Women behind three of the region’s foremost up-and-coming ready-to-wear brands reflect on their cultures and creativity along with the muses who inspire and propel them forward.
Ranging from Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and the UAE, Nafsika Skourti, Kage, and Nora Al Shaikh celebrate each other’s talents and creative processes. These emerging Arab brands shared their love and passion for their art with their respective muses, symbols of creativity and trust.
Nafsika Skourti with co-founders Nafsika and Stephanie Skourti and muse Sana Al Qadi
Nafsika and Stephanie Skourti, Sana Al Qadi. Photo: Shukri Lawrence
“Bold, eclectic, and constantly pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a woman from Jordan, from the Middle East,” is how the co-founders of Nafsika Skourti, Jordanian-Greek sisters Nafsika and Stephanie Skourti, describe their brand. They seek to empower women with cool and engaging ready-to-wear clothes with couture details. The sisters chose Sana Al Qadi, aka Suna, as their muse – a close friend and an entrepreneur who has been a part of their journey since its early days. She identifies with the same philosophy – somewhere between “glamour and anti-glamour” – saying, “The Nafsika Skourti woman is confident and outspoken. She has different layers to her personality and she is someone who uplifts other women.”
Nafsika Skourti: How do we inspire you?
Suna Al Qadi: I am inspired by your chemistry and success as sisters, especially as you are so opposite to one another. I relate to that, since I come from a family of four sisters who are all very different with strong personalities. You are both forward-thinkers, very innovative, especially with your designs. You are progressive and I love how you push boundaries especially in a closed-minded society like ours.
NS: You are totally magnetic. Your energy embodies the brand, which is why so many of the things we’ve developed for you end up being part of our collections. Do you remember how we met?
SAQ: Being from such a tight-knit community in Jordan, you inevitably either know everyone or have heard of one another. Our first meeting was through our family when we were children, I actually have a bracelet engraved with your names.
NS: In your opinion, what’s the role of a muse and what does it bring to a creative process?
SAQ: A muse brings a piece to life. She tells a story of the type of woman a brand wants to embrace.
NS: A muse is much more than just a beautiful person. With you, we don’t feel self-conscious about ideas or about random things we want to experiment with. You are open, patient, and once we get into a flow, we’re totally in synch.
Kage with designers Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh and muse Donna Hourani
Photo: Basma Abu Ghazaleh and Donna Hourani. Photo: Rohit Sabu
Since launching Kage in 2009, Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh have become part of a new wave of womenswear fashion labels offering clothes for a “chic and playful way of life.” Their design approach is fueled by a desire to empower women in fresh, colorful, and authentic clothing. Born in Palestine, Abdelhadi and Abu Ghazaleh grew up in Dubai, where they discovered their love for fashion. Lebanese designer Donna Hourani, a rising star in the jewelry world and a childhood friend, serves as the Kage muse.
Kage: We admire your passion. With every piece of jewelry you create, you capture our heart as you tell a new story. Your enthusiasm towards your job and work/family life balance inspires us.
Donna Hourani: And your perseverance, focus, and determination inspire me. You’ve always had a very clear identity and direction since the start of your career. This is one of the most important qualities to have in this industry.
Kage: Speaking of starts, we’ve known each other since kindergarten. We have a tight bond, see eye-to-eye creatively speaking, and share similar brand visions.
DH: I hope to see Kage grow even more on a global scale because I feel that every type of woman can connect with the brand aesthetic.
Kage: We recently expanded into fashion jewelry and Kage Home, which focuses on tabletop linens, and reintroduced Kage Kids. I would like to see Kage grow into a lifestyle brand that embodies the values and life of the Kage woman. We also introduced sustainability in 2018 and will aspire to keep giving back to the environment, season after season.
Nora Al Shaikh and muse Lulwah Al-Homoud
Nora Al Shaikh and Lulwah Al-Homoud. Photo: Taha Baageel
“I want women to feel confident and beautiful in my clothes, while taking pride in their Saudi heritage; one that continues to evolve. In a sense, Lulwah is also offering us that sense of pride in our roots, as well as a bridge to other cultures. She’s someone who has studied and refined the many techniques she uses through her experiences living in many places,” says Jeddah-based designer Nora Al Shaikh. Her luxury ready-to-wear brand launched in 2012 and serves as a tribute to women and her country. Lulwah Al-Homoud, Al Shaikh’s muse, is an award-winning artist who fosters cultural relations between Saudi Arabia and the UK.
Nora Al Shaikh: I often reference my Saudi heritage when designing a collection, but I’m also inspired by fellow Saudi creatives like you. Your minimalist abstract works, based on Islamic calligraphy, are filled with meaning and layers of information that speak to universal experiences.
Lulwah Al-Homoud: I remember when we met, in 2019, when HRH Prince Mohammed bin Salman asked for a gathering of people associated with art, design, and culture. It was a privilege for both of us to be there. We spoke briefly and you made a great impression on me. I love how inspired by heritage you are and how you adapt it for modern Saudi women. In my opinion, anything with strong identity succeeds. If the brand is successful in its land, it can then grow internationally. You have a clear vision on how modern Saudis are today. It represents the change of the country.
NAS: You are also committed to engaging with audiences beyond Saudi Arabia’s borders. Bridging cultures has been a cornerstone of my own designs; one reflecting a generation of Saudis who also see themselves as global citizens.
LAH: Artists preserve the memories of now for future generations. They are part of building cultural heritage for tomorrow. I have been inspired by fashion designers before and designers can be inspired by artists. A muse can be the spark that lights up someone’s creativity. We work hard to make a positive change and create a solid memory for the next generations.
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Originally published in the March 2021 issue of Vogue Arabia