A friend of mine was wearing the most unique blouse—a shemagh-print, square-cut top with gold thread detail that’s reminiscent of a mishlah.
I had to know where he got this top! “NOA COUTURE,” he said. And so my addiction began…Dramatic. Dreamy. Distinguished. Divine. Those are four words that describe the latest designs of Nawaf, the designer behind NOACouture.
A mixture of Arab heritage and international influence, his designs are the perfect compliment for the globetrotting Arab who is internationally savvy, yet wants to distinguish herself through her unique culture.
A graduate of Central Saint Martins, the same prestigious institute, which Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, and Stella McCartney attended, Nawaf is finding his niche in the fashion world. His taste for strong colors and even stronger structure was refined under the strict tutelage of his college professors and has garnered a strong following of international fashionistas.
Tell us about your label?
My label, NOA Couture, is a Pret-a-Porté, or Ready-to-Wear line Yet most of my designs contain a lot of handwork on it so it’s like the couture with added luxury materials, such as French lace and Swarovski crystals appliqué. I do produce Haute Couture, but only by demands and for very specific clients.
Who is your favorite designer or more like your muse?
Me!!! 🙂 My muse would have to be my mother! Her stylized sense of dressing in old couture houses is very influential to my work. I see old images of her flash before me, dressed in her definitive style of high fashion and extra glamour, characterized by her daring mix of unusual fabrics. Traveling all over the world with her and being exposed to world culture at such a young age also helped open my eyes to the world of fashion.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
I’m inspired by other design mediums. Some of them include; artistic movies of Fellini, Pasolini, and Alejandro Jodorowsky; strong characters, such as the rebellious Cleopatra, the devoted Madam Butterfly, and the stylized Madam CocoChanel; also world painters, such as Dali and Frida; and structural architecture, such as the New York City skyline, ZahaHadid’s work, and the work of Phillip Stark.
I’m also inspired by the mud houses we have in our region. Black Tulips, volcaniclava and the winter season are also my muses.
Tell us about your creative process?
I translate the images I have in my mind to match what I can find in fabrics and texture. Some ideas are transformed more quickly than others. I begin with something extremely simple and pure and then adopt several structural ideas onto it before getting the final shape. I play with collages and appliqué, inorder to create emotional tension and an element of surprise.
What are the specific elements that characterize your style?
My style is a fusion of pattern and passion shaped into heightened drama and grungy glam!
How do you keep your Arab heritage alive within your designs?
By getting my inspiration from our cultural heritage, which includes the Eid holidays, various ceremonies, and family traditions and gatherings. I take those forgotten fabrics and materials associated with these rituals and revive them in anew, modern manner that adapts to contemporary lifestyle, while still keeping an eye on the future.
How important is the photographic aspect in completing your visual creation?
Photography for me is the initiative that allows me to portray concepts that are closer to what I have in my mind. I do have a say, I use every possible resource—lightening, make-up and hair, and even location—to help achieve the exact concept I am striving for.
I try to push all these things to the maximum in order to obtain photography that supports my vision. With the help of a stylist and a photographer, I am able to achieve the surreal look I am going for.
What is the main concept or theme in your latest collection? The main concept is traditional modernity portrayed by fluidity in a dreamlike quality. Layered structure and seductive lines characterize the collection. The final creations are urban glamour with sharp elements of drama. The collection also has a high theatrical effect, transpiring a sense of love for life and displaying a wide myriad of colors—a direct reflection of a life full of fun and glamour.
You are quite young and clearly have a successful future in fashion ahead of you. Where
do you see yourself in the next few years?
More established with an eye on the world’s fashion market. My desire is to push my creations to a level I haven’t seen yet.
Who is the NOA Couture client?
My client has a modern flair and modern way of thinking. Usually the person has funky style and is artistically daring, yet is able to understand class and tradition. I design clothes for women who are adventurous, dreamy and have a passion for fashion.
Why do you think it is important to keep your main atelier in Riyadh?
I believe any artist should spring out from his homeland with the full support of his fellows, in order to attract the world to us and prove our place in the world as a nucleus for our artistic expression. If one wants to be international, one has to win his nationals first.
What are your thoughts on the fashion industry (or lack of) in Saudi Arabia?
I am fascinated by the way Saudi women follow fashion trends. A growing number of seasoned buyers are interested in Saudi designers, but it’s the Saudi woman who is looking for Saudi designers that are really creative. They crave designers who are inspired by the Oriental spirit because they realize that a fashion line inspired by eastern features matches their looks and reveals their true inner beauty.
I agree that Saudi designers are not very well known, yet a few of them are already working for international brands and others operate small design ateliers.