The fashion industry is taking notice of the Gulf and for all the right reasons. Our local designer’s creations that have graced the international red carpets and are worn by celebrities worldwide are turning heads with their artistic designs. We spoke to some of the savants of design who have put the Middle East on the fashion map
Born in Beirut and raised in Dubai, Nathalie developed her love for asymmetric design at an early age. While earning her BA from Paris Esmod International and her BBA in Design and Management from Parsons, New York, she worked with industry leading designers to gain valuable knowledge and experience. Since then, the dynamic woman has experimented with design, style and material to create collections that have caught the eyes of style icons around the world
Do you remember the moment your bags were first spotted in the hands of an international celebrity? Tell us about it.
One of the ways for us to grow our brand awareness and customer base is through an influencer or celebrity. Just one month after the launch of our brand, we were surprised to see Mary Katrantzou accompanying Karolina Kurkova at the Met Ball clutching our Polygonia clutch. It was a true honour to see the bold and innovative designer choose one of our pieces. Other celebrities that have carried a clutch and have been supporters of the brand are Solange Knowles, Olivia Palermo, Sienna Miller and Anne Hathaway.
Who would you like to see carrying your bag?
Michelle Obama, Angelina Jolie, Amal Alamuddin Clooney are some of the leading women I would love to see carrying my clutches.
Designing for me is a process that involves questioning everything in my surrounding in an attempt to re-interpret what I already know, being observational and always trying to discover something new. Accessories design gave me the puzzle I have been seeking: how do I take traditional shapes, ubiquitous in our everyday lives and radically transform them, deconstructing and recreating them from a new perspective. I didn’t want to just create accessories, I wanted to create wearable sculptures that broke away from the mold. When I put pencil to paper I let my imagination take an unrestricted journey of its own and it led me to handbags.
What did being in Paris and New York teach you?
From a designer’s perspective, New York and Paris definitely served as a breeding ground for creativity. I got to reflect, absorb and take stock of my surrounding then redirect this new flow of energy into my own work. Being in those cities truly pushed me to expand my thought process and explore the realm of possibilities within my designs.
Who would you credit for where you are today? Why?
My husband, my family, my team and my friends for believing in me and my dreams, for inspiring me, for always pushing me to take a step further and most of all for their relentless and unwavering support from day one.
What advice would you give to any designer that is trying to crack the international market?
Be curious, be relentless, be passionate, and don’t let the word “no” stop you.
What is it like to compete on an international level?
I feel that as a Middle Eastern designer, I have to prove myself twice as much, show proper consistency throughout the seasons, continue to innovate and push boundaries in order to be taken seriously in the western world. Nevertheless, with the high caliber of Middle Easter designers out there these days and with Dubai now placing itself as a fashion hub, I feel like the attitudes are starting to shift in our favour. I do not believe it would have been easier from anywhere else. Every region comes with its own set of challenges and benefits. It is up to us to make the best with the opportunities we are given.
What is your favourite and least favourite materials to work with?
From the beginning I have gravitated towards shell as a base material that I source from the Far East region – a treasure trove of exquisite materials. I complement it with other materials such as wood, resin, brass, stainless steel and copper creating a marriage of seeming incompatible materials that end up harmonizing beautifully. The richness of these materials seamlessly mirror my inspiration and work perfectly in line with the vision I have for my clutches. I really do not have a particular material I do not enjoy working with. Wood can be difficult due to the fact that it breathes and tends to react to humidity and fluctuating temperatures. I do, nevertheless, consider this a welcome challenge!
If you were to collaborate with a celebrity to design a bag for them, who would it be? What factors would you keep in mind while doing so?
I like to think of my pieces as architectural works on a small scale. I look to architecture from a physical aspect: geometry, proportions, ergonomics, structure for inspiration. If I were to pick one person to collaborate
with, it would have to be Zaha Hadid. Her aesthetic and philosophies have impacted my design thinking and some of my pieces. One factor to keep in mind when designing would be a concept she is said to frequently apply to her own work, which is ‘There are 360 degrees why stick to one?’ This principle of multiple viewpoints also known to cubists is what I would strive to apply to our work. What I love most about how this applies to clutches is that it would allow them to morph into completely different pieces every time you look at them from a different angle or perspective.