5 Minutes with Annada: A Conversation with the Sister Duo Blending Middle Eastern Art and Fashion

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Annada Founders Nada and Noor Alawi | Photo: Courtesy of Annada

After introducing Annada to you back in September 2012, we recently sat down with Nada Alawi and Noor Alawi, the sisters behind the Bahrain-based accessories line that continues to blend the world of art and fashion through its collection of luxury scarves. While the sisters began their careers in the oil and gas industry, they eventually moved on to set up their own accessories company, in order to follow their desire to work in a creative atmosphere. Read on for their thoughts on the regional art scene, why calligraphy is so important to them, and what it’s like working with artists from around the world.

How and when did the concept for Annada arise? Can you tell us a bit about the story and inception of the brand?
In 2011, Nada took up fine art with a renowned artist. She was moved by his artwork and felt that the public needed to see more of it, and interact with it further than just interior decoration. Later that year, we launched Annada with the idea for art to stir up your emotions – it can make you joyful or disturbed. We chose happy art pieces, in order to reflect positively on people’s emotions. Every choice we made was based on feelings of happiness, romance, and being surrounded by beautiful things.

What does ‘Annada’ mean? How did you come up with the name?
Annada in Arabic means ‘The Nada’, which represents a multitude of things for us. ‘Anna’, For example, means ‘me’, or the individual – so for us that means to encourages each person to make each accessory their own, by using it in their own way and style. Beyond this, having an Arabic name for the brand represents our culture, which is something that means a lot to us.

How do your Bahraini roots influence the way you design?
Our roots and education have allowed us to be exposed to the rich art scene in the region, music, and poetry. Realizing that our region is abundant with culture and beauty that has not yet been fully explored, we wanted to use that for Annada. We are a culture full of stories and tales and we wanted to do use that in each of our accessories. Every scarf has a story to tell, and is a piece of art. The stories are all very much connected to our heritage and culture.

What draws you to certain artists from around the region?
We choose art that speaks to us, and speaks for our cause. We like to work with artists who have consistency and a signature identity, as it adds more value to the work itself. With time, it has become a natural and mutual selection process; in many cases, the artists themselves approach us with their work. We are very proud of our efforts in supporting regional artwork, and we’ve noticed that clients gravitate towards specific artists, which comes back to the idea that art speaks to the soul.

What’s the best part about collaborating with Middle Eastern artists?
Being surrounded by art and talent. We work very closely with them, and in some cases, we even inspire them. The relationships are very much give-and-take. Art is a soul cleanser and an emotional acupuncture.

How important is calligraphy to you and your heritage? What made you choose it for the brand?
Calligraphy is one of the oldest forms of art in the Arab world, which is a rare talent in today’s world. The beautiful thing about calligraphy is that with it, you are able to communicate a song, a poem, or a thought. Even the way the lines move and the shapes they make is art in its own form.

What’s next for Annada? Do you have plans to expand in the Middle East? 
We are constantly expanding our product range to fulfill our causes in spreading art and the art of gifting with a message within the luxury industry. We are also launching worldwide! The collection will soon be available in Germany and Russia, and we will be at Paris Fashion Week again this year.

What are your thoughts on the art scene in Dubai and the GCC?
The art scene in Dubai and the GCC is so versatile and rich with color and beauty. Artists in this region express feelings and culture so exquisitely in their art.

What more would you like to see happen between fashion and art in the region?
More collaboration and creativity. Art is such a powerful tool to communicate.

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