A&E Interviews: Alaa Najd

Eliza Scarborough   |   20-01-2018

Young, ambitious and already among the rising designers of the region, Alaa Najd winner of the debut season of Project Runway Middle East, started his professional career in the business sector. After realising his deep appreciation for design and architecture, he pursued a fashion design degree at ESMOD Beirut, and ultimately joined the world of fashion where he is currently thriving.


The Lebanese designer sat with A&E as he shared his stressful, yet memorable, Project Runway journey, his well-deserved win; and his goals of pioneering in the fashion industry with his eponymous brand.


Tell us, why did you decide to take part in the fashion industry?

Actually, I started out as a business student, and I worked in the business world for a few years before realising at the age of 27 that I was not happy anymore; it wasn’t what I wanted to do. So, I decided to make a drastic change and enter the fashion world. I studied at ESMOD Beirut and here I am!

What triggered your passion for design?

Well I’ve always had this passion; I’ve always loved fashion and had a talent for drawing. But fashion back then was not as serious as it is today. My mother also took fashion and sewing classes back in the day, so I was never a stranger to the field. At one point I worked as a marketing assistant with a designer, and I think that was what triggered my decision; I did not want to be in the corporate side, I wanted to enter the creative world of fashion.

Congratulations! How did it feel to be the winner of the first Project Runway Middle East?

Honestly, it was an indescribable and amazing feeling that I had never felt before. I did win prizes at ESMOD, but this was completely different, and having Elie Saab, member of the jury and one of the top designers worldwide, compliment my work and my style was truly overwhelming. Being the winner of the first season ever of Project Runway in the Middle East was wonderful and surely left a memorable mark on me for life.


How would you sum up your Project Runway experience?

It was a stressful and crazy journey, and the best part of it was that stress brought out the best in me; a creative side I never knew I had. The program also gave me a lot of exposure to which I am very grateful for.

Who did you think was your biggest competition throughout the season?

It was Luma, definitely! Luma and I were together at ESMOD, and since day one, we were always competing to be number one. We both have very strong characters, which I found out during this fierce competition for Project Runway. I was actually sad to see her leave, knowing that she is a great designer.

Out of all the collections you created during the show, which one were you worried about the most?

It was definitely the avant-garde collection. The challenge wasn’t for me; I am someone who loves wearable and practical designs, and the avant-garde collection was far from my usual style. While everyone went for extravagant designs and volumes, I went for body-fitting and more feminine style and forms. I was worried about that, but it surprisingly played to my advantage; they liked my dress and I won that challenge!



How did you stay so calm throughout? What have you learned from this whole experience?

To tell you the truth, I did not stay calm at all. At some point I did feel like I was going to break down. For example, the day of the Red Carpet challenge was as stressful as it was emotional; we only had 10 hours and the dresses had to be ready before our trip to Cannes. Another example would be the first episode of the show, it was all new and I was shocked since I wasn’t realising what was happening, but then you get used to it. Deep inside, I was so happy and grateful for the experience. As for what I learned, it was mainly how to be fast and efficient-especially for someone like me who likes to take his time. I also learned that sometimes, you will inevitably miss out on small finishing details and that’s alright.

Tell us a bit more about your latest collection.

I am currently working on it and it will be launched this November. It’s a collection of 12 outfits that are all white with touches of silver. My main inspiration for the collection is related to Greek patterns and structures. I was inspired by the small family hotel I stayed in this summer in Bodrum, Turkey; where the theme was all blue and white, with marbles and Greek stones. The idea started there, and then it developed further with my research and drawings. I haven’t named my collection yet; I actually create the concept first, I draw, and then I think about the name.

What are the three pillars you would like to build your eponymous brand on?

First, I must say simplicity and minimalism; the elegant attitude, and finally the quality of the material and the craftsmanship.

Who is the Alaa Najd woman?

The Alaa Najd woman is very independent, modern, and contemporary. She doesn’t want anything that other people are wearing; she wants modernity with a classic and elegant touch.

Any chance you’ll collaborate with any of the contestants in the future?

Yes, I wouldn’t mind. If I had to choose, it would be Luma Saleh, for sure! I would love to work with her since we have opposite styles; I think the collaboration would create something very original. I would also like to work with Maroun Issa, who has strength in the detailing and technical work, and I liked Mohanad Kojak’s vintage Victorian style, which I believe would merge very well with my style as well.

Any advice you’d like to share with the new participants of the next season of Project Runway Middle East, or with young designers trying to break through the industry today?

Don’t complicate things and don’t overthink it! It’s basically a simple idea with a twist. Also, never look around and compare your work to other contestants: believe in your own work and creativity.

What was your favourite look from the SS18 runways?

I am personally not into trends; I prefer to do my research, go with the general trend and from there work on the character of the person I want to dress.



What is your biggest fashion no-no?

This is an easy one for me: animal prints; I don’t think I could ever work with them or use them in any of my pieces.

If you weren’t a designer today, what would you wish to be?

I love architecture and interior design, furniture is also very interesting for me. Knowing that my designs have strong structuring and a touch of masculine but elegant detailing, it’s easy to see how I am inspired by architecture. I believe that if I wasn’t born in this generation, I would have loved to be part of the ‘60s era of modernity, geometric, and minimal shapes.

What is Beirut to you?

Beirut is home. As cliché as this may sound, you could travel all around the world, but never find what we have here in Lebanon anywhere else. It’s a unique country with its cultural diversity, different mentalities, and lifestyles. The more I travel, the more this is confirmed to me.


So, what’s next for you? Can you share with us a message you would like to end the year 2017 with?

What’s next is definitely my new collection. As for 2017, I believe it was a very successful year. Project Runway was a dream for me, my first step into the market, but I have so much more to accomplish and thrive for. I am a perfectionist, and no matter what I accomplish, I always want to push further.

Your life motto…

I have a quote that I live by, whether in my daily life or when I am designing: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”


By Dana Mortada



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