In the chic setting of LA BOUTIQUE BLANCHE, our fashion insider, POOJA (@lesrebellessquad) interviewed Qatari sisters MAQDEEM and AISHA AL NAAMA, discussing everything from the launch of Maqdeem’s Resort Collection to what it takes to be a young, up-and- coming modest fashion brand in Qatar…
Tell us about Maqdeem and why it is unique compared to other Qatari brands.
For the latest collection we are focusing on ready-to-wear separates which you can mix and match. We try to create exceptional pieces. It’s luxury, but, at the same time it’s a afordable and for every collection we create, we try to blend modern style with our culture, and that is why it’s modest.
How has Maqdeem evolved since its first collection in 2015?
Maqdeem started the brand in 2015 with a collection more traditional in its design aesthetic, but it was one of the first brands in the market to make colourful abayas. As a young designer she felt that local women were more conservative and wasn’t sure how her collection would be perceived. She needn’t have worried as the response was very positive and she was really pleased when the collection completely sold out.
“Aisha Al Naama (Maqdeem’s sister) came on board after that initial success and we decided that we could be more edgy with a more creative collaboration and continue in a different direction. We created a t-shirt and sweater capsule collection in partnership with a Qatari artist Al Mulla, who created the artwork for the t-shirts, exclusively for Maqdeem. It was 100% made in Qatar and gained a lot of local demand.”
“With every collection we have had we have gained different customers and this Resort Collection is our biggest collection to date, with a full range and the focus on RTW. e collection includes shirts, pants, skirts, dresses to cater for modern east-meets-west style.” Revealed Aisha who talked about their recent Resort Collection.
“ The colour palette is very fresh, perfect for the summer, or colours you can wear to any hot summer destinations, all year round” Maqdeem adds.
Is your collection curated and designed in Qatar? What inspires your designs?
“We have been working on the collection since October last year. It has been designed in Qatar and made in Turkey. is was a step forward for us to produce to international standards production wise.” said Aisha. Maqdeem, then went on to describe the Resort collection “ The inspiration behind the collection is not limited to one particular thing, we get inspired by our surroundings. It’s about a feeling, sensing and living things. For the latest collection we were inspired by desert tones, palm trees, the colour of the ocean and the sky. You will notice this from the embroidery and colour palettes that you see in our designs”.
As a fashion label owned by two sisters, how do you work together? What is your chemistry as a fashion duo?
They start by laughing and looking at each other as if teasing one another. Their passion was to be creative and design from a young age. They brainstorm their ideas for their collections and have a trusted designer that then evolves this through sketches to visualise this. They are meticulously involved in all aspects of the product life cycle from the start of the design all the way to production. They have been through a whirlwind of new experience from how to deal with PR, customers, and social media – they have ‘learned along the way.’
“Working together comes with a lot of attention sometimes, because you have different opinions, but then we have an advantage of having two forces combining ideas. We tend to add onto each others thoughts. Maqdeem went on to say “‘my sister was actually there from the beginning since I started my business but she wasn’t officially part of it. At that time I focused a lot of my attention on the details and the designs. I got a lot of advice on the way so I developed and evolved (the collection) from my sister and my brother too (a VCU student), he kept pushing me a lot. My sister always had these creative thoughts, especially in relation to social media.‘ Maqdeem you have to do this, do that and don’t do that’ she obsessed a lot too as she spends so may hours on social media, paying close attention to trends.”
The global fashion market is hugely investing in modest wear, what is your opinion on the rise of modest fashion?
“I really think that modest fashion is playing a major part in the fashion industry. For me being modest is not just about or directly related to religion. Sometimes it’s about being comfortable. It can add grace, elegance and be demure. A lot of fashion icons throughout history have dressed modestly. People think that being modest is relative to Islam but it’s not. There are other religions which encourage dressing modestly too. A big part of it is the age too. You will see more of the younger generation in their 20’s who are comfortable in showing skin and as they grow older they want to dress more conservatively in general. I recently read that the international fashion industry is depending on the Middle East region. They are expecting that in 2019 that the income from the modest wear will be around $484bn. A lot of the big brands like D&G are considering modest wear. H&M are considering modest wear and several other names. It’s good to see that and we feel that our label gives an option for such a market between high end and high street. Something that’s modest but more chic and affordable whilst maintaining a reputable quality, which you can see in the details and embellishments”
Your collection has been described as ‘for everyone of all cultures and backgrounds bridging the gap between different communities and backgrounds.’ Tell me about some pieces that reflect this ethos in your Resort collection?
“We have longer length pieces, elegant, chic and modest. Most of the pieces are very versatile. In every collection we try to create exceptional pieces that blend in the Arabic culture. We try to cater something for everyone, of all ages” said Aisha. On describing a blue buttoned jacket with a long hem, Aisha explained that “it has an Eastern feeling as it has long sleeves, but what the customer chooses to wear it with could make it modest or showy, depending on the customer’s taste. They can wear it with tight pants and even short shorts.” Their mix-and-match separates can be paired up easily. Recent feedback from an older customer was that “the design for a particular dress was like a 70’s smock catered to the taste of the older woman but with a contemporary twist.” explained Aisha.
What are your best received pieces from your current Resort collection?
Maqdeem innocently declared “Well, it depends on the customers needs. Their body shape, skin tone, and the colours that they prefer all impact on their final decision. I would say though that with no exception, everyone loves our blue pieces. I have not met anyone who doesn’t love the blue pieces in our collection. Actually that blue long shirt you picked, that was one of the best received pieces so far. e pleated blue dress in our collection was also very well received.”
Do you have a specialised fabric which is synonymous to your signature collection?
Aisha explained that “the colour, print and fabric is curated for each piece of the collection. Our fabrics are breathable and lightweight. They are semi synthetic which are perfect for warm weather climates. When you touch the pieces, they have a particular sensation which keeps cool in hot weather.” They meticulously picked their fabrics which range from tencel, viscose and jacquard. e summery prints are hand designed and the gorgeous embellishments are handmade.
How do you feel about the modest fashion scene in Qatar?
“It is growing and there are new brands that are coming out every day. e way we consider ourselves different is by incorporating ourselves as East-meets-West when it comes to style. In the local market ladies are really desperate for modest wear.” Aisha went on to say, “I noticed from quite early on that if I have the same piece as a sleeveless dress and one with long sleeves they would ask for the long sleeve variation. e culture is changing. During Eid women would have wanted want to show their abayas before, but now they prefer to show o their clothes especially for those that wear a hijab. They want to be dressed up, yet modest.” What is next for Maqdeem? Where do you see the brand in the future? “We are positioning ourselves internationally. I see Maqdeem in boutiques and department stores around the world. is was my target from the beginning” said Maqdeem. Aisha went on to say “…that is why we chose La Boutique Blanche. ere are certain public figures which we want to dress someday. Very soon we would love to showcase our range in department stores in the region and internationally too. at is a major goal.”