Moroccan-French designer Selma Benomar has become a go-to in the region for elegant feminine kaftan dresses. Her unique style is inspired by her heritage and the history of the traditional kaftan but adds contemporary elements which bring this classic piece into the 21st century and make them appealing to today’s woman.
Crafted from luxurious materials in Paris and Milan Selma has worked hard to establish her brand in the region over the last nine years and has become the well-known in the region for her classic evening wear with a modern twist.
Born in the city of imperial past, Meknes in Morocco, Selma Benomar was exposed to garment making from a young age thanks to her family of artists and kaftan couturiers. Inspired by their work, she wanted to embark on her own design journey, combining the traditional designs of her childhood with modern Parisian aesthetics that would appeal to a wider range of women. The designer’s handcrafted gowns are produced at home in Morocco, where Berber, Arabian and European cultures collide to become one, while her flagship boutique in Dubai has become a go-to for many Arab celebrities and prominent women. From strong silhouettes and delicate embellishments to the finest, handpicked fabrics, Selma Benomar’s designs tastefully merge the rich Arab heritage with European modernity.
This Ramadan, Selma presents an exclusive capsule collection inspired by the blooms of Spring. A vibrant colour palette evokes joy and hope while the intricate embroidery highlights traditional craftsmanship making a statement of style and heritage for the Holy month. As Selma prepares to launch her latest collection we discover more about her passion for tradition and the secrets to creating an established brand in the region.
Tell us about your Spring/Summer 2021 collection.
“The Smiles of Nature” is the name I chose for my latest SS21 collection. It is a tribute to colours, inspired by the saying “colours are the smiles of nature”. I believe that colours are a magnificent gift for our senses and I wanted to create a collection that calls out the happiness in the soul and brings joy to the little things in life that keep us grounded.
Tell us about the choice of colours and fabrics.
Before selecting the colours to include in this collection, I enjoyed doing a deep search into the meaning of each colour and its impact on the human soul and then selected the ones that aligned with the message I wanted to spread with the collection. Bright colours like orange for example bring people out of their shell and can help them adapt to change. Colours like green help to balance yourself with others almost as nature does. Red works as a source of energy that attracts and invigorates others, while pink stands as a colour of kindness and love. Yellow offers a vibration of joy and happiness with mental clarity. Regarding the fabrics, I wanted them to be as simple, noble and neutral as possible to blend with the powerful colour theme.
Who is the woman you designed this collection for?
This collection is dedicated to audacious women with diverse personalities. Women who strive for an ideal coexistence between modernity and tradition.
How does your heritage inspire your designs?
I am lucky and privileged to come from Morocco; a country with an incredibly rich history. I was born and raised in Meknes; known as the land of traditions; the city is an open-air museum. I am extremely attached to the artisanal craftsmanship and know-how that I inherited and I’m always keen to incorporate and beautifully tie that together with the modern trends I was exposed to during the years I lived in France.
How do you go about designing a collection for Ramadan?
Ramadan is a blessed month. It is the month of patience, sacrifice and forgiveness. A month where we all unite in fasting, feasting, worship and sharing the joy and happiness of gathering with family and friends. I always design a specific collection for Ramadan and Eid. I make sure I have simple and comfortable casual designs for day wear and more dressy looks for Eid celebrations and gatherings.
You are well established in the UAE fashion industry now but what is something you would like to change about the industry moving forward?
As an established yet small-to-medium business, I have always prioritised quality over quantity and never skipped on the exquisite handmade workmanship when producing my collections. Until 2019, the fashion industry was quite frustrating, and unless you had strong confidence in your own vision and standards, you could easily feel you’re not doing enough or that you will get left behind. Fashion houses used to create eight collections a year. The result was a crowded fashion scene, with items showing up in stores months before customers were ready to wear them; summer collections in February and winter collections in August for example. I think the best change I have ever wished for is actually happening now as a result of the pandemic. While it is an unfortunate circumstance, in my opinion, the industry is going through a makeover and will not be what it used to be moving forward.
What advice would you give to aspiring designers in the region?
Commitment is the key to long-lasting success. The result of your hard work will come in the long term but you must put your heart into everything you do and never give up.
Who or what is your biggest source of inspiration?
Travelling and nature are my biggest sources of inspiration. Visiting a new place can have a great power to forge new perceptions and fresh ideas.
How do you think your designs help women to feel empowered?
It’s not about the dress or the design itself, it is about the passion and the path you create. Through my design journey, I spread the message that there is no limit to what you can learn, achieve and create.
What is your biggest achievement so far?
Firstly it would be the way I have exported part of my country’s tradition to the Arab world and kept it alive by adapting it to the modern world. I can say that I am proud to have unflinchingly proven that the Moroccan kaftan is the true epitome of elegance. No longer is it a traditional garment restricted to the home or a few occasions, it’s a piece that belongs to red carpet events and lavish ceremonies.
What is something you would still like to achieve with the brand that you haven’t done yet?
The list is long. I always set targets and goals. Sustaining success is harder than becoming successful and you maintain it by always setting higher and harder targets.
What is the biggest challenge you face today?
As it has for everyone today, the global pandemic has caused significant social and economic consequences. It is a great challenge and you have to be a solid structure to face it.
What is a lesson you have learnt from this past year?
Our most precious treasure is our health. Everything else can be replaced.
What is the professional motto that you live by?
Discipline will take you to places where motivation can’t.
Who is a woman you would love to design a dress for?
Arab women are my inspiration for each collection I make so wish I to dress each and every one of them.
What do you love about creating made to measure pieces Vs. ready-to-wear gowns?
I love the personalised experience I offer to my clientele. We make each design with the customer in our minds to ensure that it fits perfectly and we have the flexibility to adjust it to meet the clients most desired wishes. It’s all about the experience.
What is a message you would like to send to your clients in the UAE?
I am grateful for the love and support I am receiving from all my customers around the world, and I am specifically thankful for the UAE customers who have helped and supported the establishment of my brand over the first years. Thank you to the UAE and thank you Dubai.