and famous. In 1994, he renamed his collection Chado Ralph Rucci — Chado refers to a Japanese tea ceremony. During the 1980s, ’90s, and early aughts, Rucci said, he was able to “build a business for myself that was so handsome, I could pay for my first couture show in Paris without any investors.” He built a reputation as a maverick much like his idol, the late Philadelphia-bred designer James Galanos. Rucci, for example, was one of the first designers to use a black woman as a fit model. (These days much of his work is inspired by pioneering black model Pat Cleveland’s daughter, Anna, who walked this year’s Paris show.) When big-name designers were sending their pieces overseas, Rucci continued to make his collection in New York’s Garment District. And he continued to never give his clothes to celebrities. Then in 2008, the recession hit and it became hard for people to justify couture spending. In late 2012, he found investors in power couple Howard and Nancy Marks. But the relationship soured and in 2014, when it was over, Rucci — like Kate Spade and John Galliano — was a man without a label. Rucci launched RR331 in 2016, the 331 represents the number of steps in the Chado tea ceremony, and has been quietly working on his new business. One day during his mediation, Rucci said, God told him to return to Paris. He reconnected with Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, organisers of the couture shows, and secured recommendations from Valentino Garavani — simply known in the design world as Valentino — and Giancarlo Giametti, Valentino’s business partner. I told you Ralph Rucci was the real deal. Rucci has plans to open a small salon/showroom in New York where he will carry small leather goods and accessories. And, Rucci says, he’s working on a signature unisex fragrance. “I know I’m never going to be rich,” Rucci said. “And perhaps I would have done some things differently in my life, but I’m proud to represent America as a couturier.” And for that reason alone, we should all now know who Ralph Rucci is. – The Philadelphia Inquirer/ TNS
When Megan Shoemaker’s boyfriend proposed to her in February 2017, he knew better than to purchase a classic engagement ring dominated by a glittering white diamond. Instead, he selected a grey marquise-cut – sometimes called a boat-shaped – diamond set in sterling silver, because he knew that Shoemaker, a Jeweller’s Row designer, would want to customise the rest. “I’m not a very traditional person,” Shoemaker said, tilting her hand to show off tiny diamonds that flanked the grey centrepiece on her white gold band. She had gotten the extra stones from her mom. “I just never saw myself with the round, brilliant-cut white diamond, even though they’re absolutely gorgeous. It’s just not me.” In a continuing trend of bucking tradition, a growing number of young couples are opting for “alternative” engagement rings – replacing the standard Tiffany’s fare with coloured gems, locally designed bands, or ethically sourced stones. For some, it’s a way to save money. Others want to tailor their rings to their personalities. In all instances, it’s shaking up the jewellery industry. ‘IT CAN BE EXACTLY HOW YOU WANT IT TO BE’ The rise of Pinterest, Instagram, and Etsy has papered the Internet with glam shots of rings with black diamonds, knife-edge bands, oval sunstone rings, even coffin-shaped stones, shattering the idea of what a ring can look like. Besides standard white, diamonds come in varying shades of gray, brown, blue, and more – tinged by the presence of elements like nitrogen and boron. Galaxy diamonds, flecked with black and white imperfections, have a salt and pepper appearance. Forget diamonds altogether and the selection expands: Sapphires and rubies are a good pick for durability. Opals, pearls, and morganite (a pink-coloured stone that’s a variety of beryl) have a refined look, but steer away from them if you lead an active lifestyle; they’re softer and more easily scratched. Like online shoppers, jewellery store customers also have a better idea of what they want, according to Lauren Priori of Center City’s L. Priori Jewellery. “People are getting married a little bit older, so they have more confidence in their own sense of style,” she said. “(They) have a broader understanding of what’s possible. It can be exactly how you want it to be.” When she consults with clients, Priori asks questions to suss out what kind of ring they want: What does their lifestyle look like? Do they see themselves wearing the ring every day? Do they see themselves wearing an engagement ring at all a couple decades from now? (Some past clients have only planned to wear a wedding band down the road and prefer an engagement ring that’s more fun and reflective of their youth.) Priori designed an engagement ring for her sister Christine with her now-brother-in-law, Josh Poole, who wanted to incorporate the principle of wave interference. The double-banded yellow gold ring, studded with small baguette-cut and round diamonds, has two focal points and a gap where the main stone would traditionally be. “The idea of interference – where a wave combines with another to form a new wave – is very romantic to me,” Poole said. “It’s a beautiful metaphor for love and getting married.” GOING AGAINST THE ‘THREE MONTH RULE’ Talk to someone about buying an engagement ring, and they’ll probably mention the “three month rule” – the idea that the partner proposing has to spend three months of gross salary on the bling. But that rule, which stems from a 1930s marketing manoeuvre by the De Beers diamond cartel, has grown out-dated. According to a New York Times poll this year, most people spend two weeks’ pay on a ring, or between $500 and $3,000. According to Shoemaker, a one-karat brilliant-cut diamond of good quality will easily run $3,000 to $4,000. Choose an alternative stone and the price comes down: A black or gray diamond of the same size and quality might go for less than $1,000. The same is true of bands – go with an independent jeweller and you stand to save. Michelle Lattner of Keta Metals in South Philly works with people who purchase their own stones and come to her for the rest of the ring. At 27, she’s at an age where her peers are talking about getting engaged. Spending several months of salary on a ring seems impractical when more expensive life goals loom on the horizon, she said. “It’s like, ‘I have to put away $500 (a month) for this engagement ring that I’ll get a year down the road,’” Lattner said. “I would rather spend that $500 on a really awesome trip or a down payment on a house.” Using 3D-printed models and metalworking tools, Lattner can usually craft a silver ring for under $100 and gold for under $200. While commercial jewellery uses CAD (computer aided design) to make precise, tiny settings with perfect prongs, Lattner’s lower-tech approach translates to settings with fewer prongs and a more natural-looking shine to her rings. “It feels more intimate,” Lattner said. “I think that people these days are recognising the appeal of natural, imperfect things.” A former classmate of Lattner’s, Mary Pohlod, noticed her work on social media and commissioned her to make both an engagement ring and the rings for her September 2019 wedding. For her engagement ring, Pohlod bought a two-karat champagne topaz for around $200. Then she worked with Lattner to finalise the design of all the bands. For three rings, the total came to around $500, including the stone. “It was kind of a no-brainer for me,” Pohlod said. “Any stones that aren’t diamonds are way less expensive, almost absurdly so. I wanted to put that money towards our life together.” A DIFFERENT TYPE OF DIAMOND Thanks in part to pop culture and politically active performers, today’s ring shoppers are more conscious of the origins of diamonds and metal. A growing number of couples seek out conflict-free diamonds, ethically mined, with no connection to terror or opposition groups. There has also been a rise in awareness of the environmental effects of their extraction. Irresponsible mining practices often result in stagnant water in open pits, creating a breeding ground for diseases. Dust blasted out of mines pollutes nearby water sources, and the destruction of habitats leads to decreased biodiversity. And some couples opt out of the system entirely, buying lab-created diamonds. That’s what 27-year-old Penn medical student Daniel Xu did when he bought an engagement ring for his now-fiancée. “I found out that they were a thing a few years ago,” Xu said. “From what I understand, they’re indistinguishable to a jeweller. And I had always felt that the demand for diamonds is the result of market manipulation, so that left a bad taste in my mouth.” Synthetic diamonds have been around since 1954. Technology has improved over time, making lab-created diamonds identical to their mined counterparts. The preferred process today (chemical vapour deposition) grows carbon atoms from a tiny diamond seed that’s kept under extreme heat and pressure for several days. The resulting stone generally costs 30% less, Priori said. For Xu, the real struggle was finding a reputable website that sold lab-created diamonds in the right quality and size. He purchased a round-cut diamond set in 14-karat white gold from Clean Origin for about half of what he would have paid in a store, he estimates. “I don’t think I had the same sort of reticence some people have about buying lab-grown diamonds,” Xu said. “The fact that they’re more ethical and cheaper made the decision even easier.” - The Philadelphia Inquirer/ TNS
Kummam al-Maadeed, Qatari novelist She loves to create new worlds, new cultures and new peoples. She then creates new characters for her stories. She has constantly been learning about ancient cultures and civilisations. For Kummam al-Maadeed, a young Qatari story-teller specialising in English fantasy novels, life is all about finding magic everywhere. The only female Qatari English fantasy writer holds a Master of Business Administration (2018) and a Bachelor of Public Relations and Advertising (2011) from Qatar University. Kummam has worked in several government and semi-government institutions in Qatar, such as the Doha Film Institute, the Ministry of Communications and Transportation, the Qatar National Library and is currently the Head of Media and Publications at Qatar University. She started writing novels in 2007 as a hobby, then began her writing career with a blog specialising in film critique. Kummam has so far brought out two fantasy novels; The Lost Rose and Calling Magic — part of a duology. The Lost Rose is a romance fantasy. Clara has a terrible secret, a sin she won’t reveal, not even to Luca, the man who rescues her from the lake where she has thrown herself, hoping death would silence her pain. While Luca nurses Clara to health and tries to gain her trust, mutiny is brewing in Tharun, their neighbouring kingdom. Luca and Clara travel together to stay out of danger. But little do they know that the usurper Adrian — an evil sorcerer — who is determined to magically enslave Clara into marriage, is already on their heels. Clara’s sin catches up with her as she and Luca meet the magical Wanderers who reveal her secret. As they stand in the middle of a battle against Adrian, can Luca forgive Clara’s sin and stay true to his promise of keeping her safe? Will Clara’s own magic and determination prove enough to repel Adrian’s sorcery? And even with the help of unexpected allies, will the couple be able to save the kingdom they have lost to darkness? Calling Magic can be described as a fantasy, romance and steampunk novel. Tia, the most powerful witch of her time, leaves her position at the Court of Wizards and, with a scarf hiding her purple locks, passes through the ancient walls of Paiza. As an assistant to the court magician, Tia spends her days brewing trickster potions, gossiping with Anna and navigating her way through the inventions and mechanics of Paiza and, most importantly, hiding her identity. Tia’s dream of a calm, simple life starts to become a reality, until the day she meets Rhein, the king of Paiza, with his captivating gray eyes and cherished pocket watch, and the whispers of war reach her. Will Tia be forced to reveal her true identity in order to protect her new home? Or will her power erupt and shatter her life once more? In an interview with Community, Kummam speaks about her writing experience and future plans at length. She has always been making up stories since her childhood. “When I was at school, I always asked my fellow students what would happen if aliens come to us or if something extraordinary happens. They always applauded my imagination. I have also been reading classical fantasy books translated in Arabic. However, I didn’t start writing until I got to the university. It was in 2007 when I started writing a small book that I never published. Then I joined an online community of writers. I learnt a lot from different aspiring writers about the style, different points of view as a narrator, and many technical things.” After completing her first book, she kept it aside and did not publish it. She got busy with her PR job but later she decided that she had to return to her origin — writing fantasies! “I found a freelance editor and worked with her for almost two years. The editor was from the US and she taught me so many things. With her help, I moved my book from 23,000 words to 70,000 words making it a 300-page novel.” Reading a great deal of fantasy stories in English made Kummam write in English. “I got used to the language. I really love English as a language. For me, it is easier than Arabic. There are lots of English readers in Qatar. Doha has a diverse community and a wide range of English readers. I have been receiving pretty good response. People reach out to me through social media and wait for my books. “Besides fantasy stories, I have read classic English writers such as Charles Dickens, Jane Austin, Charlotte Brontë etc. It was necessary to advance my language and writing style. Jane Eyre is my favourite classic English novel.” For her, fantasy is like creating a new world. “There is magic or no magic. It is just creating new cultures, new peoples, new traditions and new ideologies. So, for me it is creating by going into details and learning about the new culture that I create. Normally, fantasy writers get inspired by ancient cultures. I want to learn and diversify my cultures in my new books. I am interested in learning more about ancient Arab and Egyptian cultures. “There is some magic and different creatures in fantasy stories. For me, it is all about finding magic everywhere. Being with books is also a magic for me. My magic is creating stories — something I and other people are amazed by. Suddenly, a story comes to me and I write it down. A huge world opens up to me and different characters are developed. This is my daily magic.” The writer likes Tia as one of her favourite characters that she has created so far. “I think I like Tia, the witch. My friends tell me that the character is like me (laughs). “As far as the favourite character by my readers is concerned, people like Luca from The Lost Rose because he is a hero without having superpowers.” The fantasy story-teller is excited about the prospects of the genre in Qatar. “I am excited because so many girls have come to me saying that I have opened the door. Some of them were too shy and afraid of the community response. I hope there are going to be more writers. I hope this genre flourish in Qatar. Two women from Qatar University have already translated The Lost Rose in Arabic. “I am working on my third book called Dwindling Magic. I am also doing a new project of writing 30 stories in 30 days — a kind of flash fiction. I am also working on a comic book.” Kumam suggests aspiring writers to stick to their plans. “It is going to take some time. It took me 10 years to bring out a book. I would say work with your process and work with your time and do not give up. Be committed — that is all I will say. “Building a story and imagining a character is a bit of both inspiration and perspiration. First the idea comes to me. But building it takes time and a lot of effort. I have to learn new things to build my story. Someone said that fiction is a lie that people believe. You have to make them believe that through the details and building a world.”
They say the desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. Art is a form of creativity that provides a sort of expression to the very sensitive stratum of the society. This creative strain becomes the strongest when an individual has no other way to vent out his or her feelings and observations. The art is not only a creative way for catharsis, it can also bring recognition and appreciation for the artist. There is a sense of achievement. Shajee P Madhavan (pen name Shajee Chelad), a Doha-based artist and art educator from Kerala, India, can be seen as an embodiment of how art can bring both self-satisfaction and recognition. Community talked to Shajee to learn how he became a creative artist. Shajee, head of the Fine Arts Department at Scholars International School, does not come from a very rich or successful background. “We are six siblings; five brothers and a sister. My father was a mason but he did everything to encourage me and support my school education. He along with my elder brother supported me in pursuing fine arts studies.” As a child, Shajee was a very keen observer. He was very good at drawings. “I used to pick the left-over pieces of chalks from the classroom in school. I use to draw with the chalk pieces on the floor of my house. I used to draw different natural objects that I saw in my surroundings. I started my practice in drawing and painting at a very young age. At the outset, it was all visual — based on the natural surroundings in my village such as lake, hills, paddy fields, grain husking yard, festivals, birds, animals, vehicles etc. The young Shajee’s hidden potential was discovered by a writer who lived in the same village. “There is was a writer — that is all I remember about him now — in our village. He told me that I was very good at drawings and if I kept on drawing and painting, I could become a successful artist. He suggested that I study art as a subject.” The endorsement of his talent led him to pursue art in a professional institution. “After realising that I had potential, my father and elder brother gave me a lot of inspiration and guidance. That inspiration culminated in me getting admission in Fine Arts College, Trivandrum in 1991. I completed my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1996 with first rank. Consequently, I got admission in Sarojini Naidu University, Hyderabad, for a Master’s degree in fine arts. I was, however, not able to take the course up because of my adverse financial circumstances. However, the immense support from my family and friends give me a lot of energy and enthusiasm to continue pursuing my dream as an artist. Shajee later took up arts as an educator and started teaching in different schools in India. He moved to Doha in 2012 as an art teacher and joined Scholars International School. He has now become a mature artist and taken part in different group exhibitions, both national and international. “At present, I am mainly concentrating on surrealism and upstart type of metaphysical style. My taste is to present visuals perceived in a different perspective. Before coming to Qatar, my subjects were mainly figurative art style based on the visuals I have seen way back in Kerala, especially in my village. Fed up and conditioned with that style, I switch over to search for a new style. “After coming to Qatar, I realised that this country has rich art heritage and promotes the upcoming artist to a great extent. Here, I have been able to witness a lot of construction and innovative works — especially in the field of civil engineering. The labourers who were working in the construction areas, the structural nature of massive buildings, the machineries used in the field in general and the social scenarios of Qatar, in particular, are some of the areas which influenced my work.” Like any other artist, Shajee is greatly influenced by masters and contemporary artists alike. “Mainly, I have been inspired by German surrealistic artist Max Earnest, expressionists Max Beckman and Elgrecco. Indian artists such as M F Husain and K G Subramanian have also been a great inspiration for me. As well I have been influenced by some of my contemporary artists. I continue to follow the contemporary trends and art works at the same time.” As an art educator, Shahjee believes in continuous learning and upgrading. “We need to have immense interest and continuous practice. Observing objects and things in a detailed manner, extensive reading, experiencing different aspects of life and frankness to deal with contemporary issues are some of the things that one has to do to become a successful art teacher. Continuous effort to improvise and improve one’s own style and the ability to appreciate the contemporary works of the other artists are essential for developing a visual language.” The artist defines art as a medium of expression. “It is a creative medium to express one’s innermost feelings and emotions. It is a creative expression of everyday observations. It is like expressing your feelings in a novel way every time. It is a way of preserving your feelings and observations in a beautiful way forever. Art is my profession and teaching it to children is my passion.” Shajee is all praise for the art scene in Qatar. “The spirit of art is infinite in Qatar. It is a country which gives a lot of promotion to the artists coming from all corners of the world. “I am confident that this land will give me a lot of inspiration to spur my growth. Qatar gives a lot of platforms for national and international exhibitions. There are numerous organisations, which are supporting fine art. “One such organisation is MAPS International that has given me certain opportunities. The office-bearers and members of the organisation continue to support and encourage me here.” When asked about his future plans, the artist said: “It is my great ambition to organise a solo exhibition in Qatar soon. I am making a lot of effort towards that end. I would like to make my mark in Qatar and be known for my creative paintings.”