Emirati designer Shatha Essa Creates an Artistic Installation at Expo 2020 Dubai

Lindsay Judge   |   03-02-2022

Dubai-based womenswear designer Shatha Essa recently collaborated with the Malaysian Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai to create a custom art installation that celebrates the heritage and craftsmanship of the UAE and Malaysia.


The Emirati designer transferred her skills in fashion design and her fascination with arts and crafts from around the world to partner with Malaysian artisans on this exclusive art piece.


The installation depicts the sand dunes of the UAE enhanced by Malaysian craftsmanship. The story is expressed through 50 cones representing the sand dunes of the UAE which are weaved using Malaysian crafts and materials. The structure was presented to Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimi, the Emirati Minister of State for International Cooperation, and the Managing Director for Expo 2020 before being showcased in the Malaysian Pavilion this January.


Art Installation at Expo 2020 Dubai


Shatha Essa’s namesake clothing brand launched in 2016 with the vision of helping charitable causes through fashion. Essa found her passion for helping others after volunteering for several different causes from the age of 18. She wanted to find a way to help and support talented peopled combining this with her love for fashion. Since starting her own label Essa has been supporting artisans and craftsmen across a diverse range of cultures and nationalities. Here we find out more about her passion for art, design and supporting the talents of others through her business.


Tell us about your project with Expo2020 Dubai and why did you decide to embark on this journey?

I was approached to create an art piece in collaboration with some amazing artisans to be presented in the Malaysian Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. In my work as a fashion designer, I highly value the importance of the artisan’s craftsmanship and include it in all my collections. It has become part of my brand’s DNA. I strive to communicate the universal language of design across borders and industries.


Art Installation at Expo 2020 Dubai


What was the vision behind your creation and how does it celebrate the history of the UAE?

The UAE Golden Jubilee Sand Dunes is inspired by the past, present and future of the UAE. Each element acts as an ode to the country’s journey over the past fifty years. Displayed through 50 cones, these cones represent the sand dunes of the Emirates, which are weaved using Malaysian crafts and materials.


Tell us about the process of working with the Malaysian artists and how did you come together to create something that celebrates the heritage of both countries?

The desert is such a beautiful and serene place, so I wanted to find a way to represent this. Malaysia is renowned for its pandanus weaving so I envisioned creating sand dunes out of the pandanus leaves. It was a humbling experience to work with the artisans, learning their craft and seeing how they could create my vision with their techniques.


Last year the UAE celebrated 50 years – what would you like to see happen in the 50 years to come?

I would hope for the UAE to continue to inspire its people and its future generations.



What inspires you most about your country?

Its people. The UAE is home to over 200 nationalities making it a melting pot of different cultures and backgrounds. This diversity allows us to learn so much from each other and become stronger as a nation.


How do you think Expo 2020 has raised Dubai’s profile on a global scale?

Expo 2020 Dubai has shown the world what Dubai is capable of and that it’s a city of the future. 



As a fashion designer, how do you translate your skills into the art world?

Being able to sketch and get my ideas down on paper is a skill that is incredibly useful in the art world.


Tell us about the inspirations behind your brand and how would you describe your style of work?

My inspiration comes from everything around me including nature, art, interiors, and inspiring women. My style of work is feminine, elegant, and timeless.


What is your goal and vision for 2022?

To grow my brand internationally and to continue to make a difference to communities around the world.



What can you tell us about your fashion line?

SHATHA ESSA emerged out of my love for design intertwined with my passion to support different causes. Challenging the social norms, my label not only acts as a platform for my creativity but serves communities in need. This is achieved through supporting artisans across a diverse range of cultures and nationalities. Creating garments with a story, each collection fuses the traditional crafts and embroideries from these artisans, which in turn allows us to create employment opportunities.


What is something you would still like to achieve that you haven’t done yet? 

I would hope for my collections to be available in all the major department stores around the world.


What is the biggest challenge you are facing right now?

Due to the global pandemic, we are still facing supply chain challenges. I source all my fabrics from countries such as Japan, Italy, and France so it has been challenging to meet deadlines due to lockdowns or delays from the suppliers.



What is the professional motto you live by?

Believe in yourself and don’t take no for an answer.


When are you in your most creative state of mind?

Early in the morning before my family wakes up. This is when I have time to myself to journal and plan the day ahead. It gives me a chance to set the tone for the day and get my creativity flowing.


What else is in the pipeline for 2022?

We have some exciting collaborations coming up that I’m not yet able to talk about so stay tuned!