5 MINS WITH DESIGNER ARWA AL BANAWI
Tell us a bit about your background, you grew up in Switzerland and Saudi, where is home for you?
I grew up in Jeddah mainly but I also have spent a part of my upbringing in Switzerland. Germany has also been a go to family holiday for me as my grandfather was living there, I think that’s where I got my inspiration on suits and streetwear. Germany has a strong and unique underground lifestyle that effects people’s overall fashion sense (in a good way of course).
Your previous career was in investment banking, what encouraged the jump into designing?
Well I studied finance and had been a fashion geek in heart from a young age, as my mother is a fashion encyclopedia herself. As most kids who’s family own family-run businesses, my father wanted me to pursue a career in finance and work in the company. After a year of experience I really felt I was going to explode because I wasn’t doing what I really wanted to do, but I learned a lot. I never regret it because it toughens your skin- the challenge, the long hours, the New York investment banking work culture (it was tough), Let’s not forget wearing a printed suit to a bank is kind of taboo (lol). When it comes to fashion I’m unconventional and there was an urge deep down that made me say “Yallah” let’s do it, let me pursue my dream! And here I am 🙂 hamdilla.
Your label is quite empowering with great silhouettes and bold prints for women. Where do you draw your inspiration from during the design process?
Everything, I would read something in the news or attend art exhibitions. I love art, it gets my mind thinking and my emotions working. I love old movies as well, calligraphy, Arabic poetry, it’s all connected. That’s why I always say that fashion is part of our lives. It’s not just about the clothes, it’s the stories, it’s looking into the future and living in the present, it’s the mood of societies, it’s a very powerful industry.
You showcase your collections in FFWD, What is it like to participate in such a new and exciting fashion platform in the UAE?
It has been great! I am proud to have had the honor to showcase in not only FFWD, but also with Emaar at Dubai Collections, 2 seasons ago. I love my home and I’m proud to be able to show my work in my own country whether it’s Saudi or UAE, the GCC is one home.
Do you have any fashion do’s and dont’s that you follow?
Not really, I wear what I feel like. One thing is, I don’t like when women dress vulgarly. I don’t care what this movement about women empowerment is that encourages them to show a lot of their skin, or go out in their lace bras and call it fashion. That’s not empowering. Infact I think it’s degrading to women, women don’t have to try to be men either, gender equality has its limitations too I think, we’re definitely not going to make a case by posing without clothes on. As Marilyn Monroe said “Women who look to be equal to men lack ambition”, I agree! Women have a certain a power that men don’t and vise versa.
What can we expect from you in 2017?
I’m working on my online shop and my studio/showroom will be opening end of the month in D3 – very excited about that!
You can have a look at Arwa Al Banawi’s superb collection here.T