Dima Ayad

Jessica Kahawaty and Rita Kahawaty Ace Mother-Daughter Dressing in Matching Dima Ayad Kaftans

Jessica Kahawaty and Rita Kahawaty Ace Mother-Daughter Dressing in Matching Dima Ayad Kaftans

Photo: Instagram.com/jessicakahawaty
Jessica Kahawaty recently made a case for the rare but sumptuous combination of white and gold for the month of Ramadan. Attending an event in Dubai, the Lebanese model and philanthropist took to the occasion in a twinning ensemble with her mother, chef Rita Kahawaty.
Photo: Instagram.com/jessicakahawaty
The mother-daughter duo was seen dressed in dazzling kaftans from fellow Lebanese Dima Ayad‘s namesake label, in complementing metallic shades. While Jessica’s piece of choice came with a panel of gold sequins on top of the white kaftan, her mother’s featured the same, but in silver. The sequins extended to the arms of both breezy numbers, before making way for sheer flute sleeves in white. Jessica completed her look with a matte gold choker, earrings, rings, and a bracelet by Bulgari, with a handbag and platform sandals in the same color. As for Rita, she too accessorized her kaftan with a matching dainty necklace and drop earrings from the Italian jeweler, and went for a metallic silver clutch.

Jessica also served up beauty inspiration with her glam for the day. Although wearing your hair down with a kaftan adds to the elegance of the piece, also consider tying it up in a high ponytail as the 33-year-old did for a sleeker finish. Not only did Jessica Kahawaty’s hairstyle balance out the voluminous kaftan, it also allowed its details—and her jewelry—to shine. For her makeup, Jessica kept it minimal with subtle winged liner, a pinky nude pout, and glowy skin topped off with subtle gold highlighter ideal for both iftar evenings and suhoor nights.
How Jessica Kahawaty and mom Rita Kahawaty nail mother-daughter dressing
If you follow the Kahawatys on Instagram, you may already be aware that this Ramadan outing wasn’t the first time Jessica Kahawaty has twinned with her mother. By the looks of it, the two women love matching their looks, and have been seen in everything from coordinated hats to headscarves over the years. Below is a brief look at some of the sweetest pictures of the duo in matching ensembles.

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Dima Ayad Pens an Emotional Letter About Her Late Mother, Who Inspired Her Latest Collection

Dima Ayad Pens an Emotional Letter About Her Late Mother, Who Inspired Her Latest Collection

Photo: Courtesy Dima Ayad
Dubai-based designer Dima Ayad dedicates her newest collection to her late mother, bringing life to her lasting elegance once more. Here, she pens a heartfelt tribute
There was a song I heard many years ago that stuck with me and gave me chills every time I heard it – Mat Kearney’s ‘Closer to Love’. There’s a line that goes, “We’re all one phone call from our knees.” I got that call. And suddenly everything changed. In a split second I lost the most precious person in the world to me, my mother. November 28, 2021, will be a date imprinted in me forever.
“She’s in a better place,” they said. “She’s watching over you,” they said. “She’ll never leave you,” they said. “She’s not here,” I said. My saving grace every time I feel it’s too painful to bear is that this is a life lesson we all must endure – we will all grieve someone at some point and that is life.
My bright, seven- year-old niece asked my sister, “Mommy, what do you remember most about Teta?” My sister’s answer was instant: “Her elegance.” I would have replied exactly that and added to it many anecdotes. My mother was effortlessly elegant. It was a characteristic that made her the envy of many. Even as adolescents in the 80s, my sister and I saw how other women (and men) looked at our mother. It wasn’t just what she wore; it was the way she moved, uttered, glanced, spoke. She was an aristocrat – blue-blooded, and we aspired to look like her, to mimic her as much as we could.
Mom barely wore any makeup and believed in looking natural. I’m the same. If I were to think of her colors in the 80s, they were bronze, brass, latte, and often red and all its shades. When she found something she loved, she bought it in every color. I recall Carita nail polish – a shade that mixed bougainvillea fuchsia and red. No one else wore it. Or if they did, it sure didn’t look the same on anyone else.
Mom had such a refined sense of fashion and wore labels like Max Mara, Lanvin, Ellen Tracy, Issey Miyake, and Dana Buchman in her later years. She always discovered brands – Nicole Farhi back in the day. I remember her Fendi handbags, Gucci clutches, Dior dresses, YSL pants, and Chanel bags and accessories, all perfumed with her distinct Clinique Aromatics Elixir. Mom loved pastels, knits, a bit of bling, and linen, and we always marveled that she looked like the models in fashion magazines. We used to stay up late sometimes and watch Dallas with her – we caught Sue Ellen Ewing wearing pieces Mom had in her cupboard. Dynasty, too.
Photo: Courtesy Dima Ayad

How do I pay tribute to you, Mom? In everything I do. I will stand tall, the way you asked me to. I’ll push through, the way you taught me. I’ll work tirelessly to make you proud of me in everything. We’re very similar, Mom and I – both Aquarians, both into fashion, both stubborn, opinionated, and definitely both living in our own bubble most of the time.
I’ve been going through all our WhatsApp conversations, which mainly consisted of food journals – something new she’d discovered, a restaurant I craved to take her to, and screen shots of clothes. Her opinion mattered and so did mine. I feared and respected her opinion when I launched a collection. She was always brutally honest and was vocal about her likes and dislikes.
Mom’s name is Iman. Iman means faith. I decided to pour all my grief into a collection in her honor–the Faith collection. I went into Iman’s archives, her colors, and her preferred silhouettes, and created this collection. Abayas at home with a twist, a breathtaking selection I inherited, were recreated in this collection.
Photo: Courtesy Dima Ayad
Remaining true to the Dima Ayad aesthetic, it has bling, it has warm tones–using blush pink, burgundy, creams, and navy blue. For some more dramatic pieces, I chose electric green, gold, and some shimmery tulles that are lightly textured. There’s something dreamy and romantic about it. Faith is made up of a selection of fabrics: a mix of lamés, plenty of pleats, and comfortable evening wear that is ideal for the coming months.
Photo: Courtesy Dima Ayad
The collection comes in a series of colors, just how Iman would have wanted it, and in all shapes and sizes, of course. It is timeless and can be worn for a long time to come. I had two models on set, somewhat mimicking my sister Myrna and me. I was forever the curvy one and Myrna had her own unique aesthetic. I had the models’ hair tied back exactly how my mother wore hers in her final years, and let the clothes speak for themselves.
Mom, if you’re watching, I want to thank you for making me who I am. I love you deeply. This one’s for you.
Your baby, Dima.
Photo: Courtesy Dima Ayad

Originally published in the March 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia

These Regional Designers Have Joined Forces to Dress Women of All Sizes

These Regional Designers Have Joined Forces to Dress Women of All Sizes

In the name of inclusivity, Dima Ayad asks regional designers to dress women of all sizes. Will they be up for the challenge?
From left: Lama Jouni, Reema Al Banna, Laura Leonide, Dima Ayad, and Mariam Yeya. Photographed by Rudolf Azzi for Vogue Arabia September 2021Dubai-based womenswear designer Dima Ayad tells a story many can relate to. Traveling abroad to attend a wedding, upon arrival she discovered that her bag had been lost along the way. She headed to the city to pick out a new dress, only to discover that women of all sizes were not all being catered to. Miserable, Ayad returned home, deciding to overlook the wedding altogether.
Dima Ayad and Laura Leonide wearing Dima Ayad. Photographed by Rudolf Azzi
“The lack of availability of clothes for an oversized person is frustrating,” Ayad says. “You go to the mall and find just one store that sells oversized clothes. But we each have a style that needs to be catered to.” Even exercise clothes are regularly off-limits. “If an oversized woman wants to exercise, she will not be able to find anything to wear, even something as simple as leggings. Some big brands are working on this, but barely.”
Laura Leonide and Lama Jouni wearing Lama Jouni. Photographed by Rudolf Azzi
Ayad is determined to redress the balance and her frustration is fuelling the launch of her new sportswear and leisure brand. Unflinching in her belief that all women deserve to wear exquisitely crafted clothes, she reached out to her peers and friends Reema Al Banna of Reemami, Lama Jouni, and Mariam Yeya of Mrs Keepa to join her on this journey towards inclusivity. While not everyone she approached could get involved, the ones who did, did so with gusto. “It’s not that designers are not keen, it’s all supply and demand,” remarks Egyptian-French designer Mariam Yeya of Mrs Keepa, a longtime friend of Ayad’s. “We launched a collection and we don’t provide size; most of the collection is on a preorder basis. People are free to order what they want. The biggest one I have received is a size 44. I don’t think that the designer should be blamed for not being inclusive, it’s also down to the buyers from big department stores. Most often they choose the sizes and collection and they rarely ask for bigger sizes.”
Laura Leonide wearing Lama Jouni. Photographed by Rudolf Azzi
Ayad explains, “I asked Mariam to be part of this journey with me, because she shares the same values in the fashion space as I do but also because when you see Mrs Keepa’s design aesthetic, you wouldn’t imagine it suiting larger-sized women.” Yeya agrees, “The brand’s aesthetics are very eclectic, avant garde, and with big silhouettes. I always say that there’s a thin line between something looking good on and it making the person look funny. I don’t do big sizes, not because I don’t want to include every shape, but because the brand DNA won’t look flattering. I go all out with my creativity, with print, drapery, and asymmetry, and everything has to fit properly.”
Laura Leonide and Mariam Yeya wearing Mrs Keepa. Photographed by Rudolf Azzi
Not unlike Mrs Keepa, at first glance, Lama Jouni may come across as a strange choice for this collaboration, since she’s known for her formfitting pieces. Jouni’s clients are often photographed flaunting muscle definition through her peek-a-boo clothes. “Body confidence with your curves is the right thing to do,” affirms Ayad. “I think it’s time that we show that anyone can wear Lama Jouni.” The Lebanese designer concurs. “I always admire women who know what they want and work toward that goal. I like to work with people who challenge me. Dima is one designer who inspires me so much.” Accustomed to creating for an athletically honed clientele, Jouni confesses that dressing larger silhouettes was a challenge. “I’m not shy to admit that my knowledge isn’t that strong when it comes to larger sizes. It was a great introduction to start thinking of women of all sizes, especially when my strength is in creating essential wear,” she says. Jouni’s piece is entirely her style. Designed for Ayad’s body, it’s form-fitted, a touch revealing in the right places, and incredibly flattering. The positioning of the straps is perhaps the only giveaway that this piece represents a departure from the norm. Vogue Arabia Fashion Prize winner Reema Al Banna, the designer behind Reemami, was particularly taken with the idea of creating a unique blazer featuring her signature prints. The jacket features a shoulder cut-out with trims along the sleeves; something that’s become a hallmark of Al Banna’s work. Tailored pants complete the look. The suit is a Reemami classic, but for a fuller frame, and it works perfectly.
Laura Leonide and Reema Al Banna wearing Reemami. Photographed by Rudolf Azzi
“Dressing Dima is amazing, as she embodies strength, confidence, and femininity,” says Al Banna. “I love and support the noise she’s creating around embracing and supporting all body types, which is also ingrained in Reemami.” Observing her flowing dress with white and green teardrop shapes that accentuate the form, designer Yeya proclaims, “I don’t believe in inclusive design. I believe that – individually – we all have different body types and the DNA of Mrs Keepa caters to that.” Ayad hopes that this coming together of some of the most talented designers in the Middle East will challenge conventions and assumptions, while also turning heads. The fashion industry has always catered to an ideal – and one that few women ever reach. Ayad and her collaborators are already thinking about dressing women of all sizes. The aim is that the pieces that emerge from this blending of talent will inspire others to continue to change how and for whom they design, offering all women an opportunity to dress themselves in a manner that reflects both body and spirit.
Laura Leonide wearing Reemami. Photographed by Rudolf Azzi
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Originally published in the September 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia
Style: Amine JreissatiHair: Natalie CropperMakeup: Bethany Lea PentelowMakeup assistant: Kerris CharlesProduction: Ankita Chandra

Support Local Designers While Doing Your Ramadan Shopping at This New Exhibition in Dubai

Support Local Designers While Doing Your Ramadan Shopping at This New Exhibition in Dubai

Salama Khalfan and Ghizlan Guenez. Photo: Courtesy of Sawa
A new exhibition bringing together local designers, business owners, and creatives under one roof is set to take off today, April 7. Named Sawa (meaning together), the pre-Ramadan initiative was launched by Emirati jewelry designer Salama Khalfan and co-founder of The Modist Ghizlan Guenez. With a shared goal and strong motivation, the two entrepreneurs teamed up on the exhibition to help the local businesses and talents that have been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and boost the UAE’s creative scene.

Ahead of Sawa’s opening at Alserkal Avenue today, we caught up with Guenez and Salama to know more about their initiative, how it all began and what visitors can expect from the exhibition.
How did this collaboration come to be?
Ghizlan: Salama and I have been friends for a long time. We are close friends, we’re both entrepreneurs and we’re both in the same space — the fashion and creative industries. About three weeks ago, over dinner at hers, we were talking about Covid-19 and the impact the pandemic has had on all of us. We were saying how for the first time, all of us in the world are struggling with the same thing and experiencing the same challenge.
Salama was also talking about her frustration with how the brands who used to be able to pay fees in Ramadan exhibitions in the past, can no longer do the same today given the impact and given how their businesses have been challenged by the pandemic.  She threw the idea and said let’s do something together to support the system and it didn’t take me a second to jump on it. Within minutes, we were sitting with a pen and paper and our notepads and just jotting down what we needed to do, how we needed to put it together, who’s in our network, who could potentially reach out to to get support from, and that’s how the idea was born.
Farha Designs. Photo: Courtesy
What can visitors expect from the exhibition?
Ghizlan and Salama: We have around 58 brands at the exhibition. They’re brands that we know and love but there are also some brands that are going to be discovered by shoppers at the exhibitions.
There’s a combination of established local and regional designers like Shatha Essa, Dima Ayad, Bambah, Bouguessa, Odeem, and then there are others who are local designers or designers based in the UAE which the shoppers may not have heard of before but have beautiful products.
It’s all curated in a way that is relevant to the month of Ramadan, including some exclusive pieces that have been created for Sawa itself. It’s a space where there are beautiful products. Still, there’s also incredible positive energy of collaboration and coming together. Truly the intention of supporting one and the other, being part of this ecosystem and uplifting it, given that we’re all in it together.
Bouguessa. Photo: Courtesy
Why is it important to support local designers and businesses at such a time?
Ghizlan: Salama says you can’t achieve any success in-silo. If any of us want to succeed, all of us must uplift one another; we’ve all been impacted. There’s a level of empathy around what is happening around us, and it is essential that a collaborative effort must take place during these times, in our industry, and that’s actually one of our goals.
By launching the Sawa initiative, other people in other industries and spaces would be inspired by the collaboration and do the same, and scale really almost doesn’t matter. We could do it amongst five friends and do things to support each other’s businesses, or we could do it on a larger scale like Sawa. It’s a time when coming together and supporting one another is probably more important than any other time.
Frou-Frou. Photo: Courtesy
In your opinion, what makes this exhibition stand out from others?
Ghizlan and Salama: The most important aspect of the exhibition is the fact that it was created to eliminate the barriers to entry into these exhibitions for brands. From our perspective as its creators, this is not a commercial exhibition. We have leveraged our network to create it — whether it is a free space from Alserkal Avenue, or the company that is helping us set up the event, Khayali Boutique. It’s all been a work of leveraging our network as two entrepreneurs and people from this industry and so we’ve passed on the minimal cost to the brand.
The largest space, which is a booth — in all transparency — is two meters by around 2.4m by 2.4m that costs AED 5,000 for the period of four days and so the idea was that we don’t want these brands to incur costs. We want them to do well, be exposed, and have an opportunity to offer their products under a beautiful umbrella. We’ve also worked on not compromising the curation and selecting brands and products while doing this for a good cause to support the ecosystem.
Again, we are customers, we enjoy shopping, so we wanted every woman who visits Sawa to experience the same.
Salama Khalfan Jewelry. Photo: Courtesy
How long did it take to put the exhibition together?
It took us less than a month. I believe it’s been about three weeks now. It’s a super small team. There are four of us, including myself and Salama, so it’s been full-on. When you start something to support and see a beautiful objective materialize, you push through.
We are entrepreneurs and used to coming up with an idea and executing it immediately, and that spirit is evident in us working together. Doing it together, we share the same sentiment, and we feel great that we have done it together because there is big support from one another, and we jointly feel very strong about the cause.
Nour Hefzi Photo: Courtesy
What is next for Sawa?
Ghizlan and Salama: Sawa started with a good intention. It began with an objective to support, and not as a hugely strategized idea. It was empathy and the need and desire to do something that brought us together in executing this idea.
Having said that, we do feel that it’s gained momentum with the support of everyone that’s been part of it. It’s a community of effort. It’s not two people; it’s not four people. It’s everyone, including Vogue Arabia, and every person who has supported us in one way or another. So it truly is a beautiful form of a community coming together to create this event — in a way that we hoped for but did not necessarily expect.
We believe that it’s going to be just the beginning of this platform supporting regional designers. We are looking at how we can continue to give it life and to fulfill the same objective.
Sawa is taking place at Warehouse 83, Alserkal Avenue, from 2pm to 10pm.
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Everything to Know About Wearing One of the Season’s Trendiest Silhouettes: The Cocoon

Everything to Know About Wearing One of the Season’s Trendiest Silhouettes: The Cocoon

While the cocoon silhouette may be one of the biggest trends of the season, it’s dividing opinion among women across the Gulf.
Photographed by Dan Belieu for Vogue Arabia

The ideal waist-to-hip ratio is perhaps a calculus of elusiveness and an everchanging formula. Throughout history, couturiers tried not only to capture this feminine mystique, but to also extend it through hourglass silhouettes that dominated women’s fashion intermittently for centuries. This was manifest in the 20th century, for example, in Christian Dior’s hallmark New Look (1947), Georgina Godley’s Lumps and Bumps collection (1968), and Rei Kawakubo’s Spring collection Body Meets Dress, Dress Meets Body (1997).
Junya Watanabe. Photo: Courtesy

Yet decades before, in the years before the first world war, new silhouettes began to emerge, reconfiguring the female body in more abstract ways and birthing a whole new creative fashion lexicon expressed through volume and novel proportions. The Parisian master couturier Paul Poiret was known to cut light cloth into bat wings and a hobble skirt, creating a cocoon of fabric around the body. This recoding of the formula was perhaps best expressed in Spanish couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga’s Japanese-inspired pieces, with their cocoon-like shapes shifting the focus from the waist to the shoulders, resulting in flowing silhouettes that wrap the body rather than bind it. Protrusions and protuberances distorted the shape of the human form and gave way to new ideals of beauty. Yves Saint Laurent designed a bridal dress in 1965 inspired by Russian matryoshka dolls. It saw the cocoon come up and over the head, enveloping the woman in white knit; akin to a subzero, couture sleeping bag.
Simone Rocha. Photo: Courtesy

Today, women have continued to emancipate themselves from the yoke of a cinched waistline – but the question remains: is there a place for unconventional bodies in luxury fashion? Saudi model Ghalia Amin started out as a stylist with a booming presence on network television. However, without fail, producers kept urging her to lose weight, insisting that fashion is not for bigger women. Amin, overwhelmed by the requests, was motivated to prove them wrong. “Women’s bodies in the Middle East are so different from those we see on the runway, even a thin woman’s body fat in this region is distributed differently,” she shares. “I wear everything. I don’t limit myself to any cut or design as long as it looks nice on me – even if it hugs my body or hides my curves.”
Dima Ayad. Photo: Supplied

“The cocoon silhouette can be styled in so many ways,” voices Lebanese designer Dima Ayad, who might have found the alchemic dress silhouette that complements all body types. “If you are apple-shaped, the barrel line conceals that. If you have a curvy, hourglass figure, you can throw a belt on and it will elevate the look so much.” Her eponymous curve-friendly fashion label positions as its signature dress the pleated metallic kaftan; soft tulle made with plissé Lurex mesh draping from the neck. With her line offering vast size ranges, Ayad says, “We design big and then go small, not the other way around.” The inclusive designer invites a dialogue between the fabric and the body, letting the textiles shapeshift according to the versatile shapes they dress.
Begging to differ with Ayad is Saudi stylist Sausan AlKadi, whose lively online presence and collaboration with big brands have garnered her a large following. “The cocoon dress is perhaps the most difficult to style in the Arab world, especially for curvy women. It is, by all accounts, the least flattering shape,” she says emphatically. From her experience, she has styled two predominant body shapes: hourglass and pearshaped.
“A tiny waist and bigger hips are a Middle Eastern woman’s best asset. The cocoon shape really robs her of that. It’s probably best on model-like figures, not the everyday woman,” she says. Even though to Alkadi, hips don’t lie, she has had to circumvent this area for her clients using solutions that don’t involve flowing material; rather a minimalism that avoids detail around the thighs.
Reemami. Photo: Courtesy

But where Alkadi sees a problem, Reema Al Banna, the designer behind the award-winning Dubai-based label Reemami, sees opportunity. “It’s true that the cocoon is difficult to pull off but a lot of GCC women love to wear loose-fitting, flowy garments. They can be both comfortable and fashionable,” she contests. The graduate from Ésmod Paris describes her work as a “printed playground,” sites for exploration of patterns and architectonic forms, borrowed from her past life as a graphic designer in an advertising agency some 10 years ago. “Loose doesn’t mean boring – it can be done in a flirty way. I use frills and buttons and play with asymmetry.” FW20 collections, from Richard Quinn to Off -White, have explored this shape, with the former bringing floral textiles and shapes reminding of actual blooms and the latter offering a more subtle cocoon as a textured, color-block coat. Spring suggests the trend won’t die down soon, with Junya Watanabe and Simone Rocha offering kaftans dripping in sequins and tailored cocoon shapes with embellished collars and pockets. If the cut suggests wrapping oneself in bedsheets, designers are coating the fabric in a Parisian night out.
Richard Quinn. Photo: Indigital

Whether these designs are vestiges of oppressive Victorian corsets or represent a sea of fabrics that appear unbecoming on certain body types, one thing is clear: fashion is one of many arenas in which a changing attitude towards the female body is gaining momentum. Regional brands are flouting what emblems the feminine ideal, opting for voluminous, abstracting and androgynous structures that obscure the binary of gendered bodies and are paving a path for a fresh new look.
Read Next: Charting The Rise Of The Derrière In Fashion
Originally published in the January 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia

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