The Changing Trends in Abayas

1) What is your name, your brand name and what types of pieces do you design overall?
I am Zakia A; and my brand is tissage. We blend modern flair with elegant design, creating stylish couture for the discreet woman.  Our lines include abaya, gowns, shirts, jackets and so on.

2) Who is your prototype abaya customer?
There is no one type; but most have one thing in common – they prefer to be discreet in their clothing. To some, the abaya is a religious expression while to others it reflects their cultural identity. For tissage abaya customers, we focus on those who seek unconventional design in a conservative cut.

3) Why are abayas typically always black? 
Wearing abayas was a way for ladies to protect their privacy while out in public even before religion admonished women to cover their features. Black tends to hide shape the best, hence it was the most commonly used fabric and over time became the standard as it satisfied both cultural and religious requirements for privacy. 

4) What types of abayas do you design? Please describe the fabrics, embellishments, silhouettes, etc in detail.
I always look for the most comfortable fabrics. The source can be from Japan, Korea, France or other textile-producing countries. Sometimes the fabric is cotton, other times the focus is on stretchable polyester, and so on. The market comes up with names for them; but these are not always used consistently, so you need to be careful because asking for a material by name you heard in one place doesn’t mean another place will carry the same material – even if they have given it the same name. You need to be familiar with textures to tell the difference. I also regularly visit accessory markets to find the right elements to add, whether studs, crystal, embroidered beads, etc. 

5) What or who dictates abaya trends? 
The customer. It doesn’t matter what designers come up with if the market doesn’t respond to the designs. The accessory providers play more of a role in abaya design than in traditional fashion, which relies on material and cut more. What I mean by that is if Swarovsky introduces different crystal shapes or new color styles, that could start a new trend. Discerning abaya wearers tend to always look for new cuts or new patterns – which are usually dictated by the material used to create the patterns. 

6) Within the GCC, do different nationalities wear or purchase different trends in abayas? What are Emirati women more inclined to wear and why?
It isn’t so much the nationalities as the style of the particular woman. For example, an affluent Syrian lady may seek out the exact same designers and styles as Emirati women of equal socioeconomic standing. A well-made abaya is an expression of the individual’s unique personality; but it can also be a status symbol. Emirati women seek out new abaya designs more often simply because of the frequency of social occasions that require a new clothing item. Expatriate women sometimes will go out without an abaya; but it is highly unlikely that an Emirati woman would do the same. One can’t, however, say that all Emirati women are inclined to wear one style vs. another. Emirati ladies, like all women, vary in character and belief. Some like to push the edge of social norms and wear thin abayas, while others are conservative and limit their preferences to patterned shapes. Some like loose fitting cuts while others prefer cuts that hug the waist – it really depends on the individual. 

7) What is s SHEHLA and how important is it in designing an abaya and why?
A Sheila is a headscarf; and it is an important extension of the abaya design. To give an example in men’s clothing, image the jacket in a black and white pinstripe suit that came with a solid black trouser – it would seem odd. The same is true for an abaya – it should match its accompanying Sheila.

8) What are some current red hot embellishments being used in abayas?
Previous trends focused on crystal; but the latest are gold and silver fabric additions as well as unique embroidery patterns.

9) How has the shape of the abaya changed over the years in Dubai?
I would say there are the basic shapes which have remained unchanged; and which are the most commonly worn even today. Advances in materials and technology have allowed a more subtle evolution of how the shape of the abaya is treated, whether in the sleeves, around the waist, etc. Some designers have become more risqué over the years; but the abaya has predominantly become a more elegant expression of the wearer’s personality without losing its conservative roots. 

10) And finally what are some future trends we can look out for in abayas?
The designs that some designers have developed over the years are outstanding. I think Arab women are becoming more expressive and feeling more comfortable reflecting themselves in the designs they choose; and designers are also constantly pushing the envelope. I can see an evolution of the materials used in abaya design, along with more intricate use textures and accessories. 
11) Where can customers find the best abaya designs
People used to have to spend hours outside going from shop to shop trying to find good choices; but the introduction of the mall in the UAE has given ladies an excellent array of choices without having to spend time in the heat. Dubai Mall has a developed a niche district to cater to the Arab fashion customer base. Several designers have also leased standalone commercial properties in Dubai’s Jumeirah. The downside is that abayas bought from malls or affluent neighborhoods tend to be more costly because the designer has a high premium to pay for the retail space. For the more mainstream designs and less costly option, the Lakee Abaya Center in Sharjah has proven to be a good centralized location with many options. 
Please feel free to add more to this if you feel it is warranted. Thanks and have a nice day.


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