From brand new talent at Qatar’s first fashion school, to a design incubator in the heart of Doha, Qatar 365 explores the innovative collections of the next generation and discovers how Qatar is becoming a hub for fashion in the region.
Nurturing budding designers
One of the key centres of innovation is the oldest fashion and design university in the country, Virginia Commonwealth School of the Arts. The fashion programme helps budding designers from conception to final project.
Fashion graduate, Ayatallah Mohamad is part of a talented batch of fashion graduates, who showcased their designs in a catwalk show titled: “It’s history (non) repeating.” She explained her concept, “It's called Ana Ahli u Ahli Ana, in Arabic it means I'm my family and my family's me. We slowly take their traits and then decide what to keep and what to remove. That's when we become ourselves.”
Hira Nisar’s collection was called “Swing Motion,” “It’s about my personal conflict of swinging back and forth between my Pakistani roots and my life here growing up in Doha. I combine that with modern embroidery and tailoring techniques.”
Christopher Fink leads the team of professors, all of whom have worked for international fashion houses, “We want our students to find their inner voice…and translate that into a collection. The journey of a fashion designer is really to be the voice of their generation.”
The graduates are now getting ready to start their own lines right here in Doha.
A fashion incubation project
M7 is a series of studios, co-working spaces and incubation programmes designed to nurture new and upcoming designers. It’s a vital step in Qatar’s goal of becoming a knowledge-based economy. M7’s Director, Maha Al Sulaiti said, “We partner with different entities that can provide something unique to the creative ecosystem. One of them is the Concept Store, Studio Seven. And it's a unique space in Qatar. The focus is to shed light on Arab designers to share the narrative behind the products and to get people to really understand that it's not just an object. There's this story behind it.”
Maha says that a huge part of M7 is the exhibition spaces and exhibitions, like the recent Christian Dior Designer of Dreams. For the Zwara Design Challenge, seven local designers created pieces inspired by Dior and by the culture. At Scale 7, designers are given mentors and business advice. But the overall aim of M7 is to provide a space that is conducive to collaboration, innovation, and creativity for both established, and emerging designers.
Liwan: A creative hub
Part of a Qatar’s Museums initiative, Liwan Design Studios and Labs Internships is a former all-girls school, where fashion innovators now meet to create exciting new projects. Head of Programming, Khalid Albaih says, “it’s for anyone interested in design and art, to be surrounded by creativity and creation.”
During Covid, Isa Ali Aljalahma and his cousin decided to turn their hobby into a business, making handmade vegetable-tanned products. Onsite, their leather workshop aims to source materials ethically, “We try as much as possible to be as best to the environment, the consumer, and our workers,” he says.
It's a common theme at Liwan, Roni Hellou, designer and creative director, says his conscious, ready-to-wear brand, is based in Beirut and Doha, with the modern, unisex clothes emphasising the brand’s values: sustainability, human rights, and animal rights.
Graphic Designer at TypeAraby, Shima Aeinehdar, told Qatar 365, “We use screen and block printing to design onto T-shirts and tote bags. I’m inspired by shapes in nature, merging Arabic typography and illustration in an experimental rather than traditional way.”
Creatives say Liwan is proving to be the ideal place for growth and collaboration, helping upcoming designers to find inspiration from their surroundings, and exchange knowledge, regardless of background or culture.