When he presented his Spring/Summer 2021 Haute Couture collection earlier this year, Rami Al Ali decided to pay tribute to his home country of Syria.
More specifically the city of Damascus, whose warm summer evenings became a great source of inspiration for his latest Haute Couture offering. In fact, it seems, his home country is inspiring the Dubai-based designer more than ever, during a year where we have all come to appreciate home and family a little more. Last year Al Ali set up a new platform; “Ard Dyar” which fosters and nurtures successful Syrian creatives in the UAE by bringing them together to share knowledge and learn from each other.
While the pace may have slowed since the global pandemic began, Al Ali has had a busy year launching Rami Al Ali White, a line of bridal gowns, as well as his Fall 2021 Pret-a-Porter collection which bridges the gap between ready-to-wear and Haute Couture. His Spring Summer Haute Couture collection was presented virtually as part of Paris Fashion Week this January. A total of eighteen looks were beautifully aligned to illustrate Al Ali’s vision for the season, evoking the magical allure of evenings in Damascus. “I’m not quite sure if it’s a fantasy orchestrated by my imagination or an echo of an old childhood memory, but it always comes back to me so strong, so real, so vivid and very nostalgic.” Rami Al Ali recounts. “A Damascene evening, to me, consists of a cool breeze wafting with a sweet Jasmine aroma. Calming whispers behind the rosewood mashrabias, muddled with the gurgle of the courtyard fountain and the shadows created by the full moon, like a serene sanctuary – so soulful and peaceful.” We find out more about the recent collection and the upcoming plans for the year.
This past year has been a strange one for all – what has been your experience and what is something you will take away or a lesson you have learnt?
I feel that it has forced people to slow down and reassess. I think it’s a healthy reset. Every industry, including the fashion industry, needs to slow down every now and then to get back on the right track. I think there was an oversupply of products on the market, which outbalanced the real demand. Now brands are producing more consciously and really focusing on what they want to put out there.
You recently presented the Spring/Summer 21 Haute Couture collection, tell us about the process of creating the collection.
Now more than ever, I feel the need to connect to my roots and preserve my identity – to tell the story with a sense of hope and love. The desire to connect to my heritage steered my design process in a direction that would allow me to share it with the world. Syria has and will always be, part of my creative persona, my real voice, what grounds me and gives stability. It is always a source of inspiration – the architecture, the nature, the craftsmanship, the people – it has appeared in several collections through the history of the house. It is my eternal muse. This season I took inspiration from a magical evening in Damascus. It’s mystical, seductive and very alluring. There is intimacy and a sense of familiarity and warmth. This is echoed through the choice of fabrics, colours and craftsmanship.
The strong silhouettes and structures in the pieces are very interesting – are there any new techniques you introduced this season?
It’s a technique we keep on developing and have done for the past few seasons. We wanted to create volume and structure without having the weight usually associated with it. It was very challenging, but it gave us a strong visual identity.
What is the message you want to share with this collection?
I want to share my heritage while also empowering the women who chose to wear my designs. There are certain characteristics of a woman that have long inspired the brand and have influenced my collections each season. This season it is no different. I wanted to embody her with every design. She is confident and elegant with an unapologetic air of glamour – she is both modern and timeless.
Tell us a little about the virtual presentation and the story behind it.
Every designer is a movie director. Each time we start a collection, we have a script, set design and lighting – when combined they create a universe that captures the theme of the collection. So the new virtual shows have brought this talent to the surface and made it more of a reality. It brings another element and dimension to the collection.
Of course, the physical shows in Paris did not take place this year – how have you felt the differences in the process and how have you been able to keep in touch with your clients?
It was a new experience and offered a unique element that had not been explored by the House before. It expanded our reach and allowed for more people to see and experience the collection. In saying that, I don’t believe it will replace physical shows in the long term. Haute Couture specifically, is about craftsmanship and that needs to be felt, touched and seen in person. It’s not just drama and creativity that can be shown digitally – this is just one element.
We just saw the Pret-a-Porter collection for Fall 2021 – tell us a little about that and how does designing this collection differ from your Haute Couture collections?
The design process for Couture and Pret are much the same. It begins with inspiration and developing that through research and design exploration. The main difference between the two collections is the wearability of the designs and the level of craftsmanship that goes into each piece. We categorise our Pret collections as demi-couture, which includes couture details that are synonyms with the house, however, the handwork is not of the same magnitude as our couture collections.
We also saw the beautiful Rami Al Ali White collection launch last year – what has been the feedback of that collection so far?
I’m grateful that the feedback on this new collection has been a positive one. We have introduced the collection to our eCommerce site and it’s doing very well.
What do you love about designing bridal gowns for a woman’s special day and do you feel a lot of pressure to get it right?
Yes, it’s a big moment and one that will create a memory that will last a lifetime. Each bride is beautifully unique in her own way, so designing a dress that speaks to her is something that I take pride in creating.
Looking forward to the rest of the year, what will 2021 bring for Rami Al Ali?
This year forced us to tweak our previous plans and expedite some. We launched our eCommerce site, which is an amazing direct connection to our clients. We also launched WHITE, our demi-couture line that caters to unique and special occasions and we just launched our new Pret-a-Porter collection. We are currently working on launching our annual couture bridal collection later in the year and have many other exciting projects in the pipeline so watch this space!
What is something you would like to achieve this year?
Hopefully stability and subtle growth without affecting our DNA and identity.
In this issue we are discussing the month of Ramadan – what does this month mean to you and how will you be spending it this year?
The Holy Month for me is a time of reflection and a time to connect with friends and family.
What can you tell us about sustainability at Rami Al Ali?
We are very conscious about production and the effects of over-production on the environment. Everything is made to measure so we produce garments only once an order is confirmed to reduce unnecessary landfill waste associated with mass production.
Outside of your fashion line, we have seen your recent Ard Dyar events – tell us a little about that concept and how it’s working?
Ard Dyar 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. The vision is to 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.
How would you like to see creative talents supported and nurtured in the region?
I want to create more opportunities that might not have otherwise presented themselves. It’s about building a network of likeminded professionals who can mentor, grow and cultivate.