Two Emirati designers from the second cohort of Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council’s ‘Azyame’ Fashion Entrepreneurs Programme have taken another giant leap forward in gaining international recognition after showcasing their Autumn/Winter 2018-2019 collections as part of Paris Fashion Week at AQ Market showroom.
Khulood Thani, the designer behind the BINT THANI label and Ayten Al Khayat, Founder of RAW by Ayten, are both members of the second batch of the Azyame programme, first launched in 2016 by Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council, an affiliate of Sharjah-based NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, to provide a select group of designers and entrepreneurs with the skills needed to develop and grow their fashion brands.
The year-long programme, just one of the Irthi’s initiatives to empower women in all craft sectors, provides a series of workshops and personalised mentorship sessions from experts and practitioners in the fashion industry, including the London College of Fashion, as well as access to showcasing opportunities, such as the prestigious Paris Fashion Week.
For the Emirati entrepreneurs, it was an outstanding opportunity to be mentored by some of the industry’s most respected figures who work with young designers and growing fashion companies to develop their business models and selling strategies.
Designer Ayten Al Khayat, of RAW by Ayten, showcased her new collection, ‘Terra,’ through which she explores the strength and wistful nature of women with high-end textiles and complex craftwork layered onto nude and navy tones from a ready-to-wear line of dresses, pants, coats and tops. The soft materials are accented with stone, leather and embroidery finishes – treasures found in Middle Eastern sand.
Ayten Al Khayat, who was mentored on the Azyame Fashion Entrepreneurs Programme by Angela Quaintrell, said: “Angela and the team at Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council worked endlessly to make sure we received the exposure required to bring in the buyers through the door. Although this was the first time I showcased my collection at Paris Fashion Week, the feedback has been very positive. This was definitely a dream come true for me!”
Khulood Thani’s BINT THANI label made its debut with the latest ready-to-wear collection ‘Bauhaus Influences,’ which creates clever layering through asymmetric and wrap silhouettes, with adaptable pieces also providing versatility. The collection carries a seasonal palette with strokes of bold colours such as red, white, black and green, contrasting with more industrial grey-blue and silver that express the use of the different materials during the Bauhaus movement.
Summing up the experience, she said: "It has been amazing to have been part of the Azyame Fashion Entrepreneurs Programme, which has been invaluable to the creative and the business side of BINT THANI. By linking my brand to such an immensely high-profile event as Paris Fashion Week, it has received exceptional exposure to the international market."
Reem Bin Karam, Director of NAMA said: “All NAMA affiliates work to enable women across all fields on a local and global level, following in the directives of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of NAMA. Abiding by this philosophy, Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council consistently presents highly capable and creative women and provides them with unique opportunities to raise awareness for their exceptional work and craft, such as through Paris Fashion Week, widely accepted as one the most influential events of the year. The two Emirati designers have gained large recognitions from their appearance and can expect tangible results, which is ultimately what Irthi seeks to provide.”
The second and on-going edition of the Azyame Fashion Entrepreneurs Programme also has a focus on the latest ethical and sustainable fashion practices, an aspect that both designers have been supported to embrace this season. In addition, as part of the designers’ commitment to the programme, each of them will ‘give back’ to the UAE’s craft sector by promoting and sharing their new-found skills and business knowledge.
Fashion consultant Angela Quaintrell was highly impressed with this year’s cohort, inviting both RAW by Ayten and BINT THANI to exhibit their AW18-19 collections as part of AQ Market in Paris: “It has been extremely exciting having Kholoud and Ayten at AQ Market. They have both had interest from international buyers which I am sure will influence the local market to carry their brands. I think that through the Azyame Programme they have both developed their collections and can justify a position on the international fashion stage.”
This showcasing opportunity follows Irthi’s most recent international partnership with luxury department store Fenwick of Bond Street in July 2017, which created a unique pop-up retail space for 10 talented designers from the UAE, five of whom were part of the Azyame Fashion Entrepreneurs Programme, who benefitted from an internationally recognized presence for each of their labels.