12th September 2015

First Choice Abayas – from classic to catwalk



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In 2000 First Choice was established in Abu Dhabi and revolutionised the regional Abaya and Shayla market. Designers were brought in who used a range of new materials and tailoring techniques to create unique collections all hand crafted in the UAE. The approach put the UAE at the forefront of Abaya manufacturing a position it has held for a number of years.But as Dr Malik Al Mubarak, Chairman of Al Mubarak Holdings and CEO of First Choice, points out, the market was very quick to catch-up with the lead set by First Choice and now there are many companies producing very lovely Abayas and Shaylas. “When we established Al Mubarak Holdings we had the simple mantra that we wanted to produce high quality goods at affordable prices and to do this we had to innovate. For the last 10 years First Choice Abayas have established a reputation for quality and design, but we are no longer unique in the market, so we have had to look again at what our clients want.

“Ladies in the UAE are extremely fashion conscious but also very respectful and traditional. Being able to combine these two almost contradictory positions into a single garment has been the challenge we have set ourselves. The way we have gone about it is to focus on cut, style and colour. For our collections we now look at the themes and positioning of the global fashion industry. If Paris is trending ruffles and neon or Milan’s spring collections are featuring lace and denim, we will feature these in our Abaya collections. We are literally taking from the catwalk and providing the essence of the great design houses in classical, beautiful and elegant Abayas. It allows our discerning and knowledgeable clients to show that they are current with Valentino or Prada, or are following the new season colours of New York or Paris.”

To be able to provide this new generation of designs, Dr Malik has employed a retail specialist from the UK, Jennifer Davie, who has been leading the change in approach and strategy. Jennifer is very clear about what she is trying to achieve:

“I may know exactly what is happening in New York, London, Paris and what is trending season-on-season, but the important part of my work is understanding how this will translate into the local and regional Abaya industry. It is no good having a vision if this does not lead to sales. So, we have sought out exciting young designers based in the UAE who know what their peers and friends want and have the ability to translate cutting edge fashion into traditional garments. We are just about to launch two new collections which I think are stunning and will put First Choice back at the forefront of GCC and international Abaya design”.

The collections are by Wardah Al Harkan and Layla Bisharah. Wardah Al Harkan is a young Saudi fashion designer who has worked with numerous fashion houses in Saudi Arabia.

Wardah’s first collection is based on the cultures and traditions of the Gulf. She combines dentelle, silk, sequins and crystals, to make beautiful garments which link Arabic patterns and forms with references to international design genres. By focusing on the elegance and grace of the materials and using high quality hand embroidery, she believes the collection reflects the modern gulf. It is the balance between the old and the new which makes her pieces so exciting.

Layla, who has just completed a fashion design course at Central Saint Martins in London, also has a mix of regional and international influences which mean her designs fit perfectly with the creative ethos that drives First Choice.

Layla’s first collection is delicate and romantic, using ruffles to create a visually appealing and stylish textured garments. She combines her love of cut, form and detail, with the tailoring skills available at First Choice to create a collection which many people believe will be admired for many years.

“Every year we see Abu Dhabi becoming more international and a leader in many business areas. The growth and development of the country is a real testament to our leaders. As a business man I want to make sure that the UAE is always a leader and an innovator. Our ability to combine cutting edge design in beautiful traditional garments in many ways reflects the global positioning of Abu Dhabi.” concluded Dr Malik.

www.firstchoiceme.com

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