“Luxury to me is not about buying expensive things; it’s about living in a way where you appreciate things.” – Oscar de la Renta
When Oscar Wilde famously said,” let me be surrounded by luxury, I can do without the necessities!” He was pointing towards a human’s drive that goes beyond basic emotional and physiological needs – a search for prestige and satisfaction. Marketers to cater to this desire now probe their psychological makeup to develop products, brands and experiences focused on obtaining intangible values like self-respect, equality, sense of belonging, excitement, fun, or a sense of accomplishment; That is luxury!
To understand it better, buying a handbag is not an uncommon purchase but buying a Gucci handbag is another story. The appeal of luxury goods is undeniable—the leather is soft, the design is unique, the logo is flashy, and allure is heritage. When paired with the hefty price tag, it becomes all the more important. That’s what luxury brands do. They connect with customers at the value level, promising them something deeper and abstract.
While luxury brands have always lived amongst us, somehow the global media has considered western brands as the epitome of luxury, while it couldn’t be farther from the truth. To test this notion, there are certain segments of Middle Eastern and Arab labels that rose to the challenge, reclaiming their rich heritage and transforming the face of luxury and haute couture forever.
We will dedicate this article to some of the new labels that have recently gained fame and few timeless brands that have enjoyed exclusivity and glory for decades.
Jeux de Mains
Founded by Beirut-based graphics and art director turned fashion designer Salim Cherfane, who sees the world in pulsating colours.
In contrast to the common stereotype that people in the Middle East like solid colors and muted tones, Jeux de Mains creates bright, playful, and poppy clothes for men and women alike.
While you can witness the designer’s love for bold graphics, the silhouettes are clean and structured. Most importantly, with his designs, Salim wants to bring out the inner child and add a touch of colour to people’s lives! Wonder who’s the fan of his perspective and designs? It’s Beyonce, the queen herself.
Co-founded by two powerful women, Yasmine and Muneera, Maya Eco is a Kuwait-based brand established in 2016. Although the products they sell are functional and practical, Maya Eco uses eco-friendly textiles, sustainable designs, and ethical trade practices. The goal is to go against the trend-crazy momentum and promote slow fashion that supports a local skilled community.
In a world that is obsessed with money, trends and pace, slowing down and giving back to the community is a luxury.
Along with their minimal, feminine, and beautiful approach to designs, they have positioned themselves as an environmentally-friendly brand that supports the same locally owned factory in Egypt since their launch to help sustain the lives of the local artisans and provide them with job opportunities. How empowering is that?
Established by Anwar Bougroug in 2017, bougroug is a contemporary genderless fashion, accessories, and fashion label influenced by Scandinavian-Moroccan culture.
Handmade in Morocco by skilled and committed artisans and craftspeople using age-old techniques passed down to them for generations. Anwar’s collection aims to focus on exquisite quality and timeless designs that can stand the test of time.
At the same time, the brand strives to push forward conversations around sustainability, gender equality, and sexuality through its product and brand positioning strategy.
Launched in 2016 by luxury bespoke designer May Balacci who embodies a unique blend of British and Arab heritage and cultural sensibilities. Her label is redefining the Middle-Eastern fashion industry by combining British fabrics with elegant Arabian silhouettes.
May Balacci aspires to position her brand as a solution to thousands of multicultural millennial women who are struggling to find the perfect clothing that both suited the western climate and lifestyle while still maintaining their inherent Arab identity.
Launched in 2013 by the Lebanese designer Nathalie Trad, the story of paving her road to success is sort of a classic in the region.
Known for redefining the boundaries of traditional aesthetics by deconstructing and radically transforming them into clutches-cum- art-sculptures. Nathalie Trad is famous for her ability to seamlessly incorporate chiselled contours, geometric shapes, and sharply contrasting colour, texture, and pattern into a cohesive fashion accessory.
However, modern and cutting-edge the designs might get, this contemporary brand looks for inspiration and space for innovation into the heritage monument of Middle-Eastern culture.
This eponymous clutch label over the years has gained love and international claim. Celebrities like Nicole Kidman, Olivia Palermo, and Sienna Miller among others have proudly lauded and sported the clutches many times.
Bouguessa is a Dubai-based luxury, ready-to-wear brand spearheaded by Faiza Bouguessa. While the rest of the world thinks Middle Eastern fashion is all about traditional abayas and kaftans, Bouguessa was one of the first brands that took up the challenge to put forward a different perspective in front of the world, and they did it by reinventing the iconic abayas.
Although the fit is modern and the tailoring of the products is impeccable, one can witness the inherent grace that the traditional abayas emulate.
In fact, their designs are so compelling that Melissa McCarthy, Sophia Bush, and even Beyoncé is a fan.
Unlike the other fashion labels on this list, Bil Arabi was established in 2006 by artist, photographer, and designer, Nadine Kanso. With her jewellery line, she aspires to show the true identity of the contemporary Arab.
This homegrown brand, creates every piece in the UAE, aiming to express appreciation and create awareness about the elegant art of Arabic calligraphy.
Every piece they create celebrates the shape of the alphabet, and poetry inherent to the Arabic language. Bil Arabi aspires to be more than a jewellery label, it wishes to be a brand of self-expression.
Their work is so exquisite and unique that from regional celebrities to supermodels like Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner, everyone wishes to own a piece.
In recent years, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and UAE have emerged as the hotbed of experimentative and innovative fashion hubs. From couture to streetwear, the emerging designers have used fashion as an art of self-expression, promoting social causes, creating political statements, and pushing a unique perspective. However, unlike their western counterparts, they have remained attached to their roots, proudly showcasing their heritage while making international waves. Their brands are not just about premium products and the essence of luxury, they are voices.
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