For many women, their wedding day is the happiest day of their lives, but the preparations that lead them from being a bride-to-be to a bride can sometimes be a bit of a headache. The one thing – besides joining union with your soul mate – that makes for a perfect wedding day is the perfect dress. Imagine finding a couture designer who not only trained at Chanel, Alexandre Vauthier, and Givenchy, but who also launched her bridal line in the lead up to her own wedding day, meaning her personal love and joy went into the making of every look. Meet Sakina Shbib, the highly trained Saudi-French couturier behind Sakina Paris whose pedigree and passion are married together in her exquisite bridal collections.
Two of the best characteristics of a woman are her beauty and her sentimental strength, and I wanted my collection to reflect this ideal of love.
“I started working on this wedding collection when my now-husband proposed to me,” Shbib shares in an exclusive interview with Savoir Flair. “As a woman, this was the happiest time of my life. As a fashion designer, it was the most creative experimentation: I had the power to express all my love and creativity in this collection. I have always wanted to have the most beautiful dress, both graceful and spectacular, for my big day, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. And being able to make your own wedding dress is such a privilege as you have all the freedom to articulate your vision in the fabric.”
Shbib’s design efforts extend far beyond the personal and, in the short time since she launched Sakina Paris, she has already attracted the attention of brides across the Middle East. “I spend considerable time traveling the world and observing what women like and how they want to be perceived before I get the inspiration to design. I get a lot of demand from customers from the Gulf countries asking me to design their wedding dresses and, in this case, the cultural concept matters; they want to feel beautiful and at the same time honor their religion and traditions, which, for instance, prompted me to create a dress with no skin exposure,” Shbib explains.
In her collection for Spring/Summer 2016, Shbib chose to celebrate the emotional highs of getting married by focusing on symbolic elements to carry her joyful message forward. “Romanticism was my leading inspiration for this wedding collection; it is a celebration of delicacy and I chose white as the symbol of hope and romance. I made my whole collection with a strong focus on details, such as flower embroideries, beading work, dentelle appliqués, and embellishments. Two of the best characteristics of a woman are her beauty and her sentimental strength, and I wanted my collection to reflect this ideal of love,” she states.
Shbib’s wisdom regarding her customer and creations belies her youth. Although she has an astonishing curriculum vitae, the designer is also incredibly young for her experience level. Like most prodigies, her talent for design began as a teenager. From a youth spent stitching in her mom’s atelier, Shbib eventually ended up at L’Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, graduating in 2012 and starting work straight away at Alexandre Vauthier. “At that time, he was in the starting process, and it is all the more fantastic to see him grow as I started with him as an embroiderer for his first haute-couture collection. I have tremendous respect for his career. We were five artisans in his studio, which was quite a small team. I worked under the strict supervision of Christophe, the workshop foreman. I remember spending two months sewing and embroidering the leotard of the final look. This experience has taught me to technically challenge myself and approach design through a strong set of skills,” she explains.
After that valuable experience, Shbib was appointed to be a seamstress at the Givenchy atelier, where she expanded her knowledge by working with leather for the first time. “Working on different materials has helped me perfect my technique, and the best gratification was to see Natasha Poly wearing one of my looks on the catwalk,” she shares.
What I learnt from Chanel is that the most valuable skill a designer can have is the ability to evolve and adapt to new scenarios through curiosity and collaboration.
Yet it was at Chanel that Shbib reached a new level of design expertise. “What I learnt from Chanel is that the most valuable skill a designer can have is the ability to evolve and adapt to new scenarios through curiosity and collaboration,” she says. “For Pre-Fall 2014, I sewed the lace bands and fringed embellishments on all the bodices of the ‘Paris-Dallas’ collection, which was a very soft, retro, and feminine collection. Right after, the preparation of the new ready-to-wear collection ‘Coco Market’ started and it was a totally different inspiration. Even the production was different; it was no longer French dentelle, but plastic cutout appliqués that I had to sew on printed cottons. I learned such a big variety of new techniques!”
By the time she made the decision to branch out and design her own collection in 2015, she knew she had something special to offer. Her raison d’être is the merging of the “delicacy of the French tradition with the sense of luxury of the Oriental culture”. She explains, “The French signature look is elegance with a certain amount of minimalism. On the other hand, the Arab signature look is a strong expression of beauty with a genuine power of seduction. My husband lives in Saudi Arabia, and spending time there has helped me define my new vision of beauty. As I am slowly drifting away from my French roots and getting closer to his Saudi culture, I made a really strong emotional connection to the Oriental culture, and I wanted my collection to reflect this twist of mind.”
As her profile begins to grow and her status as a sought-after designer blossoms, Shbib looks to the future to consider what may lie ahead. When we ask her who she would love to (ideally) design a wedding dress for, she enthuses, “I admire smart women who are playing active roles in business to change their community. Queen Rania of Jordan is the perfect example of female empowerment. I really hope she renews her vows!”