For any aspiring designer trying to make it in the competitive world of fashion, the struggle is real. But for young creatives living in the Middle East, the opportunity is even harder to come by. Fashion capitals like Milan and Paris may be saturated with 20-somethings looking for their big break, but they at least have plenty of resources at their disposal. Aside from the fashion schools on every rue, strada, and curb in the Western world, world-famous photographers and designers reside in these cities, too, which means that internships are more readily available. This is where Rami Al Ali stepped in.
The world-renowned luxury atelier recently teamed up with French fashion institute ESMOD Dubai to provide a unique opportunity to undergraduate students. One lucky student would win an internship at the Rami Al Ali atelier, developing a capsule collection for concept store Polette in City Walk under the guidance of the acclaimed designer. The winner was second-year student Karashash Nurakhment, who was selected by Rami himself for her inspiring collection created in response to a brief set by the designer.
Savoir Flair sat down exclusively with Al Ali and Nurakhment to discuss why supporting young talent is so important to the designer and discover how the internship helped the aspiring designer grow.
Thank you for chatting with us Rami, and congratulations on your collaboration with ESMOD. What is it about this project that you found compelling?
This opportunity is extremely interesting as it’s mutually beneficial – we supply a helping hand to newcomers, and we’re able to open up a dialogue about fresh new ideas and be connected to the now, connected to how the new generation perceives fashion.
Why is it personally important for you to nurture young talent?
We have a lot of experience and knowledge about the market, especially in this region, and we wanted to share that. Ultimately, the most important thing is that it is a way for us to give back.
How did you find the support around you when you were an emerging designer?
When I first moved to the UAE in the late 1990s, it was the beginning of an era in which the fashion scene had started to bloom. Since then, Dubai has provided a great foundation for me to create the brand. I arrived here at a good time and have received great support from people in this region. However, in this day and age, there’s a lot more support for emerging designers, especially now in Dubai with Dubai Design District and ESMOD Dubai.
Is there anything you would change about the industry in this region when you were starting out?
For it to have been a more professional, more experienced surrounding with more focus on image-making, marketing, brand development, and specialized fashion.
Who would you lean on for guidance when you were starting out?
Friends from the industry and media members.
Do you remember the best piece of advice you were given about the industry?
Give it your best; don’t save your effort for later.
What do you feel is the most valuable lesson to pass on to new talent?
Knowing your brand identity and ensuring it’s consistent throughout each collection!
Did you see a difference in Karashash on her first day compared to her last?
Yes, absolutely. Karashash has grown with confidence and really taken everything on board. We wanted to teach her the technical elements, how to interact with the team. She is leading the production, so she needed to know how to explain and manage, and how to get the product finished with the best quality in the time required. The more practice Karashash put in, the more she grew – it was great to see.
What was it about Karashash’s collection that made her the winner for you?
Karashash’s designs stood out for me as they are commercial, modern, and easy to produce. They look good without needing to be explained. Her work suits the taste of the Middle East and, at the same time, shows creativity.
Well done on your win, Karashash! Can you tell us how you felt when you discovered you had won?
I was really shocked because there were so many other amazing students competing for the prize. It was such a reassurance that my work matters to someone, and I knew the internship was going to be amazing from the first second.
What was the inspiration behind your winning collection?
My inspiration was one of Rami’s collections and a movie that he was influenced by – The Great Gatsby. I’m also very attached to this story and that time period.
What was your first day in the atelier like?
Truly amazing! I couldn’t sleep the night before because I was really excited. When I arrived, everyone was so helpful. I felt like I was a part of something great.
How did it feel to shadow one of the region’s biggest designers?
It felt like I had a huge responsibility to myself and Mr. Rami. I know that not many people have this kind of opportunity, so I wanted to learn and take in as much as possible.
What was your highlight of your entire internship?
Having these small conversations with Rami during which he truly talked to me on the same level, and gave me lots of power to continue and do better every day.
Was there anything about how the atelier is run that took you by surprise?
I really liked that everyone worked together as a team to try and do the best they possibly could. I think it’s very important to be a team player in the fashion industry since the workload is huge.
How has your experience in the atelier changed how you approach your own designs?
I learned that to make complex designs like the ones Mr. Rami is known for needs a lot of planning. For my designs to be perfect, I need to work every step really deeply and try to make it perfect.
What is the best piece of advice Rami Al Ali has given you?
There was a time when I started making the gowns from the “real” fabric, and I started to doubt myself and if the fabrics were good enough. Mr. Rami told me that, in our industry, there would always be people doubting us, but we need to go forward with our ideas and be sure of ourselves.
How does it feel knowing your own capsule collection will be sold in Polette?
I think it’s amazing that someone would buy my designs and enjoy them. It’s very important for me that my customer feels comfortable in my design, and really feels like a queen in it. The launch date of my collection is November 7th.