Sunday, January 27, 2013

DAILY DIARY: dinner at the lost city

 "Ubhar" is the mythical lost city this particular Bareeq Al Shatti restaurant is named after. Nothing here is lost though. The decor, the atmosphere, the menu, all are those little things that make me love living in Oman. We come here when we are not very hungry. Because the food makes you hungry. I mean, not that it doesn't satisfy, but if you start with just one appetizer it will leave you craving more.
I will post a few food photos later. We did eat. I had the Sultan Salad with Tandoori chicken and Marrakesh harira soup to start. I was craving Moroccan from the outset of our restaurant hunt and this was a good compromise. MOP had shrimp and the dried lime tea. The tea was so simple and yet so delish.
 Anyone who knows me knows that I survive purely on drinking Omani cardamon spiced "qahwa" which I am heavily addicted to. At Ubhar, it is complimentary.
We thought (mainly myself) to have Frankinsence icecream, knowing MOP would actually like icercream if it was date-flavoured and topped with dried apricot and crushed nuts and a splash of espresso. But then, I was sick from a cold and destined to walk along the beach in Al Shatti, [which was soooooooooooooooo cold that was cut short] so another shot [aka finjan---those Arabic porcelain coffee cups] was all we had before parting. Perfect night.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

DAILY DIARY: The Last Day of Muscat Fashion Week

DAS abaya rack, abayas not shown on the MFW13 runway.  The sleeves say "Love" in Arabic calligraphy. P.S. All photos unless otherwise credited are my own.  and this photo was taken on the second day of MFW13, not the last;p

Mauzan's very friendly and knowledgable design team related to OPNO that the inspirations for the MF/13 catwalk collection ranged from Medieval tapestries... to the volume of layered cotton-prairie skirts, along with all the other obvious abaya trends, like netted lace overlay, emphasis on the shoulders, with something slightly rock or sporty chic thrown in.
The star of the collection, the one I would likely buy myself, is this piece, with a peplum back. I love peplum. Always have, not just since it became a big trend.
 The beautifully embroidered (and often pearl strewn) floral panels found themselves bestowed in an array of cuts, from the bountiful to the slim, and were often constructed with the thought to be unique, or to allow for individual styling, such as a detachable drape that could be affixed in more than one manner. One particular abaya reminded me of a vintage 1930s Chinese dressing-gown.
Perhaps my favourite piece(s) were the abayas layered with coloured eye-lit cotton that resembled the volume of a prairie skirt when tied close. I hadn't seen this particular fabric successfully used by an abaya designer thus far, and I can see this design being successful as a casual piece, because what woman doesn't remember wearing one of those with love as a little girl?
While it isn't a new idea for abayas right now, laser cutting was beautifully done in an Arabesque pattern to allow the dress worn underneath to be seen. This seems to be the trend right now in Muscat, to have see-through panels affixed to the bottom of the abaya hem to the knees, and at the wrists. While not particularly on the glimspse-the-garment-underneath trend, I was particularly impressed with the laser-cut leather at the wrist of this abaya. Zhor Rais also featured leather roses on of her pieces, as Leather was done by abaya brand 'Arabesque' for last season and I am really feeling the leather trend right now. Not in an equestrian-Gucci-sporty way, but more like a tough-but-feminine Valentino. I really like how feminine leather roses seem. As close as I could ever see myself getting to leather and spikes is this abaya, white lace gloves, and Valentino's studded sandals. Beyond the laser-cut Arabesque design, there was a much more punky slashed design, I could see catching on fast in Kuwait, and with some of my bolder and more cutting-edge friends. I was a classics girl way before Blair Waldorf on Gossip Girl trounced along.
Mauzan featured a very beautifully-cut design (which they should definitely market as the Mauzan-cut because their label seems to have popularized it first) with classically lovely (while not individual at the moment) lace overlay [which I did not photograph] that was one of my favourite pieces from the collection. The same cut of abaya covered with pieces of mirror inspired by the latest collection by shoe designer Christian Louboutin [in case you ladies want to match your red-sole to your abaya]. I don't care if it is on trend or not. I always love mirrors.
Other key international fashion trends like the trench-coat, and boyfriend shirt, were interpretted in abaya-form by the Mauzan-team. The trench-coat was lovely in a sheer organza with a hint of plum, very much in line with Burberry's actual collection but with an abaya edge. I wasn't a fan of the boyfriend-cut. It could go very early 1980s bad-Jordanian-jilbab very quickly.
Design-team for Mauzan backstage. Photo taken from Muscat Fashion Week's Facebook page.
Being that this is the first time the Emirati [Al-Ain based] label has showcased in Oman, when asked what they thought about Muscat fashion week the Mauzan design team told OPNO that Omani women seemed very fashionable, and very interested in fashion. So perhaps we will be seeing more of Mauzan in Muscat in the future?
Photo by Latifa Al Shamsi for
I also had to ask, because I couldn't resist, where the inspiration for the 'Sultan Qaboos' abaya design came from. I had seen Emirati fashion blogger Latifa Al Shamsi in it, and for the life of me couldn't reckon the exact Omani influence. The secret will here be revealed: the colours from the Said Mussayr (turban worn by Sultan Qaboos and his ancestors). The moment I asked, there emerged from the Opera Galleria escalator, the exact design in question, with a pair of colour-courdinated Louboutin shoes, and Hermes bag.

Omani women interested in fashion?: enough said. [While I was under-cover in a floral-printed village "leso" and 9 rial Seeb exhibition abaya;p].
It was here that we ran into my [via my husband] nephew's wife shopping the collections with a friend.
New to me (but apparently not to relatives) is Omani label "Endemage" which means, 'a merge' to signify the blend of Omani culture with international fashion. The label began with a collection of unique abayas sold from the UAE but the designer, Lubna Al Zakwani, has always been Omani.
This was immediately apparent to me when I noted the sheer gauze and wide-sleeved construction of an evening abaya. "This is based on a Sharqiyah [Eastern-Omani] Suri [style of regional dress]!" Which got me quite excited. I also noted the use of Omani textiles, such as the striped suri silk of Eastern Oman, as trim for an abaya sleeve, and in some of the skirts and trousers.
I had the chance to meet with the sister, Nadia Al Zakwani, of the designer who explained to me a little about the history of this relatively new brand and where their fabrics were sourced from.
At the moment the collection is available though "Arab Fashions" boutique in Al Qurum, Muscat Governate of Oman. It has been around in UAE for a few years already, but with Muscat Fashion Week the two sisters behind Endemage are ready to take center stage in Oman. Endemage started as an abaya brand but they have added another element to their repertoire, making their customer aware of their other capabilities.
"We purchase our fabrics here in Oman from local shops," sister Nadia related to OPNO. "What we do is we customize them. This top here, you will see, was a sheer fabric which we have beaded ourselves." Laser cutting also seems to be a big part of the collection, along with an almost 1930s Wallis Simpson style silhouette. 
Lubna wore the same dress as shown on the Muscat Fashion week flyers to the opening night of MFW13
I personally loved the 1930s shape to designer Lubna's dress worn for the opening night of Muscat Fashion Week. The white buttons on each slim cuff, white lace at the back, and a side fishtail braid, she was one of the most stylish women in the audience, that's for certain. I also remember taking in her sister Nadia's abaya, with gold sequined shoulders, another one of my favourites for the night. I can't pull off sequins myself so admire anyone who can quite jealously, and Nadia wore it so well she was glowing.
The vivid teal colour---and unabashed volume---of the the show-stopper reminds of an Arabesque version of a Dior debutante rebel.
Photo taken from Muscat Fashion Week's facebook page.
I have to say, even though I didn't catch the runway show myself... due to an overload of parties and weddings, this had to be, surprisingly, my favourite collection so far. My standout: the abayas worn by Lubna an Nadia for the finale of their show. I guess I really do need to get working on getting a little Endemage into my closet.

I also liked this Jizdaani clutch:
I've always known about The Jizdaani brand but never ventured into the hotel gift stores where it was previously sold. It was nice to talk to the designer about the inspiration she found in Omani traditional silver and textiles. I also loved the blue handbag featured below, as it was shown on the runway, in a nude pink.
 For more information on any of these brands see their facebook pages:
Jizdaani: (I will try to get the FB link later as the website is quite outdated and the designer said she dealt with most of her orders through the facebook page).

Saturday, January 19, 2013

DAILY DIARY: Muscat Fashion Week Opening Night, credits Nawal al Hooti, DAS collection, Tatyana Aceeva, and Zhor Rais

Abayas in the DAS show finale. All photos are credited to either MuscatFashionWeek's facebook page or Helle Moos for FASHION EXCLUSIVE. If they are not otherwise credited, that means that they are my own, and you must suffer through them;)
Muscat Fashion week opened with the collection of Omani designer Nawal Al-Hooti. The pieces began with Omani-influenced touches on non-traditional separates, such as Omani embroidery on the hem of a skirt or tunic top... local embroidery on the legs of a simple pair of leggings. Below pictured is my favourite look from the collection:
Photo taken from the Muscat Fashion week facebook page, as I did not master the settings on my new camera in time to capture this particular look. Photo originally taken by where it is likely credited to Helle Moos for FASHION EXCLUSIVE.
Also featured, beyond Omani handiwork, were textiles associated with Oman, as apparent in the tunic-top below:
...and Omani silver touches on the belting:
Honestly, as an Omani girl per say, I was a bit disappointed that I did not see any actual regional dress, just the influences of such in the overall collection. If anything could have made up for that fact, it was Nawal's jalabiyia/caftan in muted silvers and golds, and shades of vivid green and a poignant baby-blue.:
The floor-length Arabic styles had a very soft flow to them as the models rushed past, their hair brilliant in coiled coifs.
Photo taken from Muscat Fashion week's facebook page, where it is likely credited to Helle Moos for FASHION EXCLUSIVE..
The only piece of the collection that I'd be likely to purchase was the baby blue number above. I still love Nawal, and I love the red dress she wore herself to fashion week [and I was surprised how much she looks like one of my SILs], but I personally would like to see more Omani dress on the runway.
 Between shows we saw a presentation of gold jewelry by Jawahir I believe? I don't know. The girls where I was sitting were distracted by the wadi dog up on the hill where the Muscat Fashion week lights were spotted that was running back and forth chasing the lights, as well as the fruit bats, also confounded by the show's lights. The bats were winging above, as models swooped past below with wings just as black... but a touch more glamorous.  I don't like bats myself, but could always do with a pair of wings;).
DAS collection storyboard, backstage. Photo taken from Muscat Fashion Week's facebook page.
The next collection up was DAS. ***I also had the opportunity to see the collection up-close at the Opera Galleria***. The opening outfit was mercury-fluid in the DAS trademark cut, which was represented in fabrics as varied as silk green metallic brocade.
 My 2nd favourite look of the collection was the golden-rod-to nigh mandarin coloured waterfall-cut chiffon caftan/jalabiyia covered in totality with tiny white pearl beads:

 Arabic calligraphy via embroidery was featured very artistically in the collection. I thought it was most lovely when paired with lilac inserts. I could definitely see myself wearing the mauve skirt and blouse paired piece, and the show-stopper piece displayed at the opera galleria bore all the trademarks [except a capelet] of the current DAS collection: waterfall cut, Arabic calligraphy embroidery, and small beads spaced evenly through-out the design.
 As I continued to watch the show, I grew bored because I was waiting for the abayas. DAS is all about the abayas.
Thankfully, my boredom [I have a very short attention-span] was momentarily alleviated when a modest gown with a beaded and embroidered capelet trounced down the catwalk. You could tell the model, too, was invigorated from wearing it, as I was from seeing it, because of the delightful lipstick red shade of the garment. Miss Model swept the stage in crimson blushing slashes. I will repeat. I was delighted. More so, when I had a chance to examine the detailing of the capelet up close.
 Finally, the abayas arrived, and then they abounded, surrounded, and were so fast and so many I couldn't get a single good shot. I will blame the models, instead of my inability to change the settings on my camera or hold it still.
Shoulder detailing is a big trend in abayas in general. Nothing new there, but the fabric inserts along the sides of this particular piece give it its DAS character.
 The asymmetrical layering and fabulous handwork marked this DAS abaya to be a crowd favourite.
 Similarly, the side pleated drape from the waist of an abaya embroidered and beaded in the same manner  wowed the majorly abaya-clad crowd.
 Designing new drapes and cuts is what the DAS brand relies on more than finishing touches, which has allowed them to be a leader in the designer abaya business, but a velvet bow at the waist never hurt anyone.
Lace inserted panels and smocking has been big in terms of abaya trends in general, but DAS had a lovely lace capelet style abaya that I personally found charming and fully in line with the rest of their collection, in terms of the collection being well thought-out as a whole. It also was a good transition piece from their last collection modeled by the Angelina Jolie look-alike;).
Pleating at the bottom hem of an abaya featuring black Moroccan-style embroidery on top, is very in line with current abaya trends in general as well.
Photo taken from Muscat Fashion Week's facebook page.
 Some very classic designs along with a few technically difficult cuts made to appear simple. Of all the collections I was interested in, this one's designer was sitting alone, seemingly bored and playing with her phone, but I did not approach her. I was too shy. What a loser, I know;).

The next designer up to show her creations was Jordanian designer Tatyana Aceeva. There were a few pretty pastel and nude toned party frocks and citron hues remained another overall Muscat Fashion week staple. If you want to read more about this particular show, I suggest you read someone else's blog because only the second dress I have pictured below was to my own taste.
The last designer for opening night was Morocco's Zhor Rais. I had the chance to interview her daughter at Muscat's Opera galleria about the construction and textiles for the garments. None of that mattered during the actual show of course, when a series of fairy-tale worthy Moroccan dejellaba and takchita [otherwise known as caftans] streamed down the Riyam park runway, serenaded by nigh mystical and haunting traditional music that I had to resist swaying back and forth to. It was my favorite show.
 Caftans of the utmost simplicity in snowy white, and the occasional winter fabric opened the show.
 Mauve, succulent but tart citron hues, and darker shades of green seemed to be part and par for all of the collections that evening.
 My favourite piece of the Zhor Rais collection happened to be a timeless little 'sea-foam' coloured number though, that being just a personal matter of taste:
 From sweet white innocence the caftans featured evolved quickly to extravagance in thick teal and yellow velvet, brocades hand-woven in Morocco, and through silk chiffons and satins sourced from Europe.
 The yellow velvet dress pictured below [photo taken by Helle Moos for FASHION EXCLUSIVE] was the crowd favourite after the finale's show-stopper [all detail shots are my own]:
The rich tones of the velvet seemed so suitable to the near chilled air [at least, for any of us locals] of Riyam that night. Maybe that's why red capelets, or velvet were so bewitching?
 Honestly, almost any Moroccan caftan seduces me so I can't be a good critic, but the collection (and it's soundtrack) did convince me that I have to visit that country later on this year. I need a chance to escape, where it is ok to wear a red cape. Also, any Zhor Rais piece takes anywhere from around 2-3 months to complete, and every design is only made once. So I am thinking, if you are craving individuality, a trip to the Casablanca [I believe] workshop of this particular designer might be in order?
Photo credited to Helle Moos for FASHION EXCLUSIVE
 I heard women in the crowd catching their breath when the Zhor Rais finale piece sought the end of the catwalk.
 Beyond the high impact of the red cape [I personally wasn't a fan of the fabric when examined up close] against the white of the dress, the detailing on the takchita is exquisite if you are to witness it in person. Apparently there is just one old man left in Morocco who still makes the all the traditional fastenings in the traditional way [how true that is I have no idea] and I love how the piece came with a pair of princess-perfect slippers.
 As for this being the first Muscat Fashion Week I have personally attended, I have to say that I really enjoyed myself. I think I enjoyed even more the opportunity to see the workmanship that goes into the clothes up close, and speak to the designers about their methods, inspiration(s), and aspirations for their respective brands. I don't know about my readers, but I have been perfectly content about life in Muscat, since the first fashion week was announced;). I intend to follow the event every year, even if I am unable to attend the runway shows myself. I love the recognition it gets for our young Omani designers, and I love how it shines the spotlight on Arabic region fashions and trends.

Please stay tuned for my thoughts on the collections of Dibaj, Endemage, Jizdaani, and Mauzan, as seen at Muscat Fashion Week.