Italian designer turns abaya into sportswear

Sporty Abaya

Sporty Abaya (Photo by Maryam Abdullatif)

By Maryam Abdullatif

Dubai –  It’s out with the old and in with the new in the GCC countries that are opening up to other cultures. This is especially true for women’s fashion that is starting to change thanks to the influence of foreign designers. An Italian designer called Alice Giani Margi is one of them and she is launching a new collection of abayas in 2017 in Saudi Arabia. This collection includes designs representing the designer’s life between Italy and Saudi Arabia.

Margi had moved to Saudi Arabia seven years ago and realized she couldn’t find abayas that suited her busy lifestyle. She is an active woman, mother and professional horseback rider. She said, “I was driven by my passion and motivation to merge quality and comfort into a truly luxurious yet modest collection.”

AMO, her company, is the first Italian modest fashion label. AMO has 4 lines: sports, casual, elegant and transformable. The sports line has a zipper feature on the abaya, which is something you would rarely find with traditional abayas. The company also has patented hooded veils with a hair-lock system that allows you to move freely without your hair slipping out.

Such new ideas can be quite challenging to bring up in the GCC countries where they still hold on to traditional clothing but when Margi was asked if it was difficult to establish a label in an Arab domain, she said, “I believe it’s always a challenge to introduce new ideas and concepts without facing criticism, in any field. I was fortunate that AMO was quickly welcomed and appreciated by women of all ages.”

You can definitely see a change in GCC women’s mentality as more women are becoming accepting new styles especially with the emergence of social media. Some Fashionistas were spotted wearing Margi’s abayas like Basma K., a modest fashion blogger, who posted a photo of herself wearing one of the abayas on her Instagram account. Her abaya has a zipper on the front and pockets on the sides. She styled it with turban hijab and white high heel shoes.

Despite Margi not wearing the headscarf herself, she still values modesty and says, “Modesty is not only a fashion value, but it applies to all aspects of our life. I like to think that we can increase its value as a common value throughout all cultures.”

Margi mentioned that she isn’t the only foreign fashion designer to have a cultural influence on the GCC fashion. Designer, Rajdeep Ranawat from India, made his own take of the abaya for his limited edition 2016 Ramadan collection in Dubai. His version of the abaya had a lot of colors and bold prints inspired by his Indian culture. More designers these days are taking an interest into adding their own style to the traditional clothing.

However, Margi is unlike the rest by the fact that she contributed to making the  abaya more practical meanwhile others usually contribute by creating a new style. This can be said about the contribution of western designer brands like Dolce and Gabbana, who added western patterns like the cheetah print and lemons prints to the abaya in their 2016 line.

Magazines like Marie Claire also contributed to the way abaya is styled by adding accessories like Gucci sunglasses and Hermès handbags to the abaya in one of their issues. That is one of the many influences western culture has on Khaleeji women who try to show off their designer shirts and jeans by wearing open styled abayas. Some even style the abaya with belts or flashy jewelry.

One thing is for sure and that is the GCC fashion will continue to change throughout the years as lifestyles start to change and more people visit the Gulf countries. Many trends will come and go but fashion businesses like Margi’s have a goal and that is to bring practicality to the Gulf’s traditional clothing without risking its modesty.

Video conducted by Maryam Abdullatif: https://youtu.be/7STwaiVEtWI

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