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Dressed to skill
by Muhammad Yusuf December 06, 2018
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‘Abadia’ is an RTW (Ready To Wear) line from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, committed to preserving the craftsmanship of regional artisans. It does this by working with them and giving them a sustainable source of income, combining their work with modern aesthetics.

Founded by Naeema and Shahd AlShehail, it has been praised from The Kingdom to Paris for its contemporary interpretation of traditional pieces - proving you can indeed wear your rich history on your clothes.

Abadia collaborates with female artisans across Saudi Arabia, utilising their skills in sadu and embroidery. Cultural pride is in the forefront of the effort; the silhouettes are minimal and elegant.

The craft of sadu weaving that has been passed down through generations is given new life and wider reception and the handcrafted detailed pieces are carefully incorporated into the final wearable designs.

Abadia has gained renown for its farwa, the coat worn by Bedouin men during desert winters. The design, in Abadia’s hands, has been turned into women’s wear, and was a major hit during Paris Fashion Week in September, when the brand made its debut. The recreation won applause for the case that it is designed for women who are not afraid of experimenting.

Abadia finds inspiration from the natural beauty of the Kingdom’s Al-Hasa region, the largest date oasis in the world. Sprinkled with springs and dashed with green, for Abadia it is a source of life and colour, surrounded as it is by the severity of the desert.

Shahd AlShehail says she tries to produce the stark contrasts of the land – her land - in her work. So khakis, greys, browns and yellows are found in plenty in her creations.  

The sadu is yet another tie up with local culture. Sadu embroidery, beading and patterns, originate in the timeless sartorial history of the Kingdom.

Part of Abadia’s mission is to put Saudi design on the global map – though the assertion that the brand is indeed Saudi and its vision is indeed global, are not believed at first. But it forges on, not least because the feedback it got in Paris was truly impelling.

Big stores from France, USA, Germany and Russia, among others, synched with its designs and placed orders for their respective clientele. Abadia will be back in the ring come Paris Fashion Week 2019, meanwhile doing shows, both in the Kingdom and overseas.

Shahd Alshehail, brand Co-founder and Creative Director, is profoundly passionate about her work. She comes from a background of working with artisanal communities. She weaves her story to Time Out

* When was Abadia established?

Abadia was founded in 2015; however, we started working with the artisans in 2008.

* Is this the first time Abadia was showcased in Paris?

Yes, we showcased our SS19 collection at Paris Fashion Week for the first time. Our vision has always been global, we want to establish Saudi luxury fashion and craftsmanship, as a serious player on the world stage.

As a brand, we have a unique and authentic approach to luxury fashion and we believe that sets us apart. We are inspired by our culture, heritage and the incredible craftsmanship that you can find across the region.

And through this we want to change the narrative and open up the world to the real Saudi Arabia. Therefore, Paris made for a natural fit.

* Which global stores have placed orders with you?

SS19 will be stocked at Moda Operandi, Farfetch, as well as boutiques in Russia and concept stores in Switzerland.

* How does the growth and development of modest fashion strike you? Predict its future.

Modest dressing has always been a part of our culture, and one which regional brands have always considered in their design and production. I believe every woman has the right to wear whatever makes her comfortable, and she deserves access to those options.

* How long have you worked with the artisans? Are they Saudi nationals? (In Dubai, designs are outsourced to workers of many nationalities).

We started working with artisans in 2008; we work with over 40 Saudi female artisans who work on creating the details of our collection. These artisans work on techniques that have been practiced for generations.

Our aim is to generate sustainable employment for these women for years to come as well as preserve the craftsmanship and heritage of Saudi Arabia.

* How has the Al Hasa oasis - a World Heritage site - influenced your designs? The flow, volume and transparency of your creations - how much do they owe it?

The SS19 collection is all about origins and roots. It is an ode to the beauty and energy of the Al Hasa, the largest date palm oasis in the world, and our hometown.

It’s lush with date palm trees and natural water springs, the oasis is a source of life and colour; yet it’s surrounded by a relentless desert landscape.

The contrast between the two acted as inspiration for the collection: you see it in the contrast between flow and structure in fabric, volume and transparency, as well all the artisanal details. The main sadu technique used in the collection is called Ain AlHasa.

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