Locals can check out tablets or e-readers for free. Or use the library’s 48 iMac desktop computers. Kids can take home any of the 200 Nook readers pre-loaded with 150 books, writes Maria RecioThe new public library on San Antonio’s south side is missing something that once seemed unthinkable: books.The south central Texas city’s completely digital library, known as the BiblioTech, lets Bexar County readers check out up to five books at a time on their devices from home or wherever they are. Military personnel can even download the latest bestseller from Afghanistan.No device? No problem.Locals can check out tablets or e-readers for free. Or they can use the library’s 48 iMac desktop computers. Children can take home any of the 200 Nook readers pre-loaded with 150 books aimed at their age group.Opened six months ago, BiblioTech is the nation’s first totally book-free public library. It just added a satellite branch in the jury room of the Bexar County Courthouse. The name plays off the word “biblioteca”: Spanish for library.In Washington, the downtown Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library cleared the stacks in one wing last June to open a vast, bookless “Digital Commons” — part computer lab, part design centre and part reading lounge.The bound book has held sway for 500 years, and doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. But the digital age, which has crept into libraries through new technology, is slowly taking over.A number of ambitious national and international digital efforts are underway, focused on making cultural heritage books, manuscripts and books available online. The Digital Public Library of America and a Library of Congress-supported World Digital Library, which just reached 10,000 entries this past week, are making literary treasures, such as an early 16th-century Gospel manuscript from Ethiopia, more accessible.“This project is of enormous benefit to students, teachers, scholars and lifelong learners,” Librarian of Congress James H Billington said to mark the milestone, “and I am gratified to see that it continues to grow.”At the MLK library, there’s a giant touch screen used for teaching classes and a 3D printer that on a recent afternoon was in the process of building a small basket. There’s also a new book printer machine that will print and bind a book, small work spaces for people who need places for start-ups, a sound studio and a touch-screen table in the children’s section for reading and playing. There’s even a bank of express computers that visitors, no library card needed, can use for 15 minutes.At North Carolina State University’s new James B. Hunt Jr. Library in Raleigh, the 1.5 million books are stored underground, leaving lots of space for research and study groups. Virtual stacks enable students to check out books from a unique robotic retrieval system known as a bookBot that delivers them in five minutes or less.“There are a lot of libraries that are shifting that way,” said Barbara Stripling, the president of the American Library Association. “One of the biggest worries of libraries is equitable access.”The unlikely visionary in San Antonio was Nelson Wolff, the top county official, who in Texas is known as the county judge.“It all started with my reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs,” said Wolff, who’s in his 70s and was taken with the speed of technology developed by the late co-founder of Apple Inc. as he introduced a succession of new products.So, in the space of about a year, Wolff raised the radical idea of a no-books library in a poor part of San Antonio with limited Internet service, used available space in a county-owned building and had it up and running by last September.There were only 10,000 e-books at first. But the library has since added another 10,000 and hopes to bolster the collection with 10,000 e-books each month.Wolff, a politician and former businessman who was the mayor of San Antonio in the 1990s, is a collector of first edition 20th-century books and has more than 1,500.“I had refused to read e-books,” he said of the time before he began working on a digital library.Now?“I don’t read hardcover books,” Wolff said. “I buy them but I don’t read them.”That kind of conversion may be spreading. The BiblioTech attracts a steady flow of foreign and national visitors. Several San Antonio library officials are traveling to the Netherlands and England in a few weeks at the invitation of foreign officials to make presentations about their operation.But Wolff is pleased that the local, majority Latino community has access to reading materials and the Internet.“The main thing is people are using it,” he said.He’s especially tickled that the jury duty branch is taking off.“It’s been a big hit with all the jurors sitting around,” he said.County residents can sign on and download books on-site, and there’s been no problem with getting back the loaned e-readers and tablets.“We’ve had a 100 percent return rate,” said Laura Jesse, Bexar County’s public information officer.Downloaded e-books simply disappear from devices after two weeks. So no library late fees.In downtown D.C., where the MLK library’s computers are the only access to the Internet for many, users come from all economic levels, including a lot of children and teenagers. The latter enjoy the digital options, including gaming afternoons in a space for them on the second floor“Teens are digitally native,” said library spokesman George Williams, adding that the libraries help break the digital divide.Digital Commons Manager Nick Kerelchuk described the MLK library scene as “a culture of people connecting and sharing together.” — McClatchy Washington Bureau/MCT
—Selina Farooqui, designer By Aney Mathew With winter officially drawing to a close and Doha stepping into its small window of spring, it’s time for the fashion world to bring out the new season’s collections. Selina Farooqui a young and upcoming fashion designer based in Doha recently launched her Spring/Summer 2014 collection at the W Doha. Selina’s collection featured embellished dresses, evening gowns and jackets in silk brocades and trousers —pieces that would adorn a luxurious wardrobe. The handmade embroideries mixed traditional Indian techniques with a contemporary aesthetic. Selina was spotted by W Doha as upcoming talent when she won the ‘W Doha & VCU Fashion Award’ in 2011, allowing her to showcase her designs in a number of trendy happenings within the hotel. The 26-year-old fashion designer has displayed her collections in Doha, Dubai and Istanbul. Her brand has been sold in the UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Her designs, she says, have always been inspired by some element of her Indian heritage and the culture and style of the Middle East, where she has lived all her life. Talking to Community about her genesis into the fashion industry, she says, “I started my business the year before I graduated. That first year, which was probably the most important, I juggled the demands of university as well as building the base of my brand and its identity.” Selina seems to have worked out the balance well as she graduated at the top of her class from Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in 2011. Referring to her new collection, Selina explained, “This collection celebrates a major milestone in my career. I started my brand by locally producing small-scale collections with one dress in each style — in one size; I did this for three years. I’m now at a point where I’ve finally established the most important part of any fashion business — the production unit. “I currently produce my collections directly out of India and my options of embroidery and fabric are now endless. For me, this is a real start,” Selina says. So what kind of woman does Selina have in mind, when she designs her clothes? Are her clothes only for those with mannequin-like figures? Or is it for people with ‘real’ sizes? “I think about a woman who wants to stand out, feel exceptional, loves to treat herself and indulge in collecting beautiful pieces for her wardrobe. This is a woman who appreciates craftsmanship and appreciates the balance of traditional and modern approach. “I don’t design for a specific size of woman. The volumes of my dresses are free-flowing and compliment many figures and frames. A woman can experiment with how she wants to wear one of my dresses — whether to keep it flowing and away from her body, or if she wants to accentuate her body with a belt. “I always provide the option of both — giving the woman the freedom to style herself in what she is comfortable with. The embroidery is like jewellery. I hope that the woman who wears my dresses feels how special each piece is”, she points out. Selina’s latest designs are all special occasion pieces, with her collection heavily reflecting Indian handiwork. Referring to the new collection, she says, “Producing and working on this collection in India was a special experience. I explored the markets there and hand-picked the fabrics and every bead and stone that was sewn onto my dresses. I worked with craftsmen to create very detailed embroideries using traditional, timeless Indian techniques, to give a new feel with the artwork, design and variety of materials used. The embroideries are very crystal-and-bead-heavy and I have used multiple techniques and layers, to create something really ornate and outstanding. “You don’t need to add on anything else with these dresses because they are very special in and of themselves, just pair them with the right shoes and you are ready to go. All fabrics are hundred per cent silks, and no short cuts have been taken with the finishing of these garments.” The norm in Indian families is to direct their children towards a career in engineering or medicine. So how did Selina’s parents take it when she decided to pursue a career in fashion? “My family is supportive of me no matter what I do. They are completely with me in this journey and I consider them my team. My parents always told me, I could only be good at something that made me happy. Fashion makes me happy, and I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life.” “Growing up, I have wanted to be everything from a teacher to a pastry chef! Fashion became my goal in life in the last two years of high school. After high school, I knew I wanted to study fashion. “Today, fashion is not a hobby or a phase. It’s my life, my motivation, my place of comfort and confidence. This is where I shine. “My goal now is to build a sustainable and streamlined business. The first few years are the hardest and I am working hard to build a strong base for my brand. I am still learning to handle a business in fashion but I am getting more comfortable and confident. “I want my brand to grow from ready-to-wear, to accessories, scarves, jewellery, home linens, stationary, beauty… I have so many ideas and so many dreams. I’m just working one day at the time. My current goal is to make my brand available in all the Gulf countries; once I‘ve done that, I aim to go international.” From the looks of it Selina seems all set, to step out into success and in style.
Designers have lightened things up this season.The idea of soft colours might at first seem strange, but the look works quite well with darker cold-weather basics.By Harriett HendrenWhen autumn and winter truly set in, you might find yourself reaching for pastel-coloured sweaters and jackets, a fresh take on the season’s usual somber palette. Fall fashions historically feature deep emerald greens, plums and other jewel tones, but this year, designers have lightened things up.The fall 2013 runway shows were awash in Easter egg shades of daffodil yellow, powder blue, cotton-candy pinks and mints.At Celine, a designer outlet, roomy blush-coloured coats were paired with sleek wool shifts and light-grey, chunky-heeled ankle boots.At Proenza Schouler, another store, leather coats in rounded silhouettes were shown in a candy-coloured lavender, and modern drop-waist dresses featured barely-there hints of mint. The idea of candy colours in fall and winter might at first seem strange, but the look works quite well with darker cold-weather basics.Kentucky designer Sarah Jane Estes added a grey wool Peter Pan collar accented with black sequins to a pink floral baby-doll top. Pair it with tights or skinny jeans for an easy fall outfit.For a striking contrast, try a peach-coloured jacket over a black wool shift and booties. With a cool mint sheath, add a bit of textural interest with ornamented footwear, such as Sam Edelman’s studded Blair ballet slippers.Greys are another great way to play up a bright colour. Pair a pastel-accented long-sleeve top with grey wool shorts, and ground the outfit with a pair of moto-style black boots with silver studs.Accessories are a great way to add a finishing touch to a winter pastel. A crystal necklace with a blush-coloured top or frosty mint dress add a wintry sparkle to an outfit. Gold, either in a fun little clutch or maybe a stack of bold bangles, brings warmth to the look and is a chic alternative to the basic black bag.For classic winter style with a twist, add leather accents. We paired a feminine boucle pink dress with a natural-coloured leather clutch created by Lexington artist Matthew Cook of Borderstate Made. For added interest, we stacked a gold bubble bracelet with one of Cook’s leather wraps.That seems to be a winning recipe for wearing these winter hues: a mix of soft colours, a touch of metallics and some classic fashion ingredients such as leathers, basic blacks and greys. — Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT
By Denise MarrayThe global apparel retail industry is valued at about $1.3tn. It’s a hugely competitive market from which only the lucky few will emerge as success stories. At London Fashion Week it’s possible to see upcoming young designers whose ability has earned them a much coveted place in the Emerging Talent section of the Designer Showrooms. This September just 130 designers were selected in the categories of jewellery, shoes and ready-to-wear. Located in the bustle of Somerset House media and buyers cast a critical eye over the collections and connections are made. A collection that caught the eye in the ready-to-wear section was showcased by Bahraini native Hind Matar. After completing her BA at the University of Virginia, she studied at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design and interned at the design studios of Bernhard Willhelm and Yang Li. She was clearly enjoying the ‘buzz’ of the London Fashion Week. “It’s been a great experience so far and we’ve had a huge flow of buyers and press,” she said. Her original and striking clothes are aimed at young, confident women. Structured skirts, oversized jackets and tailored trousers are her trademark pieces. There is an intriguing interplay of textures, fabrics, silhouettes and embellishments. “The look is quite architectural; it’s inspired by origami and flowers in different stages of bloom,” she explained.She has been influenced by the work of the Polish art deco painter, Tamara de Lempicka. “There are a lot of angular shapes mixed with rounded shapes that were inspired by Lempicka paintings in which she juxtaposed round shapes against architectural backgrounds,” she said.(American singer-songwriter and actress Madonna is a huge fan and collector of Lempicka’s work. Other famous collectors include actor Jack Nicholson and singer-actress Barbra Streisand).Matar’s collection includes structured taffeta skirts in dusty pink and powder blue inspired by origami and with a beautiful tonality in the fabric. The most expensive item is a highly embroidered and sequinned silk dress in silver, fuschia, turquoise, ruby reds and emerald greens. It retails at $1,400. Customers can place personal orders; all her pieces are made in the UK. She buys many of her fabrics at the world famous PremiereVision Fabric Show in Paris as well as sourcing beautiful materials from Bahrain.Asked where her passion for fashion comes from she spoke about her childhood influences in Bahrain. “When I was in my early teenage years I wanted to become a designer. I was looking a lot at old Italian cinema and I started to develop a passion for clothes. My father was a very big influence on me; he was always very elegant. I always looked up to him and he was a huge inspiration. He always insisted on us children (her brother and two sisters) looking our best,” she recalled.She credits her grandmother, who used to live in India, with developing her appreciation of embroidery which is a key element in her designs. Speaking of her love of colour and texture she said: “In the Middle East we love bold colours.” She regards London as her second home and said: “London in terms of creativity has been a huge influence.” She credits Saint Martins with giving her the freedom to explore ideas and teaching her how to develop those ideas into a methodology. Her dream is to have her own catwalk show in the years to come. For that she explained she would need at least 25 looks involving around 60 garments. For Matar this looks like the start of a promising career. She recognises what this opportunity presents: “I’m super-privileged to have been selected as it’s very competitive,” she said.
By Kamran RehmatSana Salman is a woman who means business, but that does not mean it’s about rolling the cash counters alone. She is out on a limb so that expatriates in Qatar can feel at home with fashion labels — from home — in a multicultural milieu. As someone who embraces diversity in more than passing terms, the Director of Designer Fashion Lounge is also at work to introduce a special fabric in designing wear for Qatari women. Sana’s candidness is refreshing. She says her ambition to create a veritable wardrobe in Doha is more out of frustration at not finding a store to set store by, than say, inspiration! In a freewheeling interview with Community, she talks about her fashion inspiration; why Pakistani fashion industry is the one to beat; and how seamlessly eastern chic can marry western glamour as a style statement. Tell us a bit about yourself… I was born and brought up in Islamabad and am a bachelor in commerce from the Punjab University. Shortly after marriage, I moved to Doha. Apart from an obvious passion for fashion, I’m also part of the learning support staff in American School Doha. I have been in the fashion industry for the last half a decade and currently, taking my brand, Designer Fashion Lounge, forward. What is your philosophy of fashion? Who and what was your inspiration?They say music has a universal language. So does fashion, I believe, which women, in particular, relate to regardless of which part of the world they come from. It has the power to transform an image and make a social statement. Having said that, fashion is not just about wearing trendy clothes, but essentially having a personality, which can only come with confidence in how you carry yourself. As for inspiration, it all began at home with my mother, whose elegance rubbed off on me. (Former prime minister) Benazir Bhutto was also a great signature in terms of carrying herself. Insofar as designers are concerned, Rani Emman and Khadija Shah inspire me. If I were to choose models, I would pick the elegant Mahnoor Baloch and Nadya Hussain, both of whom have carried themselves through the years with great élan.What are your fashion goals?The modern woman wants it all: home, family and a successful career. Multi-tasking with household chores and meeting pressing deadlines at work has become the norm for the modern woman. My goal is to give women a wardrobe which is stylish yet practical —urban eastern chic marrying western glamour, if you will! Stylish cuts with unfussy details where we fuse femininity with strength — seamlessly — is my idea of making a statement.Tell us about your experiences in the fashion industry?I have had the privilege of working with the top designers of the Pakistani industry, which has grown remarkably over time. We are blessed with talented and hardworking designers, who churn out the best Lawn/cotton in the world. I can proudly claim that we have introduced Asian fashion brands in Doha and we did the first ever Asian Brands exhibition recently, which was a great success. We are also collaborating with a famous fashion house in Dubai, Zahir Rahimtoola’s Labels. In the Fashion Fiesta held last week, we introduced top designers like Lakhany, JV Couture, Sanam Chaudry, Nida Azwar, Khadija Kareem and Élan by Khadija Shah, Origins, Farah Zubair and Sania Maskatiya. Where does the Pakistani fashion industry figure viz-a-viz the region, and the world?Pakistan itself has evolved and a neat reflection of this is the fashion industry, which has seen enormous growth in the last few years. They are competing with other world class designers; they have crossed a threshold in introducing a new fusion of clothing lines. There is now a noticeable round-the-clock activity in Pakistan with even the once laidback (federal capital) Islamabad setting the stage alight in trying to nudge fashion metros like Karachi and Lahore. Pakistani fashion designers have also made their mark in next-door India. Who are your favourite designers?The list is long. I personally like Élan by Khadija Shah, and it caters to the woman with a taste of individuality. Sana Safinaz is also doing a great job; they are dominating the industry over the decades due to the timeless elegance and grace of their designs. What are your favourite patterns to work with and why?I personally prefer to work with chiffons and silk because they give a really classy and elegant look to any design. I like to stick with simple and flowy cuts. My favourite prints are Block Prints and I fancy working in detail with black colour. I am a huge fan of handmade block prints. Also, I like to experiment with colours — deep red, black, blue, turquoise, emerald and so on.What is the scope of marketing Pakistani designer wear in Doha?Doha has the potential to match Dubai, which is an established hub in the region. I’m confident because there is a great South Asian mix in Doha and the demand for quality never ceases. As a resident who mills around the city and meets clients on a regular basis, I can tell you that there is actually a preference for Pakistani designer wear, but not enough to meet the demand. Hence, the idea to do my bit and set up a multi-layered store. We are also working on a unique design option for Qatari women under the DFL banner. The fabric used will be one of its kind! When did you form DFL? What was the inspiration?Basically, I started my brand with the name of Saanaz in 2010. This is a name many people still relate to. To be frank, I would say rather than inspiration it was frustration at not being able to find a single decent store to shop for Pakistani and South Asian wear or even couture! Saanaz gained the attention of customers from our part of the world rapidly, but since the idea was to provide a permanent platform to designers to stock their collections we decided to name our fashion house as Designer Fashion Lounge, where top local and international designers can stock their collection for the Qatari market. What was the idea behind Fashion Fiesta and how did it fare? Fashion Fiesta was our most successful event of the year, which was organised in collaboration with fashion designers from Pakistan along with many local sponsors, who participated and encouraged our vision to promote South Asian fashion in Qatar. The concept of Fashion Fiesta was to allow enthusiasts to have a decent outing; shop with their families in a relaxed environment of a five-star hotel. DFL is thankful to the sponsors who helped us go a step forward in the industry. We collaborated with Apex Events, who were the organisers for Fashion Fiesta, Abode fashion magazine was our social media partner, Bombay Silk Centre and Oriental Carpets company gold sponsors, and Gul Ahmed and Zarri international vendors. From the DFL platform, we collaborate with Labels Pakistan, the first and premier fashion store, along with the top designers that fall under “Labels” umbrella; and Sonar, our jewellery sponsors, whose work DFL introduced for the first time in Doha.The response was beyond my imagination. DFL attained ground breaking success in terms of publicity and sales.What kind of jewellery do you sell? What other ornaments do you market? DFL is introducing jewellery brands from Pakistan known for their outstanding handmade products and precious metal. Sonar is the brand we introduced in Fashion Fiesta, they are well known for the nickel and lead-free jewellery around the world. They use semi-precious stones with American zircons and gold plating. In future, we are also planning to introduce the finest jewellery by Sherezad, whose expertise is 24K gold and uncut diamond jewellery luxury line as well as watches. We are also planning to pull the finest leather products and handicrafts from Pakistan. Where and when are you setting up a store? DFL plans to open a fashion house early next year but we will have more exhibitions for handmade jewellery and handicraft. I would prefer to set up the store in an area, which is easily accessible.For now, those of your readers, who need more information, can join our official Facebook page which is working as Saanaz but will soon switch to DFL. www.facebook.com/brands.saanaz
* Fossilised dinosaur bone ring with conflict and devastation free white diamonds, 18-carat recycled white gold, 2.28 TCW retails for $24,400. * Signature ring with white diamond pave; 18-carat recycled rose gold. Retail Price: $6,655. * Golden beryl, fossilised dinosaur bone and conflict and devastation free white diamond necklace, 18-carat recycled yellow gold, 0.44 TCW retails for $17,150.By Booth MooreMonique Pean is one of the most talented new American jewellery designers working today. She founded her line in 2006, bringing a sustainable approach to her work by using recycled gold and conflict-free stones.Since then, she’s attracted the attention of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, winning the Vogue Fashion Fund Award in 2009, and of First Lady Michelle Obama, model Karlie Kloss, actresses Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Watson and many more who have worn her unique designs.Each time the New York-based Pean creates a collection, she travels to a new place, immerses herself in the culture, connects with artisans to learn traditional techniques and researches new sustainable materials.For her fall Tu’til collection, she visited the Tikal region of Guatemala, where she was inspired by the idea of Maya architecture juxtaposed with midcentury architecture, and she made use of the area’s black and gray jade to stunning effect. The result? Pieces that include a zebra agate and black jade pendant with a dramatic diamond pave point and a black jade open pyramid ring encased in 18-carat recycled white gold.I asked Pean a few questions about her philosophy and her process.Q: When you say your pieces are sustainable, what do you mean?A: Mining is very detrimental to the environment. For example, mining enough gold to produce one simple wedding band produces 20 tonnes of waste. That’s the equivalent to 2 full-grown elephants’ worth of mercury and cyanide going into the environment. When I started designing, I wanted to make sure that while I was making beautiful things, I was not impacting the environment in a negative way. I support the No Dirty Gold campaign and other programmes trying to incentivise the mining industry to clean up their practices. I only use recycled gold and sustainably mined materials, meaning that they are mined artisanally, using a hammer and a chisel, not using blasts and mercury.Q: What kinds of materials do you work with?A: I use unique stones created over thousands of years, so each piece is collectible. I just started working with fossilised dinosaur bone from a stegosaurus. It comes from the Colorado Plateau, which is the only place in the world where there was a perfect storm of mineralisation, so that as parts of the dinosaur bone and flesh disintegrated, minerals went into the bone and it agatized. Most of it is brownish red. But occasionally you will find pieces in colourful blues and purples, like the ones I’m using. It’s kind of amazing to be able to wear something from the Jurassic Age.Q: Is your signature material fossilised woolly mammoth tusk, which you source from indigenous Alaskan natives?A: Yes. If the woolly mammoth tusk was trapped in ice, it maintains its creamy colour. But if it’s exposed to silt minerals, it turns a brown or caramel tone. And if it’s exposed to salt, you get these amazing blues. I also have some that are peachy pink. On some pieces, we use a scrimshaw technique, where we etch into the woolly mammoth tusk with a knife and inlay vegetable dye.Q: Did you use any new materials in the Tu’til collection?A: Yes, I met with local artisans to source sustainable Gutatemalan jade on my trip. The jade was discovered near the Motagua Fault. Guatemala is the only source of gray and black jade, and the hues are stunning. For the ancient Mayans, jade signified life, fertility and power.Q: Tell me about a couple of your favourite pieces from the collection.A: I am excited to introduce my signature ring in solid 18-carat recycled gold. The gold can be engraved with one’s initials and is the perfect pinky ring. I also introduced a three-dimensional carving technique in the collection, usable on fossilised woolly mammoth, fossilised walrus ivory and dinosaur bone. My purple fossilised dinosaur bone ring is surrounded by conflict- and devastation-free white diamond pave and is over 150 million years old. It’s definitely a conversation starter.Q: You grew up in Washington, DC, and started your career in investment banking. How did you become interested in jewellery design?A: My father worked for the United Nations for the African Development Foundation, so he was always taking me all over the world. My mother is an artist, and we built a large indigenous art collection when I was growing up. It came naturally to me to want to work with artisans.Monique Pean collection, $1,000 to $300,000, is available at Barneys New York. —Los Angeles Times/MCT
Held at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, the fashion show was a spectacle as graceful models glided past in their flowing abayas and colourful jalabiyas, creating an aura of mystery and enchantment.By Denise MarrayIn the magnificent setting of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, over-looked by Raphael masterpieces, the fashion worlds of east and west merged in a stunning display of elegance, craftsmanship and innovation. ‘Fashion Exchange – The September Show’, part of Qatar UK 2013 Year of Culture, attracted a full-house to revel in the designs of three Qatari designers, Elham al-Ansari, Fathiya Ahmad al-Jaber and Hessa Abdulla al-Mannai, paired with the fantastical headwear of renowned milliner, Philip Treacy and the gorgeous jewellery and handbags of Asprey. This was a bold concept conceived to showcase in a novel way the best of British and Qatari design. It was intended to be a spectacle to stir the imagination; as the graceful models glided past in their flowing abayas and colourful jalabiyas they created an aura of mystery and enchantment.Fashion Exchange was developed by businesswoman and former model Farheen Allsopp and Sheikha Raya al-Khalifa, a writer and contributor to Style.Com Arabia. “The whole point of the Qatar UK Year of Culture is to look at diverse cultures and how we can collaborate,” said Allsopp, who looked amazing in her evening gown. She added that the concept of the fashion show should be viewed in this context: “It’s not really about whether abayas should be worn with hats – it’s about two very different styles coming together and using a platform to collaborate.”The elegant Sheikha Raya al-Khalifa, who favours simple abayas accessorised with jewellery, said: “Women are eager to express themselves through their abayas and that is why we are here today – to present to the west and challenge misconceptions that the abaya is something of an oppressive garment. In fact it is a cultural representation of our modern and modest adaptation of how we adhere to Islam.”Sheikha Raya feels that the abaya can be enjoyed by women without so much attention being paid to the exclusiveness of the label or brand often associated with western designs. “I think we are given a bit more freedom because it levels out the playing field which goes back to our notion in Islam that we are all equal. Whether you pay hundreds for a designer abaya or just a bit – they are all beautiful,” she said.Speaking of the idea to incorporate the headwear of Philip Treacy, who designed hats for 36 guests at the wedding of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, Sheikha Raya said: “Farheen and I thought he was a perfect match. When we went to his studio we immediately saw pieces that were really relevant and looked a bit like Shaylas.”She emphasised that the aim was to “create a dialogue and exchange ideas” over the long term. She explained that mentorships are being set up for Qatari fashion students in London and that connections are being established to build on the work already undertaken. She noted that the fall/winter collections have pieces inspired by the abaya and hopes the garment, like the sari and kimono, will be a global design influence.Designer Fathiya Ahmad al-Jaber said her key fashion inspiration is her mother and she also admired the work of Chanel, Valentino and Alexander McQueen. “My dream is to be a famous designer and I want to show how Gulf women are developing their sense of fashion,” she said. Al-Jaber studied Business and Economics Accounting at Qatar University and now works at the Qatar Foundation. She explained that while she has been designing for 10 years, it was only three years ago that she turned what had been a private hobby within the home into a business. She participated in one of the Roudha Center’s exhibitions which gave her the confidence and practical information to set up her own venture. She designs for women of all ages from 15 to 70.Ed Vaizey, UK Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, speaking at the press conference preceding the show said: “You often don’t hear the voices of the women who are wearing these particular dresses; so when they say, ‘actually the abaya is very comfortable and convenient and we love it and it is a cultural symbol of which we are proud’, these are great messages to hear.”He described the Qatar UK 2013 Year of Culture as being a great success to date and said that during his visit to Doha he had received a very warm welcome. “It was fantastic to see a government that takes culture so seriously and understands how important culture is along with education to help transform a nation,” he said. He paid special tribute to the leading roles in promoting culture played by Sheikha Moza and Sheikha Mayassa.Graham Sheffield, Director of Arts for the British Council and Chair of the Qatar UK 2013 Year of Culture Steering Committee, said: “I think the benefits of the Year of Culture will continue to roll out over the next five to 10 years. There is an awareness that the two countries have the potential to have a much more profound relationship through the medium of arts, science, sport and education.”Asked if he was a ‘fashion aficionado’ he laughingly pointed out that he had made an effort to look his best. “Sitting here wearing my Kenzo suit and my Zegna shirt – I am trying not to be too much of a slouch,” he said. Shareefa Fadhel, Managing Director and Co-founder of the Roudha Center, a one-stop shop supporting female entrepreneurs, said she would like to see more opportunities opening up for Qatari women in the fashion industry. While currently there aren’t enough jobs to absorb the young fashion designers emerging from the universities, she sees positive developments which bode well for the future. “Things are moving fast; you’ve got the Qatar Luxury Group opening which will be looking for aspiring designers as well as many up-and-coming small fashion houses and Fashion Week – so there’s a lot of movement,” she commented. She expects to see a strong focus in the coming years on the role of women in terms of equality, economic development and leadership. At the end of the show, former British ambassador to Qatar, Michael O’Neill paid tribute to the organisers of the event which he described as “a fantastic show in an amazing location which raised understanding of cultures.”VIP guests attending the show included: Mohamed al-Ka’abi, Cultural Attache, Embassy of the State of Qatar, who attended with his son and daughters (al-Ka’abi, sits on the Qatar UK 2013 Steering Committee); Rashid Alduhaimi, 1st Secretary, Embassy of Qatar; Mooza Saif al-Mansouri, wife of the Qatari ambassador; members of the al-Thani family; members of the al-Khalifa ruling family of Bahrain; Tamara Ralph from Ralph and Russo Designs and Cherie Blair.Giving her reaction to the event, Sheikha Noora al-Thani said: “It was a great show that showcased our culture and the traditional clothes we wear. I want to design my own abayas.”* The Year of Culture is a programme of cultural exchanges and events in Qatar and the UK co-ordinated by the Qatar Museums Authority and the British Council with the support of the respective Ministries of Culture and Foreign Affairs and a number of leading Qatari and British cultural and educational organisations. HH the Emir Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad al-Thani and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales are Patrons of Qatar UK 2013.
By Diangelea MillarMark Mahoney has inked some of the top names in Hollywood.Operating out of an upscale tattoo parlour near the western end of the Sunset Strip, the owner of the Shamrock Social Club has become the go-to man for celebrities seeking tattoos.On a recent Thursday evening, wearing a fashionable gray suit over brown alligator-skin shoes, the lanky 56-year-old strolled through the busy studio, decorated with three-leaf clovers and portraits of the Virgin Mary, on his way to his customary 5:30pm-to-1am shift.Several of Mahoney’s nine employees were already at work, their needles buzzing over custom tattoos that cost from $500 for a single sitting to many thousands of dollars for an elaborate tattoo.The salon and its owner are so busy that clients sometimes wait six months for an appointment with the boss, whose Hollywood clients include actors Mickey Rourke and Johnny Depp. Mahoney is so respected that fellow tattoo artists come in to consult with him on new styles and techniques.“He’s legendary in the tattoo world,” said Todd Honma, who teaches a Pomona College course on the art of the tattoo.“Mark is more of a celebrity than the celebrities he does,” said client John Eshaya, a fashion designer who had come in to have Mahoney ink him a new tattoo — his third, with the words “Los Angeles” on his left side. “He’s a beautiful artist. You don’t get them from anybody else.”Success was a long time in coming for the soft-spoken, gray-haired Boston native. Introduced to the art of tattooing as a teenager, Mahoney spent years studying the work of artists in Rhode Island and New York, trying to learn their secrets.“Nobody was willing to share tattoo secrets and teach others,” Mahoney said.Eventually, he headed west and found a home in Long Beach on the Pike, the famed amusement park that was then home to many tattoo artists.It was there that he encountered the fine-line black and gray tattoos that would become his signature style.“It blew my mind,” Mahoney says now. “I knew it’s what I wanted to do — the low-rider, Mexican style that started in the prisons.”Working hard, Mahoney spent years toiling in other tattoo salons before opening his own shop in 1985 — only to lose it within four years, he said, to a crippling heroin addiction.Mahoney went through rehab, and despite the advice of counselors who warned him it would be hard to work as a tattoo artist without returning to drugs, returned to the work he loved. He married, had two children and in 2002 opened the Shamrock Social Club.The late punk rockers Sid Vicious and Johnny Thunders were among Mahoney’s first celebrity clients. Actors and rappers such as Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. followed.His secret? Discretion.“I don’t tell the magazines,” Mahoney said. “I don’t take pictures of them. I don’t let anybody bother them. I treat them like regular people.”Close contact with Hollywood has brought the artist, who lives in Pasadena, Calif., with his wife of 18 years and their two daughters, small roles in the movies Americano and Blood Ties.The late-night hours take him away from his family, which Mahoney says is a “challenge.”“I’m naturally a night owl, but (the work) keeps me away from my wife and kids,” Mahoney said. “I have to make the most of the time we have together.”In his spare time, Mahoney, a regular churchgoer, renovates old cars. The rise of the tattoo as a mainstream product has meant good business for tattoo artists, but also more competition. Mahoney hints that although he’s made a good living from his art, he hasn’t gotten rich.“I’ve been doing this for a long-enough time that I’m at the point where I can live comfortable,” he said, adding, “but not comfortable enough to want my daughter to do it” for a living.He doesn’t expect that to change. The popularity of the tattoo as a form of personal expression, he believes, is here to stay — even with a starting figure of $500.“Tattoos might be a little expensive,” Mahoney said. “But you get a lot out of them.” — Los Angeles Times/MCT
By Booth Moore“Bohemian isn’t a trend; it’s a lifestyle.” That’s the motto upon which LA designer Cynthia Vincent has staked her decade-old brand Twelfth Street, named after the street she grew up on in La Verne, California. The brand is known for its tribal print maxidresses and rompers, serape-stripe cardigans, rugged short Western boots and gladiator wedge sandals, all with a multi-culti, beach-and-canyon vibe.In a city where designers can come and go in a few seasons, Vincent is a fashion success story. She attended LA’s Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design, winning the Silver Thimble Award while she was there. In 1993, she started her first line, St Vincent. She also opened a retail store, Aero & Co in Los Feliz, to feature local independent designers.By 2001, Vincent had moved on as the founding designer of the successful contemporary label Vince. She left two years later with plans to take a sabbatical from fashion at an ashram in India. But Fern Mallis came calling. Then the executive director of New York fashion week’s production company 7th on Sixth, Mallis presented an offer to sponsor a runway show for Vincent at the group’s first LA Fashion Week event.“I knew I would have killed myself if I didn’t do it, so I went to the ashram for 14 days instead of 14 months, took my life savings, which was about $30,000, and started Twelfth Street,” Vincent says.She’s been on an upward trajectory ever since, creating a niche in the contemporary market for her clothing collection, then adding shoes and bags in 2005. Now she does about $12mn in annual sales, and the collection, priced from around $98 for a clutch to $995 for a leather moto jacket, sells at Barneys New York, ShopBop.com, CynthiaVincent.net and other stores. In recent years, Vincent has designed capsule lines for Target and QVC and opened a boutique in New York City.The Twelfth Street label has attracted a steady stream of famous fans along the way, including Gwenyth Paltrow, Beyonce, Jessica Simpson, Kate Hudson, Miley Cyrus and Rachel Bilson.To celebrate 10 years of Twelfth Street, Vincent will be releasing an anniversary collection of celebrity and customer favourites over the next few months. First up are sweaters, including a black-and-white blanket sweater coat ($380) and a cozy “Log Cabin” waist-tie cardigan ($363). Next, she’s thinking about another store, this one in LA. The only question? Where to put it.“I was driving home from my office downtown to my home in Silver Lake, and I realised that it’s really the neighbourhoods that inspire me,” she says. Echo Park, Venice and Topanga Canyon are all source material for prints in the Resort collection hitting stores in October. — Los Angeles Times/MCT\
Deborah Jackson is the owner of The Cotton Club, a clothing store located in Sacramento. She has always made an effort to sell products that were either made in the USA or made by companiesBy Claudia BuckFatal fashion. That’s the derogatory new label dangling over the US clothing industry following a deadly fire and a building collapse that killed more than 1,200 garment factory workers in Bangladesh in recent months.The tragedies in November and April ripped open the unseemly side of the global clothing supply chain, where hundreds of American brands and companies, from H&M to Tommy Hilfiger, from Disney to Wal-Mart, use overseas factories in countries with woeful working conditions.But now, in the wake of the tragedies, a new movement is being stitched together to change the way our T-shirts, tops and trousers are made and labelled.Global sellers such as Wal-Mart are signing on with groups like LaborVoices that promise to get more candid assessments of factory conditions. Bangladesh’s government is being prodded by the United States and others to beef up worker safety. US clothing companies are working on a new labelling system that will track a garment’s manufacturing history.And many consumers are starting to take a closer look at where their clothing comes from. “I don’t ever buy anything that says ‘Made in China’. It doesn’t work for me,” said Lorna Belden, browsing the racks on a recent weekday at the Cotton Club store in midtown Sacramento.Wearing a green LL Bean top made in Peru and a summery scarf from India, the retired dietician from Davis said it’s often impossible to find non-China labels in large stores.As much as possible, Belden said, she prefers to buy apparel made in the United States, Vietnam or South America. “That’s what the consumer wants: transparency and traceability,” said Teresa Nersesyan, an Orange County-based global clothing consultant who’s done more than 600 garment factory inspections in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam, Guatemala and other countries. “People want to know the story behind the garment: They want to know it was made in a socially responsible way and that the environment wasn’t polluted as a result.”But retailers say they often have trouble finding clothes from brands they can trust or at prices customers will pay.When Cotton Club owner Deborah Jackson started in business 22 years ago, she bought only organic cotton, made-in-USA labels, but found the choices increasingly limited and pricier, especially after cotton prices soared in 2005. “It’s very hard to find US-made at a price that people will pay,” she said.Jackson, who travels to four or five garment shows a year, has a global lineup of natural-fibre clothing: brands such as Eucalyptus from Guatemala, Flax from Lithuania, Goddess Gear from Colorado or Cut Loose from San Francisco. “You talk to vendors and hope they’re telling the truth about their factories,” the longtime business owner said. “I want to know that what I’m buying was made under the right circumstances.”Likewise, Jan Sweeney, co-owner of Fleet Feet Boutique, a women’s store in Sacramento, said that in trying to be a “socially conscious” retailer, it takes time to find the right products, particularly those using recycled or ecological materials.Her five-year-old clothing boutique, an offshoot of the larger Fleet Feet running store chain, offers handbags from Aspen, Colorado, Grass Valley and Napa, and a number of American-made clothing lines.“We want to feel good about the products we carry,” she said. “But it does mean that it may not be as inexpensive as a Wal-Mart piece.”The factors that contributed to the Bangladesh disasters are a combination of global, economic and fashion-frenzied forces.As recession-clobbered customers clamoured for ever-cheaper prices, clothing manufacturers started looking for places to cut costs.That led to Bangladesh, where the average garment factory worker’s salary is $38 a month. China’s average is $138.The desire for “fast fashion,” the trendy, low-priced clothing seen in major chains like Forever 21, H&M and Target, also has played a part. Consumers have become accustomed to spending very little on clothing, particularly compared with other household budget categories.“When you walk by a huge display of $1.99 camisoles with thousands of sizes in thousands of different colours, you know somebody got screwed in that supply chain,” said Nersesyan.There’s no way, she said, that a clothing brand’s suppliers can grow the cotton, then process, dye, cut, sew and get that T-shirt or tank top shipped to market at such drastically low prices.Last week, two months after the deadly building collapse, President Barack Obama announced that Bangladesh was suspended from US trading privileges for not enforcing worker-safety standards in its garment industry. In response, the Bangladesh garment manufacturers’ association announced it is stepping up factory inspections and has closed 20 factories. The government’s textile minister also promised that officials will meet with labour groups and factory owners to discuss raising the garment industry’s minimum wage, which was last upped in 2006.On multiple fronts, the Bangladesh fatalities have “pushed all these efforts forward at a breakneck pace,” said Nersesyan, ticking off a number of new developments.LaborVoices, a Silicon Valley startup with financial backing from Wal-Mart, is attempting to get more candid assessments of factory conditions, using cell phone technologies to allow garment workers to report in anonymously, rather than in front of their bosses.Companies like Nike and Patagonia, considered leaders in adopting “life-cycle” assessments of garment manufacturing, have formed the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, with 80 partners such as Kohl’s, Levi’s, Nordstrom and Target.The goal is to develop a consumer label that will rate apparel, from a jacket to a pair of jeans, based on a company’s adherence to environmental and worker-safety practices.Will the Bangladesh tragedies cause a shift in how consumers buy clothes?“In the short term, yes,” said Kimberly Elsbach, professor at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. “But people tend to slip back into old habits. ... It’s tough to keep people vigilant, especially when so many other things fight for our attention.”Elsbach said consumers would need more constant reminders, such as a “humane trade” label, similar to the “fair trade” tags found on edible products in grocery stores or organic food vendors. “If an entire (apparel) chain can guarantee humane trade, it’s easier for someone to say, ‘OK, I’ll just shop at ‘XYZ’ chain, because I know their products are produced humanely,’ “ said the UC Davis professor.Clothes-shopping on a recent summer afternoon in midtown Sacramento, elementary school teacher Suzy Brusca said she typically doesn’t spend too much time checking labels, partly because it’s hard to know how to judge a company’s adherence to worker safety or environmental concerns.“When I look at labels, I don’t know which ones are ethical and which aren’t,” said the Carmichael resident. “But it’s just like with our food, where people started reading labels and following where it came from and what’s in it.“Maybe that’s where we need to go with clothes.” — The Sacramento Bee/MCT
* Spanish garment designer Ananda Pascual (centre) in a conversation with a cutter in Mumbai, India. Pacual co-operates with Creative Handicrafts, a welfare organisation in the city promoting ethical trade. By Alejo Gomez Jacobo Spanish designer Ananda Pascual defines her fashion firm as “positive” and “ethical”. The firm hires marginalised or at-risk women in Latin America and Asia and these employees receive a decent salary and their working conditions are entirely different from those the deadly collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh recently brought to light. “(My company) breaks the rules of the game in the marketplace,” Pascual told in an interview. Named after its owner, the Ananda Pascual fashion firm stands against a fashion industry system whose dire consequences were seen in the collapse of the multi-storey Rana Plaza building that housed multiple garment factories. More than 1,100 people were killed, crushed to death in the rubble of the building. Fashion brands such as the Irish Primark and the Spanish Mango have acknowledged they used the Rana Plaza factories for garments for their lines. In just a year and a half after it was founded, Ananda Pascual has strengthened production of its line of modern futuristic-looking garments, working together with social organisations that employ women in the Mumbai suburbs; Aymara indigenous women in Peru and victims of social exploitation in Cambodia. All employees receive medical insurance and they can turn to social workers for advice. Pascual, now 33, is a native of La Rioja, in northern Spain but her most vivid memories of childhood have to do with a trip at age 16 to the Sahara. Her father took her and two sisters to visit a refugee camp. Later, in 2003 and having already obtained her undergraduate degree in education and finished her first year of fashion design at a school in Madrid, she and other students travelled to India. The trip to give fashion design coaching was made at the invitation of Isabel Martin, a nun who founded the Creative Handicrafts organisation, a not-for-profit group that works with women in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. “It marked a before and an after in the focus of my life,” said Pascual, who was a finalist in the 2012 Source Awards that the Ethical Fashion Forum hands out in London to designers who combine innovation with sustainability. After her experience in India, Pascual never looked back. She joined Design for Development, a Spanish non-government organisation that advises and trains communities to help them successfully market their handicrafts and she made it her business to learn about the realities of fashion design and production in Brazil, Cambodia, Kenya and Nepal. But that was not enough. Learning how the fashion world operated demanded that she join the industry “to take the tools and then apply them to other projects”. Pascual worked for two and a half years for Spanish firms Loewe and Inditex, the clothing empire to which the well-known Zara clothing store chain belongs. “The major fashion firms, including the Spanish ones, have created a machine that needs more and more production so as not to die. “I realised that I did not want to be a part of that inhumane system that is anything but positive. You cannot do aesthetic work at the expense of people’s lives,” she said. Workers’ groups criticise the big Spanish design houses like Inditex, El Corte Ingles and Mango and the multinational companies that take their production, drawn by the low costs, to Asia, Latin America and Africa. Workers contend the big companies do not want to be concerned about safety on the job. “Companies have begun to pay compensation to victims of disasters like the one in Bangladesh, but the problem of exploitation is not solved with money, but with structural reforms,” said Eva Kreisler, spokeswoman for the Clean Clothes Campaign. Composed of 300 unions all over the world, the campaign stands up for the rights of workers in the garment industry. The Rana Plaza disaster sparked action and the Clean Clothes Campaign together with the IndustriALL Global Union, the UNI Global Union and Worker Rights Consortium moved to establish an Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. Scores of major retail labels such as H&M, Benetton and Marks & Spencer signed on to the accord, which covers more than 1,000 garment factories in Bangladesh. Spanish companies Inditex, Mango and El Corte Ingles were among the firms that agreed to sign. Ananda Pascual has for some time now been “matching ethics with attractive products”. The firm employs 40 women in India, eight in Cambodia and 50 in Peru. The Aymara women in Peru also receive counselling from the Madrid Polytechnic University. The female workers employed through Creative Handicrafts in India and Fair Fashion in Cambodia are paid wages that are higher than the minimum in their countries. The women in Peru work in agriculture as their main source of income and they do weaving for Ananda Pascual in their spare time. The garments produced for Ananda Pascual are sent to a warehouse in Madrid and then delivered to clients in Spain or other countries. Ananda Pascual apparel is occasionally on sale in fashion fairs and in shops, but it does most of its business over the Internet, exhibiting its products on its web page ( http://www.anandapascual.eu). Owner Ananda Pascual is convinced that if all the participants in the production process receive more, then the effects of the ethical approach are more enduring. “Because this is fair trade, the benefits are shared out with greater balance throughout the productive chain. To raise greater consciousness we must send out a positive message to people,” she said. – DPA
* Alberto Guardiani, one of the fashion world’s leading shoe designers, was recently in Doha to launch his new collection Rubina Singh talks to creative director Alberto Guardiani about the designing concept behind his fashionable footwear, its popularity among celebrities and why he thinks Qatar is an important market Designers of international repute are increasingly looking towards Qatar as a potential market for style, class and originality. Gone are the days when Europe was the preferred ‘mall next door’ for the affluent and fashionable Qatari women. The time has come where not only homegrown talent is catapulting into the fashion industry but furthermore this is where international labels are now seeking to carve a niche for themselves too. While some brands have already become an integral part of the country’s fashion scene, others are vying get a foothold and it won’t be long before Qatar will be a hub for haute couture designs from around the world. Alberto Guardiani, one of the fashion world’s leading shoe designers, was recently in Doha to launch his new collection. Gallant and charming, both the man and the designs know how to strike a connection with the clientele. When a commodity surpasses its utilitarian purpose and takes on an element of artistic novelty, grace and innovation, it is capable of moving beyond the boundaries of the materialistic to the intangible glory of passion and artistic expression, even if it is something as basic as a shoe. Women across the world love his creations. Lana del Rey, Sting, Mena Suvari are amongst the many celebrities who patronise his designs and Katy Perry had a pale rose satin sandal designed especially for her. Excerpts … You are an internationally acclaimed design label whose ideas are not just adorned by the rich and famous of the glam world but are also displayed in museums as worthy of artistic appreciation. What brings you to Qatar? For many designers Qatar is an exciting market, which is growing by the day. Increasingly the demand for current trends is something that fashion-conscious locals want to see more of and hence my decision to open up here. Not long ago, you stormed the fashion scene with your ‘lipstick’ shoe. Did you ever have the Middle Eastern customer in mind while designing? I think about women as a whole rather than appealing to different nationalities. With the lipstick shoe — it was an obvious creation for success. No woman can live without a killer red lipstick! I’d like to describe my wider women’s range as chic, sassy, whimsical and witty capturing the many different facets of the female personality and that is not bound by borders. What is your impression of Middle Eastern fashion scene? I think it’s very glamorous. The women always look immaculate. Their style is very opulent, with lots of gold, compared to the more classic dress sense of an Italian. Masculine elegance fascinates me a lot whether you wear a white tunic which is always immaculate and perfectly ironed with beautiful sandals, or you wear a formal suit. Arab men are always flawless, elegant and look out for details from the watch to the shoe. It is a pleasure to design a shoe and imagine that it will be worn by them. Elegance is still very important to Arab men, while in the West men prefer casual style and wearing ease instead. The ‘Flutterby’ shoe is a unique design. How did the idea take shape? The ‘Flutterby’ shoe has a hand-printed heel, shaped as a butterfly’s wing. It was actually the winner of the design contest ‘Cinderthriller’ which was launched by the magazine ID. As the caterpillars turn into butterflies so the ‘Flutterby’ shoes range aspires to transform women, to enable them to float with more elegance to their next social event or party. What inspired the ‘Lipstick’ heel and the ‘Butterfly’ design? The idea of the Lipstick heel came from the environment that surrounded my every-day life: I have a wife and three daughters and it was almost obvious thinking about putting together a black pump and such a feminine object. So the lipstick heel was born and its success has been remarkable. Following that, we were thinking about finding a new it-shoe and in 2011 we launched an international design contest called “Cinderthriller” in collaboration with the British magazine ID. After evaluating around 800 shoe sketches sent from 50 different nations, the panel of judges, which included creative consultants, designers and fashion gurus, selected the winning design created by Lady San Pedro, a 28-year-old designer from the Philippines who works in the advertising field and lives in Barcelona. The Flutterby shoe had its official presentation in February 2012 during the Milan Fashion Week and soon became part of our collections as a capsule range. Your designs are available in Dubai and in other parts of the world, what makes Qatar an important market? I realise that this is a very receptive market for the international brands and especially for luxury labels and ‘Made in Italy’ know-how. The clients here belong to an international audience and are interested in new trends coming from the West and greatly appreciate the dynamic fashion market. Does entering the Qatari market mean anything different to you than any other expansion or store opening? I’m excited to bring the Alberto Guardiani brand to Qatar to share our shoes which are renowned for elegant taste, artisanal rigour, and attention to detail. The fashion industry in Doha is booming and we want to be a part of that since we, like Qatar, have a respect for tradition and capacity for innovation — which are two of my key ingredients. Not only are your designs novel in concept, they have also been very popular in competitions and at museums. Isn’t that an unusual combination? Indeed it is. After the success of the Lipstick Heel and of the new iconic shoe ‘Flutterby’, winner of the competition “Cinderthriller”, we received a lot of positive feedback from different markets. For instance, the Flutterby shoe has been featured on the pages of the Financial Times in June 2012, in an article dedicated to special heel shapes, and until the end of April it was present, along with the equally famous ‘Lipstick Heel’, at the museum of the FIT in New York, site of one of the most important exhibitions ‘Shoe Obsession’, dedicated to the world of women’s footwear. On account of our unique design concept, our shoes are not just an accessory, they are also aesthetic designs in themselves which gives the design a lasting artistic value. What are your two most defining elements of your designs? Respect for tradition and capacity for innovation are the two key ingredients to our success along with our ability to mix the traditional know-how of ‘Made in Italy’ with innovation and the experimentation with new materials and design, where elegance never sacrifices comfort and quality. From your perspective, what is the most important aspect of design in a shoe? To me the perfect balance of fine craftsmanship, edgy experimentation and meticulous attention to detail is the most important thing in designing dynamic and contemporary styles. What distinguishes your style and designs from others in the same league? I think our designs are valued for their pristine quality and impeccable comfort, craftsmanship and meticulous attention to detail coexisting in a perfect mix in a product of high ‘Made in Italy’ excellence which reflects our philosophy based on history and tradition, identity and innovation. Is it difficult to come up with such strikingly novel ideas time after time and to be able to adapt them to be utilitarian at the same time? And what are some of the other ingenious ideas you are working on? Not really. We work as a team and each one of us brings our strengths to the table. The end result is an artsistic creation that is a result of creative minds working in unision as a team. In the next autumn/winter collection, the key elements are inspired by the ‘Swinging’ London, so classic British tartan and Op Art effect in a hound’s-tooth pattern are present in stilettos and ankle boots and in sandals and pumps for Flutterby and Lipstick range. In the previous seasons our designs have revolved around fluro colours, tribal atmospheres and jewelled details. What according to you is the single most important criterion that a design must fulfil ... comfort, beauty or style? The most important criterion of all our designs is elegance and comfort. They have to be combined with functionality and contemporary styles, edgy experimentation and meticulous attention to detail. What aspects do you like about this part of the world? I have had the chance to travel a lot to Middle East both for work and for pleasure and I really enjoy the culture, the inspirational Middle East designers and the magical desert landscapes. SUNDAY CONVERSATION I, me, myself My most memorable experience … The capture of my first and terrible 300kg tuna Person who influenced me most My wife who manages the company with me Best thing that ever happened to me The party organised in Japan between Tokyo and Kyushu Island for the first Alberto Guardiani collection realised in Japan in 1990. My greatest fear Losing control of situations My greatest weakness Cooking My strongest personality trait Tenacity My weakest personality trait Swiftness Most dearest treasure My family My favourite celebrity ... A famous couple: Penelope Cruz and Xavier Bardem I love ... Travelling, food, luxury hotels, the sea, game fishing, reading, music, honesty, friends I dislike ... Craftiness, insecurity, arrogance I idolise ... Al Pacino, Paul Mc Cartney I can’t live without... Creating my shoes I can’t live with ... The anxiety if my collection is delayed Gadget I couldn’t do without A little nylon bag where I put my stuff when I’m at the seaside Biggest turn on/ turn off ... I love everything that requires creativity, I don’t like the technical operations ... makes my life worth living Love, the responsibility to my collaborators and their families, nature, friendship I don’t believe in ... Everything which is not good and beautiful Three things to do before I die Death is part of life but I’m feeling young and full of energy and there is still a lot I want to do. Sorry, can’t bring the long list down to three!
Ron Bruns with a pie and peppers from his Bremen Patisserie, a magnet for hot food lovers in Australia. Photographs: Sid AstburyBy Sid AstburyCustomers at Ron Bruns’ Bremen Patisserie at Umina Beach, north of Sydney, tuck into what the German-born pastry chef claims is the hottest meat pie on the planet. They first have to sign a waiver saying they accept that the fiery chilli peppers in the Flaming Ron could trigger a heart attack. “It’s really extraordinary,” he said. “There was a woman in. It took her six minutes. She was flaming. In pain. It’s amazing what they go through.”Another 400km up the coast, Margaret Schumacher is ordering in the chilli jam, chilli chocolate, chilli cakes and even chilli wine for July’s Chilli Festival at Sawtell.She is expecting 12,000 visitors this year and, as usual, has failed to entice the Red Hot Chilli Peppers to headline the show bands. “Once it was just meat and three vegetables,” she said of Australia’s cuisine. “Chilli wasn’t an ingredient we used when we were growing up. But now everyone’s using it.”What links Bruns and Schumacher is the Dutch-born de Wits, a family of capsicum fanatics in Morisset, 110km north of Sydney. They hold the Guinness World Record for the hottest chillies ever grown and have helped Bruns and Schumacher in their quest to put the blowtorch to traditionally bland food.Their Chilli Factory sauces with scary names like Morning Afterburn, Fiery Frillneck Hiss and Scorpion Strike are putting hellfire into what the locals eat.The de Wit’s golf-ball-sized Trinidad Scorpion Butch T measures a mighty 1,463,700 Scoville heat units. That compares with 30,000 units for Tabasco sauce and just 2,750 units for jalapenos. “People are getting more accustomed to chillis and they want them hotter and hotter,” Alex de Wit said. “When we started 13 years ago it was 60% mild and 40% hot, but it’s 65% hot now.”Bruns has applied for the Guinness accolade for his Flaming Ron, which measures 200,650 on the Scoville scale.Business is booming as the fad for fiery food spreads.The de Wits struggle to meet orders for relishes made from the 103 varieties of peppers they grow. Schumacher puts the new taste for piquancy down to Asian holidays that introduce Australians to spicy food. “As well as more people travelling, and chillies being so easy to grow, there are the cooking shows and seeing how you can use them in your cooking,” she said.Chillies also bear the seeds of addiction, according to de Wit, who gave up the computer industry for a career in horticulture. “It’s a natural addiction,” he said. “When you eat chilli you get an endorphin rush like with running. It’s the same trigger. It makes you feel happy so you want more. But it will never be as hot as the first time.”Sydney University researcher Mark Peacock, who helped the de Wits get recognition for the hottest chillies, is a myth-buster when he talks about his postgraduate studies of the Capsicum annuum species.Red ones are not hotter than green ones and big ones are not hotter than small ones. It is not true they grow better in an arid climate than in a humid one.Peacock reckons the strip of coast, north of Sydney, might have the perfect climate for growing them. And another fallacy: it is not the seeds that are the hottest part but the placenta, the strand of white flesh left when the seeds are tripped out.The good news for heat freaks is that natural selection will ensure that the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T, one of around 1,200 strains of the capsicum family, will be challenged for top-dog status as other stains reach their full genetic potential.“The hotter chillies are, the more likely they are to survive,” Peacock said. “But this process of evolution of hotter varieties takes hundreds of years.”De Wit is convinced that there are more Scoville units to be had from the plants in his patch of dirt. “There are rumours out there that if you’re mean to the plant, give it less water, you get a hotter chilli but that’s not true,” he said. “We found that if you treat them really, really well the chillies are hotter.”Dr Peacock agrees that feeding urine collected in a worm farm is helping the de Wits stay ahead of the bunch. “Really healthy soils often contain the right chemistry to support optimal growth but this can certainly be supplemented by using worm juice,” he said.The worm effluent contains the remains of dead insects and triggers mechanisms in the chilli plant to defend itself from a perceived pest attack. — DPA
Roberta, Giorgio’s niece, is a good fit for role as the brand’s ambassador to Hollywood. By Booth Moore There are few designers working today who have had as big an influence on fashion as Giorgio Armani. Founding his company in Milan in 1975, he modernised the suit, giving it a relaxed, soft silhouette, and created a daytime uniform of power and success that defined men’s and women’s style for two decades. He banished the ugly red-carpet excesses of the 1980s and introduced a modern way of dressing beginning in 1990, when his sleek Oscar-night designs for Michelle Pfeiffer and Jodie Foster transformed Hollywood from tacky to tasteful overnight. Since then, he’s dressed seemingly every star in the universe and parlayed his minimalist cool into a global empire encompassing 650 stores worldwide, Armani hotels and eight brands selling such disparate items as Armani sofas and Armani chocolates, plus eyewear in collaboration with Luxottica and fragrance and cosmetics with L’Oreal. But increasingly, it’s not the 78-year-old taut and tanned Giorgio who is the public face of his multibillion-dollar brand but his 43-year-old niece, Roberta Armani. Like most of the big fashion houses in Italy, Giorgio has always kept his family members close, and several of them hold or have held top positions in the company. But Roberta is the most visible, perhaps even the heir apparent, who during two weeks in April travelled to Madrid for the opening of an Emporio Armani boutique, back home to Milan for the Armani Casa presentation at the Salone del Mobile design week and then to Los Angeles to host the Armani-sponsored opening party for the Paris Photo fair. As brand ambassador, her role is to be a model of effortless Armani elegance on the red carpet and to encourage celebrities to do the same. Being a friend to Hollywood can mean holding Anne Hathaway’s hand during an Oscar gown fitting in London or hosting a dinner in Beverly Hills for Sean Penn and his Haitian relief organisation and handing over a $500,000 donation “on behalf of Mr. Armani.” It’s easy to see why Giorgio has chosen her. Roberta is a bubbly brunette who gives a hug by way of introduction instead of a handshake. In contrast to her uncle, there is nothing intimidating about her. She has polished good looks and a camera-ready smile. On this particular day, in the sunny offices above the Rodeo Drive Armani boutique, she’s not dressed in a suit but in a pleated print skirt and matching sandals from the spring Armani collection. “Roberta brings the aesthetic Giorgio created into the 21st century in a very feminine way,” says activist, attorney and former Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver, who has known Roberta for more than 20 years and counts the Armani brand as a donor to his Product Red and Special Olympics charities. “(Armani) didn’t have a person within the company who spoke as a woman to women. She’s become a lot more than Giorgio’s niece. She’s become a force in her own right.” “She’s a supernatural when it comes to public relations and celebrity dealings,” says JJ Martin, a Milan-based journalist who has covered fashion and design for more than a decade. “She’s also young and attractive and makes good Armani-clad arm candy for her uncle or for any one of the million celebrities that he dresses. She’s a fundamental link to him, both internally and externally.” But more than just looking great in the clothes, Roberta Armani has “a tough mindedness,” Shriver says, that’s similar to her uncle’s. To that end, she is never afraid to voice her opinion, especially if she thinks the button-down shirt-and-T-shirt combo you’re wearing makes “you look like a dope,” he says. Roberta was born in 1970 and raised in Milan by her father, Sergio Armani (Giorgio’s brother), who launched the lower-priced Emporio Armani line in 1981. At age 16, she moved to New York City for a summer to work as a saleswoman at the Emporio Armani boutique on Madison Avenue and to study English, which she now speaks almost flawlessly. She was surprised to see how devoted people were to the Armani brand. “I was so honoured,” she says. But before she went to work in the family business, she tried acting, landing a few minor parts. In 2000, she stepped into an official role at the company, taking charge of the global brand and entertainment relations when her uncle saw her talent for communicating with people. “My work could not reflect better my personality,” says Roberta, whose sister Silvana Armani and cousin Andrea Camerana work on the design and commercial sides of the business, respectively. When she’s not travelling, she is at home in Milan, where she lives next to the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, home of Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’. When asked about the speculation that she will be the one to take over if and when her uncle retires, she demurs. “He’s got a great network of managers, and he’s a man of incredible energy,” she says. “He’s going to live forever.” Giorgio, who has no children, has always been a guiding presence in Roberta’s life, especially after her father died in 1993. Over the years, he’s taught her a lot about style. “For one, when you enter room, it’s important to be noticed,” she says. “Another, before you leave the house, always look in the mirror and take a few things off, because there’s always too much.” When Roberta was 20, they attended a film premiere together in Berlin and Giorgio didn’t like the dress she was wearing. So he took off his tuxedo vest and trousers, pulled out a needle and thread, and altered them to fit his niece. “His motto and the motto he raised me on, is ‘Make the world more beautiful,’” she says. Over the years, they’ve bonded over their love of movies. (His favourite is Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious from 1946; hers is Martin Scorsese’s Kundun from 1997.) “Hollywood has been his whole influence,” she says. (Armani has provided costumes for nearly 200 films, including American Gigolo and The Untouchables). “And I’m proud that he was one of the first to understand the importance of the entertainment industry and how celebrities influence the market and sales.” Armani opened his sprawling flagship in Beverly Hills 25 years ago, when it was the first luxury temple of its kind on Rodeo Drive, and hired Wanda McDaniel, a former journalist who is married to Godfather and Million Dollar Baby producer Al Ruddy, to dress the Hollywood elite. McDaniel works closely with Roberta, trading e-mails 24/7 to co-ordinate VIP needs around the globe. At the Milan Armani headquarters, there’s an atelier devoted to red carpet dressing, with designers who can cater to a celebrity’s every whim, whether it’s putting orbital rings on an Armani Prive gown to create Lady Gaga’s unforgettable look for the 2010 Grammys or drawing up sketches of age-appropriate dresses for 9-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis to wear to the 2013 Oscars. Who’s left for Armani to dress? “Michelle Obama,” Roberta says. “She embodies grace and class.” Jessica Chastain was seated between Roberta and Cameron Diaz at the Armani Prive runway show in Paris in January 2012 when she got the call about her Oscar nomination for The Help. There wasn’t time to create a dress for the 2012 Oscars, but she did wear Armani at the 2013 Oscars. The gown, a coppery-nude sequin mesh, was four months in the making. “I met with my uncle, who had ideas about how he saw her, then had his team design sketches and send them to her stylist. It’s a collaboration,” Roberta says. That may be why Armani clothes usually look so right on the red carpet, because he lets stars be who they want to be. “Sometimes you see celebrities get carried away by their gowns on the red carpet,” Roberta says. “But not with Armani.” — Los Angeles Times/MCT
Workplace attire speaks a lot about the person and the organisation. Whether it’s a man or a woman, the formal way of dressing is de rigueur in the corporate culture. Sakshi Vashist looks at various options available – be it readymade, custom-made or designer labels – to find your best fit in Qatar Looking presentable is the first and foremost step for casting a long-lasting impression and clothing is its main ingredient. Dressing in formal attire gives a sophisticated look. Even a person with mediocre looks can impress his interviewer or convince his client if he/she has the right dressing sense. In some careers, formal business attire is a requirement. These may include professions such as law, banking, finance and customer-related jobs such as public relations. Some companies have strict dress codes that prescribe the type of suits or dresses, colour of ties or length of sleeves that employees should wear. Many would not know that formal workplace attire also includes good grooming and appropriate accessories such as the correct shoes, socks and tights. Dress code at a workplace is commonplace in Qatar though there are organisations that doesn’t have the dress code but still insist on formals. The dress code speaks a lot about the organisation. It indicates that all the employees are equally important. It helps in maintaining uniformity in identity of the employees and inculcates a sense of belonging and unity. The type of workplace attire varies from business to business; there is no single correct type of workplace attire. But, the type of clothes someone wears to work sends a message about the person and how he or she views his or her job. This Western style of formal dress is quite popular here. There are two major categories. Firstly, the Business Professional attire, to portray oneself in a professional manner. Careers that require business professional dress on a daily basis include finance and accounting. Men wear formal shirt-trouser with a tie and blazers. Women, on the other hand, can opt either for full/knee length skirt or trouser with shirt or blouse. Second is Business Casual, which basically means ‘tie not necessary’. But it definitely does not call for jeans and T-shirts. Women can wear a collared shirt with trousers and shoes or boots and men can opt for a collared shirt with khaki or tailored trousers along with shoes. A simple look with a plain shirt and trousers belong to this category. Even with formal wear, men can make or break the outfit with the rest of the accessories. The right shoes, either laces or loafers, over dark solid or simply patterned socks looks sophisticated and smart. Sometimes to make normal black-and-white wear look fancier, tie clips and cuff links can be considered. For working women, black trouser, skirts, formal jackets, leggings and blazers find a place in the wardrobe. Designer Layla Asgar Siyabi of LAS Fashions, Qatar, explains workplace formal clothing preferences of women: “Pencil skirts up to the knee in different luxurious fabrics such as heavy weight crepe, duopioni silk or Italian taffeta are comfortable for women. A good fitted blazer with a twist in the lapels and a very sleek chiffon blouse with ruffles are the types of clothing I design to keep a woman’s formal wardrobe fun and vibrant. For more conservative clients, there are full length long skirts, mostly in a mermaid cut to give a sharp silhouette yet keeping it modest.” A well-tailored sailor trouser (that do not cling to body and is a little loose, having a narrowing cut from the top to the ankle) works best with striped shirts or even formal blouses. A splash of colour never hurts, so a pleasant and classic print like paisley can be used. Adding some pastel colours to the shirts and blouses, apart from the neutral colours or shades of black or white, also adds style to everyday formal attire. But one should be particular about belts, strolls, watches, and spectacles while getting ready to go to office. Where someone has an option to mix and match their formal wear, choosing the right attire for the workplace can become tricky, especially if he or she is new and not overly familiar with the work environment. The best rule is to play it safe and follow the lead of others. Here are a few tips … Be specific: Take note of what other people wear around the office. For example, one may think that a three-piece suit is the picture of professionalism, but it may be too much for your work environment. Take care not to overdress or underdress. Be comfortable : Comfort is important when mind is at work. With uncomfortable clothes, an entire day can get ruined. Use discretion: A little discretion is always proper etiquette. The neckline is one example that is applicable for both men and women; it is distracting, inappropriate and unprofessional. Don’t be careless : Wash the work clothes between wearings, and if the clothing is wrinkled, iron it. Messy clothes indicates laziness and carelessness. Do match: The outfit should always match; colours and patterns should not clash with each other. For example, with a conservative suit, don’t wear open-toed shoes, which are decidedly more casual. Similarly, if when wearing a monochrome suit, don’t top it off with a novelty tie. Some workplaces require formal uniforms. These tend to be most common in service occupations, such as an airline flight attendant, or in public service jobs like public dealing offices, restaurants or staff in malls. Uniforms make workers stand out, so those they serve can recognise them easily. The style and variety of these formal uniforms varies tremendously from organisation to organisation. A lot of women in Qatar wear the abaya and it comes as no surprise that some abayas are designed to suit the workplace - keeping them simple and subtle. The greatest myth about dressing well is that you have to spend a great amount of money on shopping. Indeed the deep-pocketed designer devotees can splurge at the luxury wing of Villaggio Mall, which houses designers including the likes of Burberry, Gucci and Fendi. Various internationally acclaimed designers, including Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Valentino and Dolce and Gabbana, now have a presence in Doha’s shopping malls. At The Pearl there are boutiques for high-end designers such as Dior, Alexander McQueen, Armani, Roberto Cavalli and Hugo Boss. A single trip to these outlets for formal wear means spending at least QR1,000 and up. But on the other hand, options of affordably suiting-up is present in the country. Stores such as Gap, Banana Republic and Dunhill offer great selections for formal office wear. Even hypermarkets and supermarkets have numerous brands displayed for customers. Jyothi Lakshmi, a research scientist at Weill Cornell Medical College, Qatar (WCMC-Q) says: “For high-end styling for officewear one can go to Bershka, Zara, Marks & Spencers and H&M, but on lucky days there is good stuff available from Max or Splash at affordable prices. Generally, skirts are priced at around QR100-150 and a good jacket is around QR150-200. Couple it with a shirt to be dressed in formals in just around QR400.” Moreover, there are several fabric shops and tailors in Doha; so getting garments custom-made is not that tough. A variety of high-quality fabric is available in Souk Al Asiery. The souqs have a lot to offer and prices are usually negotiable. One can choose soft, easy to wash daily wear clothing material starting with QR20 per metre. Arnab Chowdhury, a fresh medical graduate exclaims: “I have been going to Kashmir Tailors and Textiles from many years to get my clothes stitched. But more than me my father loves the place as has a lot of suits custom-made from Kashmir Tailors.” Stitching cost of a full formal attire comes up to anywhere between QR300-400. Going to a tailor is a low-cost option to get clothes made to measure. Tailors can usually follow customer’s instructions, work from a picture from a magazine or duplicate an existing garment. This often makes tailoring a cheaper option than buying from designer stores. Word of mouth is usually the best way to find a tailor who is competent and reliable. Standards of workmanship of these tailors are generally very high. While shirts can be tailored in a day, suits take about a week or so. The Al Hitmi Tailor in Souq Faleh, Tash Haute Couture Textiles in Al Sadd and Al Misk at Abdulla Bin Thani Street are favoured by a lot of locals as well as expatriates. Kyra Dress Materials and Tailoring in Mesaieed sells fabric starting from QR50 to QR250 and stitching charges for women’s dresses start at QR35. Such boutiques offer freedom to the customers to choose fabric material, quality of materials like lace or buttons used, as well as a privilege to add personal styling to their formal dress. In today’s competitive world, looking smart and professional is not just a choice or option, it is a necessity. Working professionals in Qatar enjoy a wide spectrum of options in readymade garments imported from India, France and Singapore, and also in textiles from Thailand and Malaysia which can be tailored as per requirement.
By Jenn HarrisSinger and actress Katy Perry is known more for her chart-topping hits than her sartorial ones, but she deserves kudos for her sense of style over the last couple of weeks.At the 2013 ASCAP “I Create Music” Expo in Hollywood, Perry donned a Suno spring 2013 dress with a cellphone print and accessorised with metallic sandals. At the Lacoste Coachella party, she chose a print Dolce & Gabbana skirt. And she wore a striped dress by the Italian fashion house to a news conference for her new film, The Smurfs 2, in Mexico.At the fifth annual Summer of Sony in Cancun, Perry attended a photo call for the film wearing a Monique Lhuillier spring 2013 lace dress that she cinched with a black belt. She finished the look with metallic Jimmy Choo “Anouk” pumps, a blue floral headpiece, blue earrings and Dolce & Gabbana blue-and-white striped cat-eye sunglasses.Flash back to The Smurfs premiere in 2011, when Perry had blonde locks and wore a corset from the Blonds with a picture of Smurfette across the front. What a difference now. For the new film, she may have taken the blue theme to an extreme, but each element was subtle enough for it to work.To get Perry’s look, try the Adrianna Papell scalloped lace dress from Nordstrom for $138. Accessorize with the Asos Rock ‘n’ Rose forget-me-not floral garland headband for $39.90 at Asos.com and the Betsey Johnson polka-dot studs for $17.98 or the blue coin bead earring from White House Black Market for $24.Put on some blue shades with the Marc by Marc Jacobs 59mm sunglasses from Nordstrom for $120, the Seeing Stars Risky sunglasses from UrbanOutfitters.com for $14 or the Dolce & Gabbana blue-and-white sunglasses from SunglassHut.com for $220. Perry’s metallic heels are a welcome contrast to the deep blue. For a similar effect, get the Joe’s Jeans Delores pumps from Designsbystephene.com for $132.95. — Los Angeles Times/MCT
They have been a part of the Middle Eastern culture since time immemorial. Although times have changed and new brands have entered the market, the distinctive Arab tradition of wearing aromatic oils and perfumes have shown no signs of fading. By Sakshi Vashist When Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth, looked at her bloodied hands and cried that all the perfumes of Arabia could not sweeten them, perhaps she too knew that the scent of rose, jasmine and amber have the mystical power to wash away almost anything. Perfumery, or the art of making perfumes, began in ancient Egypt but was developed and further refined by the Romans, the Persians and the Arabs. It’s an Arab tradition to use aromatic oils as a base for perfumes, called attar. The word ‘attar’, ‘ittar’ or ‘othr’ is basically an Arabic word which means ‘scent’, derived from the Persian word ‘Atr’, meaning ‘fragrance’. A 9th century Abbasid scientist, Abu Yusuf Yaqub bin Ishaaq al-Kindi, is considered the founder of the Arabic perfume industry. Ittars, long been considered one of the most treasured of material possessions, are popular not only in Qatar, but throughout the Middle East. These natural perfumes are affordable because they are so concentrated that a small bottle will last for several weeks, if not months. For the same reason, they are usually offered for sale in small quantities, traditionally in decorated crystal cut type bottles or small jewelled decanters. Due to the purity and the nature of oils, there is very little chance of spoilage. Additionally, since these perfumes are highly concentrated, a small drop makes the aroma last the whole day. It is also amazing how the aroma’s intensity changes with the changes of body temperature. Their peculiarity is that they are made only from natural ingredients and doesn’t contain any alcohol. Perfumes are very powerful agent in our social life. Therefore, it becomes important to choose the right perfume. To begin with, there is whole lot of variety available and secondly, you need to consider how it makes you feel. These Arabic fragrances are unique and there is bound to be one that will appeal to your senses. Jo Malone, a popular perfume outlet in Villaggio Mall, offers a variety of ouds and ittars. Their latest collection ‘Sugar & Spice’ is artfully displayed along with savouries which resembles the sweet or fruity smell in the perfumes. The display of ginger biscuit, lemon tart, bitter orange and chocolate and red currant and cream help the customers make an easy comparison in distinguishing fragrances. Arabic perfumes can have woody, oriental, flowery or fruity bases with notes of musk, amber, cedar, spices, citrus, sandal and cashmere wood that make them appealing. Most commonly the oils used in making perfumes are obtained from the herbs, flowers and wood. They are then distilled into a wood base such as sandalwood and then aged. The ageing period can last from one to 10 years depending on the botanicals used and the results desired. Frankincense, an aromatic resin, is also a key ingredient in making Arabic perfumes. The common fragrance for men is Dhan al Ward or rose flower oil. In the Middle-East, cultivation of this damask rose, a 30-petalled flower, takes place in the Valley of Taif in Saudi Arabia, which is used in the finest Arabian perfumes for men. Exports of flowers from Egypt form the base of many of these. There are some other natural sources that are commonly used to make Arabic perfumes. The first is oud. Oud is naturally fragranced wood that can be used on the skin or burnt to let the smoke spread a smell in the house or on your clothes. It originates from the Aquilaria trees found in India and Southeast Asia. The wood found inside these trees gets a particular mould which gives it a unique fragrance. The initial scent of oud is quite strong but over time it becomes more subtle and is quite lasting. Then there is bukhoor which are pieces of wood chips called agarwood which have been scented with fragrant oils. The smell of bukhoor signifies special occasions like weddings, and its fragrance helps to create feelings of wellbeing in social gatherings or in homes. Both oud and bukhoor leave a distinctive smell not only in homes but also in shopping malls and souks. These incense and fragrant herbs burnt for fragrance are very popular in the country. A variety and affordable oud wood for burning at homes or shops are available at Hamil Al Mesk Centre, Qatar. Hamil Al Mesk Centre have been selling ouds and perfumes since 1993. They have five outlets across Qatar and have a huge variety of ittars, ambers and ouds. Although most of their perfumes are imported from Dubai, they are manufactured with natural ingredients imported from across the world. ‘Oud Sharqia’ is the most loved product and customers come looking for it not only for their own personal use but also for gifting purposes. Perfumers choose two to three kinds of ingredients from more than a hundred flower oils and spices. Like ancient times, many perfumes are still blended by hand. There is an ancient Egyptian method of crushing the flower petals in wooden pressing machines to extract oil which is blended with spices. Manufacturing, nowadays, is also done in fully automated mechanised units where, after selection of the essential oils, the perfumes are filled and bottled and packaged by machines, to cater to the growing international demand. Based on their manufacture Arabic perfumes can be classified as follows: Floral: Manufactured from single species of flower are under this category like gulab, kewra, motia, gulhina, chameli and kadam. Herbal: Manufactured from combination of flowers, herbs and spices like hina and its various forms viz. shamama, shamam-tu-amber, musk amber and musk hina. They can also be classified based on their effect on human body: Warm: Ittars such as musk, amber, kesar (saffron), and oud are used in winters, they increase the body temperature. Cool: Like rose, jasmine, khus, kewda and mogra are used in summers and are cooling for the body. The composition of a perfume is called “accord”, and describes the three set of “notes” that appear gradually on top of each other, thus creating an olfactive harmony. Top notes (head) The compounds that make up the top notes are usually sharp and volatile. When you spray the perfume on, you get the impression of these notes first. This note will last for about 10-20 minutes before they evaporate. Middle notes (heart) These scents appear just before the top notes fade and are usually rounded and soft. Rose, jasmine and lily scents are typical middle notes. The “heart”, in combination with the base notes, gives the perfume its main character. The middle notes usually appear a few minutes after application and will last about three-six hours on the skin. Base notes (drydown) These scents are heavy and large molecules that evaporate slowly. They emerge late in fragrant compositions and have a rich and deep character. They are also used to give lasting power to the perfume. You will probably detect the first base notes between half an hour to an hour after initial spray, and they can last up to 24 hours on the skin. Ajmal Perfumes has established itself as one of the premier fragrance houses in the Gulf region. Marketing of perfumes is an art itself and aesthetics plays a huge role here in determining the shapes of the extravagant bottles. Packaging is, hence, equally important these days. The perfume must look beautiful as well as smell nice. There are special designers to create unique bottles for each product. There are many famous Arabic perfume brands in Qatar and almost all shopping malls and beauty outlets keep them to cater to the demand. A beauty and perfume outlet Faces keeps exclusive and exquisite items. ‘Julliete has a Gun’, a midnight oud made in France, exclusively available only at Faces is priced around QR300 for 50ml. For giving their customers a knowledge of what inspires their most expensive perfume collection, the outlet ‘Opulent Shaik’ has displayed a know-about too. This helps in marketing of this QR1,400 majestic perfume and in fact helps the potential buyers connect with the product. Arabic perfumes share the story of rich cultural heritage of the Middle East and have become popular among people of all nationalities. A fusion of Arabic and European scents are also now available in Qatar, like the renowned brand Chanel. The trend and appeal of Arabic perfumes have given birth to online retailers like Zahras Boutique which serves to countries across the world through online sales. Even Amazon.com has a wide range of Arabic perfumes starting from QR8. The craft of perfumery has been an essential part of Islamic culture. Steeped in exotic and local traditions, the aromatic oils have long been alluring the world with their distinct fragrances and are now synonymous with ancient heritage as well as fine luxury. * Oud Imperial is a popular men’s brand available in Qatar.
By Staci Sturrock Manolo Blahnik isn’t above admiring his own work, and why should he be? “These I adore!” he said to a fan who handed over one of her pink satin, jewel-embellished pumps for his signature during the recent heel hullabaloo at Neiman Marcus in Palm Beach. When another admirer confessed to Blahnik that she owned more of his shoes than any other designer’s because his are so comfortable, he cooed, “Oh, I love you! That’s a great compliment!” and pretended to kiss her hand. At 70, Blahnik remains as flamboyant as his spring crop of Peeps-coloured, patent-leather pumps. He attended the Neiman’s meet-and-greet wearing a 20-year-old lilac suit, a pink-and-white bow tie and white oxfords, and a ready smile. “Is it summer? No. Is it winter? No. I don’t even know what it is,” he said of his outfit, a few minutes prior to making his way — accompanied by a pair of swirling flamenco dancers, a nod to his Spanish roots — toward the ladies shoe salon, which was wall to wall, heel to toe, nothing but Manolo, just for the occasion. “I always get surprised with the reception, that people know me,” said Blahnik. “Yes, they know my shoes, yes, but not me. It’s always a surprise — what the hell is this for?” Born in Spain and raised in the Canary Islands, Blahnik’s first career was that of a set designer in Paris. On a visit to New York City in 1970, he showed some of his theatrical drawings to Diana Vreeland, then the editor of Vogue, and she decreed that he should focus on shoes. In an era of earth tones and clownishness and clunk, Blahnik’s design signatures stood out: colour, elegance, pointed toes and delicate heels. Over the decades, his work won the hearts of Jacqueline Onassis and Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, Princess Diana and Kate Middleton, Anna Wintour and Rihanna. And thanks to Sarah Jessica Parker’s shoe-obsessed Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City, the Blahnik mystique reached a mass audience. “He’s just a special person, and if you’re a Sex and the City woman, you know his name, and you feel like you know him,” said Lenore Frost of Palm Beach. Frost and her friend, Palm Beach’s Janet Levy, bought flats from Blahnik’s limited-edition, 14-style Palm Beach collection. Created solely for the island’s Neiman Marcus, the shoes in the series range in price from $595 to $1,685. They guarantee happy feet, said Levy, who received double kisses and hugs from the designer. “He’s a great personality,” she said. “And he’s really working the crowd.” And he did so, signing books, shoebox lids and T-shirts, despite seeming a little frazzled by his jet-set schedule. When did he arrive in Palm Beach?, someone asked. “Yesterday? Is it? Um, I need someone to help me!” he said. “I was always like that. I wake up somewhere and say, ‘I’m going to Central Park,’ but I’m not in New York any longer. The thing is, if you do work in Italy, you live in London, you have a home here and a home there, you don’t have a proper life. I’m sorry, but I’m dying to be in one place with just one dog and some housekeeper.” But Blahnik has no plans for retirement. “No! No, no, no, no!” said the designer-cobbler, who still perfects the lasts on which his shoes are built with his own hands. “Retirement? How boring! I enjoy what I do. I love my life.” There are still too many women, and men, who require his exacting services, his eye for the extraordinary. Women have been fascinated with shoes as long as they’ve worn them, “but now I think men react much more to women’s shoes than women themselves,” said Blahnik. “I always hear from the husbands because (their wives) spend too much money on my things.” — Palm Beach Post/MCT * Manolo Blahnik signs shoes for Janet Levy and Lonore Frost at Neiman Marcus in Palm Beach, Florida.
By Marione Borela Lineses Caviar, crystal, air brushing, glitters, transfer foil, acrylic, gel enhancements, buillion beads …’ the list of materials goes on! It’s definitely fun having them on but it’s not that easy to do at first! And if you haven’t already plunged into the interesting and creative world of nail art, meet entrepreneur and technician Tamara Simmons to know more about this vibrant trend. Nail art has been a part of the fashion world long ago. It can be traced back to 3000BC when the Chinese were decorating their nails to leave a pink finish and around the same period the Indians would use a henna derived dye to colour their fingernails. The Egyptian women too would colour their nails, informs Tamara. Tamara is the owner of the Belleza Salon, the first Sri Lankan salon in the country situated along Al Nasr Street. It was a major shift in her career from working in the human resources department for a decade to change over to the hair and beauty industry. To make the transition she even took up a beauty course and graduated being the top of her class, “I knew that was my calling,” she reflects. Now that nail art is quite in vogue, she pursued and excelled in the Advanced Nail Technician Course and proudly flaunts her array of work samples at the salon. The 3-D colourful creations look almost edible and the caviar effect proves to be quite eye-catching. Other materials like rhinestones, charms, studs, pearls, even Swarovski crystals are available for nail technicians to bring about that desired look. The procedure could take around three hours and more, depending on the length, complexity and intricacy of the nail art. Any style could possibly be made to suit an occasion, such as a prom night, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, New Year, kids nail art and many more, she points out. “Nail art in Doha has become a big hit, everyone loves to try out something new and something different. And there are so many innovations, creative things that are in the market to choose from,” Tamara adds. The most popular design clients ask for in her salon is the Gel Nails with French Tip and a simple nail art. If you’re looking for new chic designs then start browsing some videos from YouTube, “that’s where I get some inspiration from,” Tamara cheerfully says. The procedure The procedure Here’s how Tamara did a model’s nail art — it’s called Murano glass-inspired nail art with gold leaf. Trim and push the cuticles to prep it up, and fix the French tip to her natural nail. Then put the primer on it before the gel. Once the nail has worked with the gel, add the nail art using gold leaf, nail polish, and a few other nail art accessories. Then seal it with the gel top coat for a longer lasting effect. Price: Nail art could vary from anything between QR100-300, depending on occasion, style and products used. For bookings, visit www.bellezzas.com
Television personality Louise Roe shows off her extensive wardrobe and accessories at her West Hollywood home.By Jenn Harris It’s no surprise that Louise Roe, the 31-year-old model, fashion journalist and new host of NBC’s Fashion Star, has transformed an entire room of her West Hollywood home into her own personal closet space. It’s a small room, decorated with pictures of her family, where she plays dress-up amid racks of shoes, dresses, handbags and an impressive collection of costume jewellery.On a day in late February, Roe has all of her Oscar week outfits neatly organised on a rack. White and black pairs of Jimmy Choo heels, a yellow pair of Steve Madden heels and a pair of print Carvelas are laid out at the foot of one rack. An acid yellow bag sits next to a vegan purple crocodile clutch by Heather Belle and a week’s worth of accessories.It’s a fashion lover’s paradise, and Roe is queen of the kingdom.She navigates her closet as if it’s a well-organised small department store. A large rack of shoes displays studded heels, animal print flats, cap-toe heels and stilettos in bright pink and yellow and teal. A prized pair of bronze metallic sneakers sits on the floor, saved for when “I’m feeling like a rock star,” she says. Fashion books are tucked under a small end table covered with jewellery. Rings, earrings, necklaces and bracelets of every style are wrapped around a jewellery stand. She stops to point out pyramid bangles by Lia Sophia. Headpieces from Urban Outfitters and American Eagle litter the top of the table.Roe is dressed in a pair of watercolour print trousers from her friend’s label Fennes d’Armes, a poppy-coloured top by Express and purple shoes by Carvela. She likes to support smaller designers rather than exclusively wearing big names, and her outfit is the perfect expression of the way she mixes designer labels with affordable brands for a look that’s on trend but attainable.“My personal style is very bright, and I don’t know if that’s because, well, wearing bright colours makes me feel happier than wearing just black,” says Roe as she fiddles with her oversized Kimberly McDonald ring. She admires the way Kate Bosworth, Miranda Kerr and Olivia Palermo dress and looks up to designers Diane von Furstenberg, Tory Burch and Rachel Roy.When it comes to beauty, Roe keeps it simple. Her favourite products include Lancome brightening serum, a Makeup Forever brow pencil and Maybelline mascara. “I’ve used it since I was probably too young to even wear mascara,” Roe jokes. She favours one fragrance — See by Chloe — because “It makes me think of Paris.”Roe is into prints at the moment, especially Mary Katrantzou, Peter Pilotto and Holly Fulton out of London, and she cites the 1970s as her main style inspiration.“I love that era of quite boho but bold, everything from like Bianca Jagger’s white wedding suit to Lauren Hutton in cut-off jeans or Farrah Fawcett in high-waisted trousers ... I just love all that.” To this day, Roe keeps a scrapbook she fills with pictures she rips out of her favourite fashion magazines. Roe brought her love of prints and colours to her Fashion Star wardrobe, which she styled herself, with help from Daniel Musto, wardrobe stylist for the show. She replaced original host Elle McPherson when the show started its second season March 8 and viewers can expect to see brightly coloured gowns, prints and even a Tibi suit. Her favourite is a dress with acrylic fins she’ll wear on the show’s finale May 10 — a dress she describes as “epic.”Fashion Star is just one of Roe’s many endeavours. She is also a designer for the site Stylistpicks.com and has just come out with her fourth season of handbags and shoes for the line, her favourite being an acid yellow bag.“I want to eat it, it’s come out so beautifully,” Roe said of the bag.Once Fashion Star’s season ends, fans can see more of Roe on a new weekly show with the Style Network called Pop Style, slated to premiere in April. She’ll join co-host Jeannie Mai for the network’s first live show focused on pop culture and fashion news.“It’s a little bit of The Soup meets Fashion Police meets like a smidge of Ellen with a little bit of the Sports Center idea thrown in,” Roe says. Roe also hosts Plain Jane, a makeover show on MTV International that airs in 66 countries around the globe.She wanted to make her accessories line accessible to fans of that show, who are sometimes as young as 12 years old, so prices for her line range from $60 to $70 for a pair of shoes or bag.“I get tweets and Facebooks, and they are so passionate about dressing up and having fun with fashion and beauty that it just seems fair to make it attainable to everybody,” Roe says. “If you’re saving up your pocket money for a cool bag, I just think that is what fashion should be.” — Los Angeles Times/MCT