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Queen of quirk
by Manjula Ramakrishnan February 09, 2018
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Emirati artist and fashion designer Awatif Al Jabry is anything but conventional in her designs. She is an avid blogger, whose signature style and brand Vintage Teapot Queen is ‘quirky’ as she best describes it. Awatif is on a mission to put that extra pep on your fashions, as she elaborates in this Panorama exclusive.

What does designing personally mean to you?
For me, designing is all about the art of deconstruction. There is always that blend of strangeness that is visually arresting, but not too ostentatious. That is what I have brought to Dubai’s evolving fashion scene.

Who are the inspirational forces behind your designing?
My parents were always a few steps ahead when it came to contemporary fashion. Mum was and still is a fancy lady while Dad always knew how to pair textures and vibrant colours. I was thus born into style, except that I never realised it in my growing up years, but fell unabashedly in love with it later. Dubai too has inspired me a lot, particularly with regard to the abaya / fashion sense. The emirate has given me thumbs up to explore and experiment with certain textures and aesthetics. The fashion industry in Dubai is a highly matured segment and I am always ecstatic about the newbie designers who evolve, as their take on the once traditional garb is just as stylish and innovative.

How vibrant is the fashion scene in Dubai?
A lot of Dubai designers design for themselves and that is the beauty of it. Some also say that it’s a very competitive market and I disagree with that statement. I do not believe that it is an over-saturated market especially when faced with creations so diverse. And with different personalities conquering your closet space, it only adds more vibrancy to your entire collection. 

What is the fashion concept behind Vintage Teapot Queen?
Vintage Teapot Queen is a brand that I co-own with my business partner Mohammed Abdulkareem. It is infused with anything and everything that is artsy and can be worn by all age groups. Although, it is not your regular ‘chai’ kind of art, I have received a lot of support and positive reviews regarding the awkward illustrations. I grew up being mesmerised by odd characters that graced our television sets, Edward Scissorhands being one of them and the recent current favourite from The Hunger Games: Effie Trinket. In most cases, my artwork has often been compared to Tim Burton as well as Lady Gaga for some of my abaya designs. It is a ’kingdom of weirdom’ that I proudly own and have elected myself as president!

Tell us more about your designs…
Some of my artwork is printed on t-shirts with a few embellishments of Swarovski crystals to add that extra bit of glam. When worn, they also happen to be great conversation starters for introverted souls. When it comes to my abaya designs, I mostly take the style aspect seriously, so it’s never conventional. I like to bring another form of design to the table; the fabrics I use are always airy and breathable, which makes it comfortable to wear during both our summers and winters.

What makes the brand stand out from the rest?
From the fashion, art and strange photo-shoots that I curate, it’s certainly not the usual. Take the photo-shoots for instance: I do not favour the serious and monotonous routine of some posing rituals in a lavishly decorated setting; it’s usually in a location where you would least expect to organise a shoot. Be it at the butcher’s, or at a mini local grocer’s and even at a laundromat.

Why the desire to be different?
It is a little hard to adapt but the unique look always captures intrigue. At the risk of sounding clichéd, I always had difficulty fitting in with my style. So I opted to stand out but always in a conservative manner, creating pieces that best suited my personality, adding an international appeal with my love for Japanese influences while respecting the traditional aspect of it.

How do you plan to take the brand further?
I would love to see my brand Vintage Teapot Queen make a mark on an international scale, worn by the likes of Tilda Swinton for her beautiful androgynous appeal and Cate Blanchett’s strong stance with her creative fashion choices. My designs are for women with strong, unique and bold personalities.

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