The abaya as we know it has evolved. Gone are the days of homogenous wear; traditional dress is in fashion – with a twist. Editor in Chief Georgie Bradley speaks with Faiza Bouguessa, behind the eponymous, Bouguessa, who has revolutionised the abaya to be both urban and luxe…
“It’s an abaya?!” I recall squealing in disbelief. Not because what I was looking at was outrageously ostentatious or radical, I hasten to add. But because this particular abaya worn by a model sauntering about in a catalogue-perfect Parisian apartment, was something I’d wear in a heartbeat.
The cut was sleek, tailored and form-fitting, without being too shapely around the contours of the body. It was a royal blue velvet abaya, draping so elegantly but with a slight urban slouch giving a modern note. Another model was clad in a sharp boxy suit of a deep burgundy hue (with a partially velvet collar) that hung confidently, showing both modesty and style.This is what Faiza Bouguessa does. She creates abayas that every woman would wear, regardless of their background. She has democratised long-held tradition, and opened it to all. Bouguessa pieces are not defined to one single aesthetic – Faiza likes to play with structure, geometry and flow: “I like to give my customers options. There’s the choice of wearing belts around the abayas if you want.
My clients come to me for an abaya that’s a fashion statement. In my collection there are all types of abayas that can take you from day to night. There are some styles that are easy every day pieces and then there are some that are very eye-catching,” says Faiza.
When it comes to the target market, she’s naturally placed an emphasis on the Gulf but for the SS16 collection, she had taken her collection to Europe and therefore felt the need to sidestep a bit. “I went away from my usual aesthetic. I was presenting in Paris and Milan and I felt that I had to make an effort to make it more adaptable to the European market.But for the AW16 [what is shown here] I realised it was better to focus on my market because that’s why I started the brand in the first place – I felt that nobody really gave women who dress modestly any thought.”
Faiza has a rich tapestry of culture behind her. Born in Algeria but growing up in France and then living in Dubai has meant Faiza has had a diverse mix of influences for her work; but it’s not as prescriptive as you would think. “My inspiration is very random, just like any other designer. I am inspired by paintings, a piece of furniture, or a trend of the moment within international fashion,” adds Faiza.
One trend that is present in the AW16 collection is the nod to pyjama wear that’s taken over the last couple of seasons – the piping details on the shirts and the cream velvet robe-like piece illustrate the hotly adopted trend the most.
“The unexpected colour in the lining or the geometry in the cut has brought the best out of the abaya and given it a new identity”
In that vein, Faiza designs her abayas in such a way so as to give her clients freedom to build on the canvas of each piece – the unexpected colour in the lining or the geometry in the cut has brought the best out of the abaya and given it a new identity.
But how far away from the abaya’s original roots and context will Faiza go with Bouguessa? “I would say the abaya has become more sophisticated over time. I think it’s a good thing because women feel the need to express their personality via style here, at the same time, they still have their strong religious beliefs and they want to respect that too,” notes Faiza.
From our perspective, Bouguessa is a breath of fresh air and ticks all the right boxes.
Editor in Chief