Infatuated by old movie stars, meet the 31-year-old Egyptian fashion designer Maha Abdul Rasheed and the creator of Bambah.
Her foray into the world of fashion began, along with her brother Hussein, when she started her two boutiques, Bambah and The Zoo, collecting vintage fashion pieces along the way. At a time when, vintage was not in the vocabulary of the local market, Maha had the vision and took a risk.
After a few years as the leading destination of elegant pre-loved pieces, Maha took to the design studio herself and launched Bambah. The label exudes femininity, elegance and bold signature shapes that hark back to times bygone whilst reflecting a modern and refined signature that resonates with today’s woman. Think sharp silhouettes of the 1950s, appliqué, bold fabric choices and oversized florals, which are sartorial signatures for the UAE-based designer.
From off-shoulder lace gowns to statement bows and mid-length organza skirts, Maha’s aesthetic is a brilliant mix of beauty, fashion, and extravaganza. Here, we get to know the creative mind behind the clothing line Bambah, who has dressed style icon Amal Clooney among others, to find out what’s around the corner for the breakout brand.
Tell us about your Bambah Ready-to-Wear clothing line and what inspired you to start it?
I started Bambah Boutique over seven years ago, positioning it as the first vintage boutique in the UAE. Tucked away in a cosy villa on Dubai’s picturesque Jumeirah Beach Road, we opened our doors with a strong desire to introduce vintage fashion to Dubai’s fashion-savvy crowd. Although at that time the concept of ‘vintage’ was fairly new to the region, the enthusiastic response that I received inspired my interest in designing, and pushed me towards establishing my own ready to wear line.
Over the years, I have worked very closely with customers in my boutique, which has given me a deeper insight into Middle Eastern trends and tastes, and what ladies in this part of the world are attracted to. Through my observations, I noticed that customers were subconsciously shopping for past trends, and were very interested in styles with nipped in waists, exaggerated sleeves, and princess-style skirts. Through further interaction and research, I learned that there was a pull towards styles from the 1950s, as well as an evident, particular love for dramatic clothing with polka dots, balloon sleeves, and oversized bows, along with feminine floral prints and voluminous skirts.
After travelling the world searching for the best vintage finds and introducing myself to the world of fashion design, I decided to take the initiative and launch my own ‘vintage inspired’ ready to wear collection. I started creating feminine clothing with soft rounded shapes and full flowing skirts, with the intention of bringing back the elegance of previous eras. I wanted to introduce a modern twist into ‘vintage inspired’ styles and provide an affordable evening wear line with an emphasis on excellent craftsmanship and elegant prints, as well as unique and luxurious embroideries.
My objective was to encourage ladies to look and feel good about themselves, so I focused my designs on timeless glamour and the rise of the elegant lady. This was the beginning of Bambah RTW!
What drew you towards vintage style?
I’ve always had a passion for vintage fashion in particular. When I was younger, I’d go through my mother and grandmother’s pictures from their youth and long for their style and fashion. I started looking for unique, one-off pieces while travelling and that’s how I started collecting vintage items. I’ve been a collector for almost 15 years now, and have developed a keen eye for pieces unlikely to be found in conventional shopping spaces.
Which era is your favourite, and what trends do you always aim to revive?
The 1950s. I love the nipped in waists and full sleeves, with floral patterns and polka dots.
How did you decide on the name Bambah, and what does it mean?
Bambah means ‘pink’ in Egyptian Arabic, and it was a term commonly used in the 1940s to symbolise happiness and joy. It also happens to be my favourite colour.
What challenges did you have to face when opening Bambah?
The biggest challenge of course is finding vintage for all our customers, because it’s always a limited one-off piece, so our challenge is convincing people to play around with the piece and try to make it suit their figure and personality. If it’s too short add lace and make it longer, cut off the sleeves, add an embellished here or there, etc.
How would you describe the Bambah woman?
My customers are stylish women who like to stand out from the crowd. They like to experiment with different trends and look and go for exclusivity. They appreciate vintage and the adventure of shopping for a vintage find and the story behind it. They’re experimental and have a great sense of style! They love big statements and fun glamour, and they dress for themselves and enjoy the journey of dressing up and looking good.
What set’s you apart from other brands in the market?
Bambah focuses on the vintage aesthetic and draws upon 1950s old Hollywood glamour, bringing a fresh new life to vintage-inspired style in the UAE and the region. The collection exudes femininity, elegance, and bold signature shapes, such as the bow tube, that are traced back to bygone times whilst also reflecting a modern and refined signature that resonates with today’s woman.
How do you maintain your Arab identity throughout your designs?
Well, firstly our name is Arabic! I really wanted to bring out our culture and my background in our name and main identity. I’m also heavily inspired by Old Egyptian Drama and actresses such as Souad Hosny and Faten Hamama who have a unique distinctive 50’s style that I always aspire to.
What is your most treasured vintage possession?
I highly treasure a 1950s Nina Ricci gown. It’s a strapless velvet dress with a pastel pink and blue bow on the bust. I also like that its mid-calf which makes it versatile and easy to wear.
How do you balance modest dressing with keeping up with trends?
We always try to keep our modest customers in mind when designing, trying to offer variety when it comes to our designs. For example, we have a peplum top that pairs well with a short skirt, however we also offer a fishtail-cut skirt in a longer length. Women take it as an opportunity to make a fashion statement, building new wardrobes and ultimately creating a new season for fashion trends.
Who is your style icon?
Two of my style icons from the past are Souad Hosny and Grace Kelly, I like how they are both very feminine and confident in their styles. Queen Rania of Jordan is also one of my personal fashion idols, as she is a beautiful example of how modesty meets fashion and elegance in the Middle East, as well as the rest of the world.
How would you describe your personal style?
I’m always after comfort and elegance, I like to dress up and dress down. I love vintage and I always look for ways to mix and match different shapes, styles, and textures. I don’t like putting in too much effort with fashion and I shy away from utter perfection. I like to see something off in an outfit and I love it when an outfit makes a strong statement that says something about the person, so more about standing out rather blending in. Ultimately, I don’t believe there should be any rules when it comes to fashion and I don’t usually follow trends, I think it’s all about the overall look and how pieces fit in together. I have a soft spot for ruffles, bows and polka dots and I like minimal make up, messy hair, and distressed jeans.
How do you get inspired for a new collection? Do you follow seasonal trends?
A woman’s charm has always been the centre of Bambah’s inspiration. I think a woman is ultimately stylish when she is confident in what she’s wearing, and her inner beauty is an inspiration for me when I design.
Tell us about your new SS18 collection, what were the inspirations behind it?
Our SS18 collection is inspired by the magical beauty of India and a recent trip that I had in Jaipur, which is known as ‘The Pink City’. I was mesmerised by the rich colourful culture, and the abundance of pink and orange roses everywhere. The plethora of clashing, vibrant colours and metallic gold hues everywhere stayed with me after I returned home, and set the foundation for Bambah’s SS18 collection.
Do you have a favourite piece in the collection?
I have a lot of favourites! It’s very hard to choose one, but I love the Cargo Pants and the White Lotus Gown.
You have just collaborated with Moda Operandi to launch your SS18 collection, do you see this as a platform for a more international presence?
We’re so honoured to be collaborating with Moda Operandi for the reveal of our SS18 collection! I think it’s a great opportunity for our customers to get a first look at the collection, and to be able to pre-order their favourite pieces before they hit stores. This collection is one of my personal favourites, as it’s inspired by the magical beauty of India and infuses a plethora of colours and patterns with an emphasis on gold metallics for added richness. In addition to our main evening wear category, we have also introduced a lot of fun and flirty separates and easy-to-wear styles that would appeal to a more international and casual audience that Moda Operandi caters to.
Little Bambah was recently launched, can you tell us about this children’s range?
Bambah is all about the fairy tale story, the Cinderella moment and all the love and glamour that our customers feel when they put on one of our outfits, so we wanted to create the same Bambah flowers and bows for the little ones too! With a flower tube and a beautiful skirt, we’re hoping to take the phrase ‘like mother, like daughter’ to a whole new level.
Little Bambah evokes the essence of fairy tale fashion, bringing pint-size princesses their very own glamorous gowns. Using silk faille, silk gazar, and organza, the pieces beautifully mimic Bambah’s main line, bringing new meaning to ‘mummy and me’ dressing. The brand’s signature oversized details, such as bows and flowers, have been miniaturised, waists on full skirts are elasticated for ultimate comfort, linings are softer and hemlines have been tailored to be child-friendly to ensure that whilst wearing their couture, kids can still be kids.
Catering for girls aged 2 to 10, Little Bambah on Farfetch offers certain looks pulled from Bambah’s past seasons. It is a curated ‘best hits’ collection of the brand’s most loved silhouettes, including our signature Flower Tube, Red Backless Bow Gown, as well as the standout Diana and Rosebud prints for the mini-me’s.
Why did you decide to create a children’s line?
The mini-me industry is booming! Mothers love to match with their daughters and take so much pleasure in doing so. We have always had a lot of requests from our customers to make matching outfits for their little ones, and that was the drive behind the launch of ‘Little Bambah’.
How well do your current styles translate into childrenswear?
It’s always important to bring out the child’s true style in the outfit while keeping them as comfortable as possible. For example, one of our mini customers chose to style her pink flower tube and skirt with white trainers, which looked very adorable.
By Eliza Scarborough