Syrian-born designer Rami Al Ali has had a passion for creativity and design since a young age. After studying Visual Arts at the College of Fine Arts in Damascus, he became fascinated with fine fabrics and began to develop his talent for design.
Al Ali began working for fashion houses in Dubai before opening up his own fashion house in 2001. Rami Al Ali couture soon began to gain international attention and in 2009, Al Ali was invited as a guest member of Alta Moda Alta Roma, showing his Spring-Summer Couture collection on the official couture week calendar. While many Arab designers are still trying to find their feet on the global stage, Al Ali has managed to achieve international success with his brand, while remaining humble and true to his roots. In 2012, he began showcasing his couture collections in Paris and in 2020, he launched his ready-to-wear line Rami Al Ali White. He has dressed celebrities including Beyoncé, Helen Mirren, Sharon Stone, Youssra, Nawal Al Kuwaitia and more.
Despite his success, Al Ali remains humble and has continued to keep his core atelier in Dubai. This allows the designer to have more control and flexibility over his creations and also to give back to the community that has supported him along the way. He has become something of an icon in the UAE and his designers are loved and coveted by not just Arab women, but women from all around the world. As the designer revealed his Spring/Summer 2023 Haute Couture collection in Paris, we caught up with him to find out more about his latest designs and what we can expect to see from the brand throughout the coming year.
Congratulations on the Spring/Summer Couture 2023 collection – tell us about this collection and how it came to life.
This season, I wanted to tell a tale of epic romance and glamour through the lens of contemporary fashion. Drawing inspiration from ancient Greek mythology, we worked to merge historical references with silhouettes that reflect the notion of femininity within the contemporary context.
What about Greek Mythology particularly interested you and how did you translate it into the collection?
Greek mythology is an ancient and enduring narrative that has inspired creatives and designers throughout the centuries. This collection draws inspiration from one of Greek mythology’s oldest fables, “Golden Fleece”, which tells the story of a hero’s journey to obtain a mythical object that represents ultimate wealth and power. This theme is translated into the collection through the use of a pastel colour palette, striking shapes, and refined detailing that echoes the splendour of ancient Greek architecture.
What can you tell us about your creative process and how the looks went from sketch to physical piece?
As is the case with any collection, I first started the process looking for the right inspiration, which in this case was “Golden Fleece”. Then came the moodboards, translating the abstract concepts of the fable into curated elements and themes that would form the foundation of the collection. I then started sketching designs, exploring different colour palettes, and sourcing fabric samples that would complement the chosen designs.
Designing a couture collection is always a very stressful process that involves long hours and sleepless nights, but I’m always really excited to work on these and I had a lot of fun with this particular theme.
Tell us about some of the key looks and how you evolved the techniques and craftsmanship used in your designs for this collection.
Within this collection, I really wanted to push the boundaries of what we can produce within our atelier so we played with the notion of dualities to reimagine classic eveningwear glamour. One of the elements that is unique to this collection is the soft, fluid shapes that come together to create structural volume, this is something that we have never explored before.
Why is it important for you to keep much of your company in Dubai?
When I first arrived in Dubai after university, I intended it to be a brief stopover before heading to America. However, my experience at international fashion houses in Dubai proved invaluable, and I developed strong relationships with clients in the region. I eventually made the decision to stay and established my couture label in 2001, and since then, I’ve never looked back!
As for keeping much of my company in Dubai, I need to maintain close oversight of the production process to ensure the highest level of quality control. This allows me to maintain the unique character and vision of my brand. I work closely with a team of skilled artisans and technicians to bring my designs to life, combining traditional craftsmanship with the latest technology to produce my collections.
Tell us about the Rami Al Ali universe today and how has it evolved over the last few years.
It’s been an interesting journey, to say the least, and I’m honoured to see my designs being worn by socialities and international celebrities. In terms of career highlights, two instances stand out. The first was in 2009 when I was invited to showcase my Spring-Summer Couture collection as a guest member of Alta Moda Alta Roma on the official couture week calendar. This opportunity allowed me to establish stronger relationships with the European fashion media, and it was a great honour to be named one of the top 50 most influential Arabs by The Middle East Magazine. The second breakthrough moment would have to be January 2012, when I made my debut at Couture Fashion Week in Paris, showcasing my Spring-Summer 2012 collection. On an annual basis, we produce six seasonal collections: two couture, two ready-to-wear and two bridal as well as one custom bridal couture collection.
What is your take on the regional fashion industry today and how it is moving forward?
While the fashion industry in the region is still relatively young in comparison to more mature fashion markets around the world, it’s exciting to witness its gradual growth and I’m excited about its potential for the future. It’s inspiring to see more and more regional designers and fashion enthusiasts taking risks and pushing boundaries, creating unique and exclusive pieces that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. With the right support and the emergence of new talent, I am confident that the region is well on its way to solidifying its identity as a global fashion hub in the years to come.
How do you get inspired by your Middle Eastern heritage?
The Middle East has a rich heritage of importing the art of textiles and fabrics to the world, and creativity is a value that has been passed down in my family. My father’s profession as an architect and my mother’s attention to intricate details and refinement exposed me to the world of design at a young age. These experiences played a significant role in shaping my character.
What is the biggest challenge you face today?
One of the biggest challenges we face as a regional brand is that we have to compete with international brands who typically have greater resources to invest in marketing and public relations to extend their reach. They also have the advantage of being located in major fashion hubs, which gives them greater visibility and exposure. As a regional brand, we often need to travel to different locations to gain similar exposure and opportunities, which is both costly and time-consuming. It’s not easy to establish and grow a fashion label in a highly competitive market like the one we operate in.
Looking back, what is your proudest moment so far?
Naturally, showcasing my collection in Paris for the first time was a truly momentous occasion for me. As a designer, it was a dream come true to make my runway debut in the fashion capital of the world.
Is there anything you would change?
Nothing at all. I am grateful for every step of my journey as it has shaped me into the person and designer I am today. There were certainly challenges and obstacles, but I learned and grew from each experience and I am proud of what I have accomplished so far
There are few brands from the Arab region that have managed to reach success on a global level – what is your opinion on this and what advice would you give to aspiring designers in the Middle East?
It’s exciting to see so many Arab designers who have made a name for themselves on the global fashion stage, despite facing stiff competition from established international brands. Their success is a testament to their hard work and dedication. For aspiring designers, my advice would be to strive to leave a lasting impression. Don’t simply blend in with the crowd, but instead, find ways to showcase your unique perspective and creativity. By being true to yourself and expressing your individuality, you can set yourself apart and stand out in the competitive world of fashion.
In this issue we are celebrating the month of Ramadan, what does this time mean to you and how will you be spending it this year?
Ramadan is a very spiritual month, it’s a time of reflection and connection. The social scene becomes very vivid and very active and we start to really connect and engage on a human level. I spend a lot of time trying to support charitable initiatives and spend most of my time with my family and those closest to me. It’s a very special month and everyone shares the same feeling in our culture and region.
Can you tell us more about your Ard Dyar initiative?
I launched the Ard Dyar program in 2021 to primarily support Syrian talent in the region. The initiative is a series of intimate dinners designed to celebrate and highlight Syrian talent in the region. This concept is to encourage open conversations with well-established Syrian figures about their career success. Ard Dyar is derived from the Arabic word that refers to the private courtyard inside a Syrian house; taking a space usually reserved for close friends and family and reimagining it in a figurative sense to open it up to the rest of the world.
The vision for this initiative is to continue to host and grow the community in order to build a foundation of industry professionals who can assist with the development, success and opportunities needed to cultivate emerging Syrian talent.
What else is in the pipeline for you this year?
Our business is firmly rooted in stability and poised for continued growth, as we continuously expand our presence into global markets and transition from a fashion house to a thriving corporation. My vision is to continuously create new lines and products that are in line with our client’s needs and are also distinguished by their exceptional quality. In terms of clientele, my focus is on boutique businesses as well as our own e-commerce website, as I believe that allows me to preserve an intimate and exclusive approach to my designs.