Madiyah Al Sharqi Talks Brand Growth and Her New Direction

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When Emirati designer Madiyah Al Sharqi debuted her inaugural collection in 2012, her luxurious and lavishly embellished clothing recalled a single muse: Marie Antoinette. The queen’s influence was felt through both the elegant form of the collection’s silhouettes and the extravagance of the fabrics and beading employed.

However, as Madiyah Al Sharqi’s brand has expanded from a regional favorite to an internationally regarded line loved by celebrities like Sofia Vergara and Alessandra Ambrosio, it has also shifted aesthetic direction, which became evident with the Spring/Summer 2017 collection. Embracing a global audience signaled a design pivot for Al Sharqi – one that embraced more contemporary combinations and easy-to-wear pieces.

For Fall/Winter 2017, Al Sharqi’s shift becomes laser-focused on unusual materials like denim and gingham to carry her new ready-to-wear message across. Relying on hardier, more substantial textiles became a challenge: how to create Al Sharqi’s signature ethereal textures with less than delicate fabric. In the collection, you’ll notice how she has sliced her denim pieces to create softer surfaces, and done workaday ginghams with flounced sleeves and ruffled accents to feminize their appearance.

In the exclusive interview below, Madiyah Al Sharqi explains what inspired her Fall/Winter 2017 collection.

It seems like you have moved in a much more contemporary direction since you first started your label. What prompted this directional shift?
It felt like the natural step with the brand’s growing presence in the West. In the region, we’re present at Saks Fifth Avenue in Bahrain, Rubaiyat in Jeddah, and The Modist while, outside the Middle East, we have Five Story and Copious Row in the States. Most recently, we launched with Harvey Nichols UK online and have a lot more in store during the second half of the year. The change also zeroes in on the sensibilities of modern fashion. In early seasons, the brand was mainly known for its intricately beaded lace eveningwear creations, but as the label progressed, so did the women we designed for.

Today’s woman has abandoned head-to-toe luxe in favor of making a statement through simple silhouettes and unconventional details coupled with an unapologetic, go-getter attitude. That’s why we have consciously created more daywear separates that can easily be incorporated into your daily wardrobe while still possessing the Madiyah Al Sharqi DNA – luxurious fabrics, embroidered beadwork, 70s shapes, and unexpected accents. Finally, it’s a namesake label and I want its identity to be reflective of me, so the rebranding and character shift are authentic to my personal fashion choices, too.

Did you work with any new techniques or materials for the first time with this collection?
Yes, paper-like textured lambskin leather and powder-white feathers with metallic ends that were hand-painted in Switzerland. The collection’s various fabrics were teamed together to create unpredictable combinations that take the form of patchwork coats, dresses, and maxi skirts.

Your use of color-blocking and flared accents brings a slightly retro feel to the collection. Was this intentional?
The label will always be grounded on superior fabrics as well as 70s silhouettes in the form of flared trousers, bell sleeves, and off-the-shoulder necklines.

I feel like after 11 seasons, I’ve grown up, and so has my muse.

What inspired your use of hardier materials like gingham and denim?
I think there’s more leeway to play around with bolder designs for fall/winter and, since the collection focused mainly on blue and brown tones, we dialed up on more fabrics and heavier textures to offset the monochromatic palette.

Who is the new Madiyah Al Sharqi woman?
She, just like most women today, has abandoned ultra-luxe. She has grown up, become fearless, and has a grip on modern life’s demands without looking overtly extravagant. I feel like after 11 seasons, I’ve grown up, and so has my muse.

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