Amina al-Jassim: one of the first Saudi female fashion designers.
Amina al-Jassim from Saudi Arabia is one of those designers who have made a name for herself by making designs that are modern in cut, yet pass the scrutiny of the conservatives.
“Modesty is not the opposite of fashion, and fashion is not about showing more of my body,” says Amina, the haute-couture abayas designer.
Amina al-Jassim graduated in Computer Science and Business Administration from the Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, USA. She started off her designing career in 1984 making designs for her retail store Dar Breesam. Gradually, with disciplined marketing strategy and dedication, she has gained reputation in Saudi and also in the Middle East and Europe.
‘Arab culture through fashion’ is Amina’s vision, and her mission is ‘to familiarize the international fashion industry with the spirit of Arabian Culture by designing clothes with a touch of Arabian and Eastern heritage’. She makes great efforts to strike a balance between old art and new technology.
She was on Lux Fashion Show in Beirut in 2003 and 2004, and was awarded the Best Arab Designer in Beirut in 2005. (Amina’s LinkedIn Profile)
Dar Breesam is a famous design label owned by Amina al Jassim, a Saudi fashion designer who has made an impact not only in places like Saudi Arabia, Dubai (where one of our clients, a fashion retailer, is also picking speed), Qatar, Lebanon, but also has dressed royalty and the likes of Princess Rania of Jordan and Queen Sophia of Spain. She has also designed for American singer actress Queen Latifa and countless famous Arabic actresses and singers. Her belief that “you can wear the colours of the season, the style of the season… you can get the traditions and principles right and still be fashionable” is reflected in all her glamour collections.
Dar Breesam’s logo is very interesting and an excellent example of an Arabic logo design using calligraphy and shape to form the brand mark. The elegant Arabic script font balances the design nicely while the brand mark is enclosed in an ornate frame giving this clothing logo design a traditional and classic look and feel. It is a pity that Amina al-Jassim’s official website is in Flash and very hard to navigate or use. I practically gave up after a few minutes on the site since the menus were not working.
Amina al-Jassim’s collections were on the first show of the opening day of the Sheila and Abaya Fashion event in Dubai Shopping Festival, 2008. Critics remarked Amina’s individuality was expressed through her innovative sheila, abaya and jellabiya designs that could be worn with ease and comfort. (source)
Amina’s designs are not just limited to Saudi or the Gulf; she has had her designs walk on the runways of international shows. At the Arabian Fashion Show, 6th April, 2009, held at the InterContinental Hotel in Park Lane, London, an even supported by the Arab-British Chamber of Commerce, and formally opened by A-BCC Secretary General & CEO Dr. Afnan al-Shuaiby, Amina was among the other famed Arab designers like Abed Mahfouz from Lebanon, Rabia Z from the UAE, Samira Haddouchi from Morocco and Oman Kashoura from Jordan.
Models for Amina Al Jassim’s collection at Muscat Fashion Week 2011.
An Omani, Ibtesam Al Rahbi, said Amina’s designs were unusual with metallic turbans and hats that reminded them of the traditional Turkish fezzes at the three day fashion show in Sultanate of Oman in 2011. Though Amina models walked the ramp mostly in black, they also wore dresses in different colours and cuts, exposing a bit of them here and there. (Middle East’s Fashion Week by Stephanie Dahle, 2/23/2011 on Forbes)
“Fashion is a performative utterance: to do things with clothes that exhibit and establish trends.” — quotes Anne Hedge, American musician. (source)
In an article on Alwan for the Arts website, an organisation promoting the diverse cultures of the Middle East in New York and three-state metropolitan area by conducting art and fashion events, Amina Al-Jassim of Saudi Arabia and Hana Sadiq of Iraq are cited as good examples that showcase how rarely we find a designer who projects ‘cross cultural epistemology’ on to local heritage, quoting Joseph Massad’s sartorial analysis in “Colonial Effects”. (Events; “Performance: Hana Sadiq: Fashion in Performance”; Nov 16, 2011 – source)
Amina has about three stores in Saudi Arabia, has her designs in some high-end boutiques across the Middle East. Her designs are so popular that she was invited to clothe contestants on “The Gulf Star”, an equivalent of American Idol, on Dubai TV. (source)
There have been very few international events involving Arab culture and fashion without Al-Jassim’s designs. Amina al-Jassim’s models grace the ramps at most of the Fashion Show Weekend Events organised by Saverah, an event company in London, which now creates networking opportunities for Muslim communities in the UK, with its Saverah Events, Saverah TV and Saverah Magazine.
In 2014, Amina got ‘The Best Designer 2014’ in Saudi Arabia. She has had fashion shows and exhibitions in Beirut, London, Madrid, Rome and Morocco.
Watch some of the designs by Amina at the Saverah Fashion Weekend at the Global Peace & Unity Event, Excel London:
A BRIEF NOTE ON ISLAMIC FASHION
Globalization has made people all over the world exchange cultures: trade & commerce, technological ideas, beliefs & philosophies, art & literature, architecture, eating habits & clothing styles.
Though the 19th and 20th centuries saw a rapid development in this globalization due to the technological advancement in transport, especially the air transport, historians argue that there have been cultural exchanges among peoples all through the annals of history.
There were trade routes criss-crossing the globe way back some millenia. There was this Amber Road used for moving amber from Northern Europe to the Mediterranean area; the Spice Trade Route used for trading spices and opium between Asia, Northeast Africa and Europe; the Incense Road had been a major ancient land and sea trading routes joining the Mediterranean area with northeastern Africa, Arabia and India; the Silk Road or Silk Route, an ancient network of trade and cultural exchange routes linking major regions of Asia with the Eastern and the Western World not only by traders and merchants but also by people from every walk of life from China and India to the Mediterranean region helped development in many regions; and, of course, the slave trade moved slaves and their ways of life.
So there has been a lot of movement of people, and consequently, exchange of cultures.
However, in all these exchanges, there are certain aspects of life that have been well protected from being mixed up. The most important aspect is the religion. People of one culture accepted trade, art, architecture, literature and clothing styles from people of another culture, but guarded religion with their lives. The powerful people imposed their religious believes on the weak people and tried their best to convert them, and the weak people tried their best to resist the forceful change, but to no avail in most cases and in the old world.
Clothing is one of the few elements that have been changed with little resistance, except in the Islamic societies, especially in connection with the women’s wardrobe. Each item of clothing has a significant place in Islam. Headdresses, the long robes, the cloaks, the footwear and even the accessories give a certain identity to a Muslim. They show a Muslim apart from not only people from other religions but also within other Muslim sects.
This identity establishing is found in many other religions, too, but in no other culture is the code of dressing observed so reverently as in Islamic cultures. In most religions, clerics in charge of places of worship wear traditional clothes to stand apart from the others and ordinary people wear traditional clothes during certain festival and celebration times, but in Islamic states most of the people keep to the dress code most of the time, and the women’s dress code is more seriously followed.
‘Fashion’ in the sense the other religious societies see is not seen in most Islamic states, especially when it comes to women folk.
However, in recent years, there have been some drastic changes taking place in the lifestyle of Muslim men and women within the Islamic states and in other parts of the world. With the Muslim population growing significantly in Western world, people are becoming less observant of their religious codes and the stringent dress codes have been relaxed to suit the social life in Europe and the Americas and elsewhere, while keeping certain items of clothing in place, such as scarves to cover the head and sleeves on the dresses to cover the hands and gowns to cover the legs.