Shaikha Alanoud Alattiya Founder of Qatari Haute Couture brand TIIYA shares her vision and her passion for design.
After being surrounded by beautiful haute couture pieces from a young age, Shaikha Alanoud Alattiya was inspired by her mother’s love for luxury fashion to create her own designs and one-of-a-kind pieces. Starting her own haute couture label in 2015, she fulfilled the dream of exploring her creativity through her love for fashion but also allowed her to create stylish pieces that withheld the cultural needs of women in the region.
After growing up seeing her mother wearing haute couture pieces from the world’s high fashion houses Alanoud began her creative journey which would see her be inspired by some of the pieces her mother used to wear and subsequently offer her own take on some of the styles. After spending many years creating pieces for herself and her daughters Alanoud discovered others were also impressed by her designs and wanted to learn more about these designs, so she decided to start her own fashion label that would allow her to share her talent with the world. After launching TIIYA in 2015, the Doha-based design enlisted the help of her daughter Shaikha Shaikha Al-Thani who works closely with her mother on the brand’s collections and one-of-a-kind pieces.
Tell us about the journey of TIIYA so far and how it got to where it is today?
Alanoud: From my memory, many designers throughout history have had some sort of affiliation to dressmaking in their families and they have gone on to create gowns for clients. For us, I suppose, we come from the other side of that spectrum, as we are the clients of these designers. My mother was one of the first women in the region to wear Dior in the sixties. When she married my father, he would take her to France to attend shows of some of the iconic fashion brands when many of their designers were still alive.
My mother used to commission gowns back home and she had an extensive collection of both European couture pieces as well as custom styles that she envisioned and had made for her to suit our cultural norms. As I grew older the same was done for me but eventually buying couture pieces designed by other designers no longer appealed to me and I started to design gowns for myself. This allowed me to explore and unearth my own designs and I think this is what inevitably caused me to fall in love with my own vision and unique one-of-a-kind creations.
Then when my daughter Shaikha grew up she had access to all of this at her disposal, including the staff who work with us to create the designs. It’s certainly a unique take on starting a brand and I believe that if what we have is a talent, it’s certainly hereditary and passed down from one generation to another.
What is your current vision for your brand and what is in the pipeline?
Alanoud: One thing on the horizon is that we are starting to design modest wear. It is a niche market and who better to understand our cultural needs than ourselves as modestly-dressed hijabi designers? Modest wear and in particular the hijab, the most prized and protected garment for those who chose to wear it, is often targeted by many official entities who mistakenly claim it is an item of female subjugation, which couldn’t be further from the truth. We need to be respected for our choice to wear it. This is why we as designers shouldn’t only cater to a void in the market, but also understand the greater need to support women by designing fantastic modest wear that can still be fashionable. This is the much-needed representation we need and I truly hope we will embark on creating our own TIIYA modest wear line with hijabs as part of our pret-a-porter collections.
My eldest daughter Maryam, who loves to wear TIIYA designs doesn’t design even though she is brilliant and creative in her own way. But she is even more creative than I am and I believe she has the passion, talent and know-how to develop the brand into anything she wants, so I hope that one day she designs jewellery, as she’s very good at it!
Shaikha: My vision for the brand transcends the boundaries of simply creating. I hope to one day have the pleasure of curating exhibitions with my mother that will showcase the craftsmanship and all the years of acquired skill, and the dedication that is behind every TIIYA creation. Co-creating couture and photographing it may tell a story, but I feel that it is with exhibitions that the creative input behind the brand will truly find a voice.
Who is the woman that you design for?
Shaikha: The TIIYA woman is timeless and elegant. She carries herself with regal poise. She is debonair, cultured, and intellectual. She is a captivating sight to behold.
Tell us a little about the savoir-faire and handmade element of your pieces?
Shaikha: To describe TIIYA’s savoir-faire and handmade aspects is to describe the brand’s signature. There will always be a dichotomous play on soft and hard, light and dark in the shape of sculptural structured form juxtaposed by diaphanous and gossamer-like textures. And there will always be delicate hand beadwork that is now synonymous with the brand.
What does it mean to you for your products to be “Made in Qatar”?
Alanoud: It means a great deal to us because in 2006 when I started my first label Noblesse Oblige, it was the very first product bearing the label “Made in Qatar” to be exported outside of Qatar aside from oil and gas. We are also very proud of our Ruler’s vision for our country and the innumerable achievements in many fields as the country continues to grow, all while maintaining our traditional values.
How do you think the concept of haute couture and handmade pieces is still relevant today?
Alanoud: Being a designer is one facet of my personality. I am also a researcher, an academic and a holder of a UCL postgraduate degree in museum and gallery practise, particularly specialising in intangible cultural heritage. I know very well the importance of safeguarding the providers of artisanal skills required for handmade objects as this could be a dying heritage as the world progresses. I take pride in knowing that we support the continuity and help to sustain this craft and industry and the families that rely on it. The world has much to lose if we lose the craftsmanship of handmade wearable art and those who are skilled in doing it.
How do you source your materials and what do you look for in the materials you use?
Alanoud: Quality and sustainability are always at the heart of everything we do.
Can you share a little on the growing fashion industry in Qatar and how, in your opinion, are aspiring designers from Qatar being supported to grow further?
Shaikha: There has been so much growth in Qatar’s fashion scape as of late. But there is always room for more. We are proud of the advancements of the growing fashion community here. There is great support for emerging designers with many initiatives and programs, however, we do look forward to seeing how existing and established designers can be supported too.
When are you in your most creative state of mind and what inspires you the most?
Shaikha: What inspires me the most is certainly the natural world. I have always been fascinated by the flora and fauna that surrounds us. From the iridescence of bird feathers to the form of fungi, there is always a little bit of nature that finds its way through to the couture.
Alanoud: I’m most creative when Shaikha and I bounce ideas off each other.
Who or what is your biggest source of inspiration?
Shaikha: My mother! I can confidently say that she has played a principal role in actively forming my tastes, ideas, and interests. She took great pride in instilling an appreciation and eye in me for all things creative. There has always been a strong focus on the unusual and remarkable and this has resulted in a higher level of perfectionism, which I can only attribute to my mother’s consistent push to constantly strive for excellence and improvement. Her talent, imagination, and creativity know no bounds. For this, she will always be my inspiration.
What is your first memory of fashion?
Shaikha: It is very difficult for me to pinpoint my first memory of fashion given that I grew up under the umbrella of a couture house even before TIIYA was born. What I do remember, however, is sitting by my mother hand-stitching gowns from scraps for my dolls while she converses with our petit mains. Afterwards, I would share with her whatever I had created. This was long before I joined the design helm and I was still a child. I also remember looking through her extensive collection of magazines from the 80s and 90s. Essentially fashion has always been part of my life since I was a young child.
Are there any designers that inspire you?
Shaikha: Where to begin? I find that the designers that inspire me are often creators of spellbinding and avant-garde pieces. There is Roberto Capucci and his sculptural art, Guo Pei and her magical creations, and Theirry Mugler and the eccentric pieces that are out of this world. And of course John Galliano, especially his collections during his Dior design reign; each one more incredible than the last.
Alanoud: Since the early nineties my greatest design inspiration has been Gianfranco Ferre. In fact, I once sent my sketches to him and he responded by saying I should join his atelier. I couldn’t due to many reasons although I would have loved to discuss designing with him because I truly feel I’m his biggest fan. What I love about his narrative is that when he was asked to join Dior, it caused a stir amongst the French as he was the first Italian to helm the iconic French label. He quickly won them and the whole world over with his creations and I think that in my personal opinion feels very true to the essence of the brand.
What can we expect to see from you for the rest of this year?
Shaikha: I can only say that we are planning something exquisite and we are very excited to share it with you soon. The themes and narratives that our future collections will follow are highly inspired. You will just have to wait and see!
Alanoud: I don’t plan, when the idea strikes us we just do. I love letting Shaikha inspire us. We jokingly call it ‘trust falls’ and I’ve learnt to let go and enjoy the process and joys of working with her. It’s become the highlight of my day!
What is a message you would send to our readers and your fans in the Middle East?
Alanoud: We as Middle Eastern designers should not have to trade off our unique and beautiful culture and traditions in the face of change. We should hold on to our identity because we have a great wealth of knowledge, that is linked to our intellectuality and can be portrayed creatively which we should feel comfortable sharing with an international audience. If we do not uphold our traditions when representing ourselves and our culture, we may be at risk of changing our narrative and appearing to be non-authentic.