There are certain fashion designs that surprise us and make us question whether they were inspired by a personal concept of fashion or designed in favor of a certain environment that shall be promoted in the coming 6 months. Long sleeve dresses, high necklines, long skirts with scarves, hats, and turbans that cover the head might merely be an idea inspired by the designer after a movie or a romantic novel, or they might also be a concept that carries out whole cultural and ethnic features imposed by markets and customers that enjoy remarkable purchasing power.
In all cases, the consumer is the first benefiter in general. Over the past years, runways have been overshadowed with designs that are both decent and elegant with eastern inspirations that sometimes focus on rich fabrics and other times on ethnic prints and embroideries.
Designers expound that time has changed and the concept of attraction has changed with it and thus no longer concentrates on revealing body charms. As a matter of fact today, attraction is based on intellect and culture. Although it seems the new concept flatters the East, and particularly Arab women, it has succeeded in attracting women from all over the world regardless of their nationalities.
Ten years ago, Channel’s designer, Karl Lagerfeld said that fashion is part of people and all ongoing events around the world; pointing to the incidents taking place in the Middle East. Years have passed and many collections were introduced by different designers who adopted and reflected the same “decent” spirit, however some of them only aimed at achieving financial profits by introducing typical and stereotyped attires that lacked uniqueness and did not fully respond to the demands of modern conservative women.
Valentino, which is partially owned by the Qatari firm “Mayhoola for Investments”, was the best in embodying the trend of decent fashion and in introducing designs that feature femininity as an equivalent concept of attraction. Obviously, the new fashion styles have served the Arab woman’s taste, as it showed that femininity doesn’t mean the revelation of body charms and body details.
Professor Reina Lewis from London College of Fashion (LCF) implemented many researches in this field and discovered that decent designs were increasingly spreading among the young generation regardless of factors like religion, ethnicity, and nationality.
Lewis also found that young ladies are imposing their styles in the market, like the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, who insisted from the beginning on waiving seduction and choosing a classic elegant style, including her royal wedding dress and attires she chose in her official appearances.
Designers say that the success and self-esteem of the modern women, who don’t feel that they need to reveal their body charms to fulfill their ambitions, has encouraged them on adopting this style in their lines. They add that while women in the past used to wear revealing attires to feel appreciated and attractive, the new generation insists on choosing comfortable and flexible clothes to wear.
London-While all Parisians have transformed into political analysts talking about Brexit and its repercussions on lifestyle and fashion, fashion designers and the U.K. said that the coming years will be dedicated to women.
Britain has made its decision and appointed a woman, “Theresa May,” as a prime minister for the first time since Thatcher.
Fashion, on the other hand, celebrated femininity through romantic outfits shining with optimism, drifting away from a reality burdened by economic regression and terrorist attacks around the world. The fashion shows of Dior, Atelier Versace, Armani, Ralph & Russo, Giambattista Valli, Elie Saab and others have transformed Paris into an oasis to escape; not only from the sad, complicated reality, but also from the trending “sports fashion”. Most designers directed their creativity towards the golden old days, when women used to fully celebrate their femininity without being accused of lavishness.
This season, Paris disregarded the worsening economic conditions and all the drama to introduced unique designs made of extravagant fabrics that would take you to wonderland.
Inspired by the fifties, designers have gone above and beyond to meet the demands of today’s classic women. Christian Dior overcame the World War II’s austerity to return women’s stolen femininity. All designers introduced masterpieces that required thousands of work hours and many meters of fancy fabrics worth hundreds of thousands dollars.
Valentino, Giambattista Valli, Alexis Mabile, Victor & Rolf chose the Marie Antoinette and the Elizabethan era in their collections with many ballgown skirts, high necklines, and frill sleeves. John Galliano also traveled back in time, particularly to the era of Napoleon Bonaparte and introduced for Maison Margiela a revolutionist collection, unlike the previous ones, which featured dramatic and surrealistic works.
From the first day of the show, Atelier Versace emphasized its nostalgia for the past. Donatella Versace provided various designs filled with seduction and femininity, ranging from Haute Couture dresses to prêt-a-porter coats.
Profiting from his wide experience with feminism and romance, Elie Saab always succeeds in giving women exactly what they dream of. Saab was inspired by old New York City and focused on volumes, folds, and unique motifs in his designs. He also focused on details like heavy three-dimensional floral print embroidery, and used classic fabrics like silk, tulle and velvet. It is worth mentioning that for this season, the Lebanese
designer has also introduced party dresses for young girls. Child models walked the runway alongside older counterparts wearing miniature versions of their gowns.
In Atelier Armani’s show, no one can accuse Giorgio Armani of preferring romance or drama on modern elegance. Armani opened his show with a woman ensemble composed of a masculine jacket and pants tailored with feminine fabrics, before he moved to velvet dresses. In his collection, he focused on calm colors like pearl white, light pink, and sky blue.
Ralph & Russo’s collection had also played on emotions especially nostalgia by recalling the fifties and seventies. The designers sought to attract women’s attention and introduced fit dresses, skirts, and pants along with heavy beading of crystals and pearl in addition to three-dimensional floral prints and feathers.
Designers including Elie Saab, Armani and Ralph & Russo have completed their lines with accessories, and introduced collections of clutches, shoes and hats that fit the Haute Couture fans.
Unlike the previous designers who recalled the past, Jean Paul Gaultier preferred nature and presented a collection in which colors like dark green and wooden-inspired brown have played a very important role. His show was calm and focused on designs that celebrate feminine standards by highlighting the waist and bust lines. Although the collection perfectly fits the European bourgeoisie, it missed factors of vitality and glamour that distinguished the other shows of the week.
Giambattista Valli has also chosen nature as a source of inspiration. Yet, unlike Gaultier, he included many vivid colors in his collection and reduced exaggeration by introducing different designs like baby-dolls dresses, and others inspired from the fifties with puffy sleeves. Valli opened his show with feminine white designs then moved to long dresses tailored with black, red, and sky blue Muslin. He also used fur and concluded the show with three dramatic exceptional dresses.
Zaha Hadid, the world-renowned Iraqi architect, died yesterday in a hospital in Miami aged 65 years. Her company said in a statement yesterday that Zaha “died suddenly in Miami this morning” and that “she suffered from a heart attack” at a hospital where she had been receiving treatment for bronchitis which she had contracted earlier this week.
Zaha Hadid, the daughter of former Minister of Finance Mohammad Hadid (1907 – 1999), was born in 1950 in Baghdad and studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut. She then joined the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London and was awarded a prize by the school in 1977. Later, she became a teacher at the school. Hadid founded her company in 1979 and designed the ski jump on the Bergisel Mountain in Innsbruck, Austria, the Guangzhou Opera House, the Cardiff Bay Opera House and the MAXXI: National Museum of 21st Century Art in Rome. She was also the first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004.
Hadid is considered a pioneer of Deconstructivist architecture, a school of architecture that is influenced by deconstruction and encourages drastic freedom of form and the open manifestation of complexity in a building rather than strict attention to functional concerns and conventional design elements. The leading pioneers of Deconstructivist architecture include Daniel Libeskind, Peter Eisenman, Rem Koolhaas and Bernard Tschumi.
Hadid did not conduct many interviews with the press and chose Asharq Al-Awsat to be the first Arabic newspaper to interview her in 2008. This was followed by two more interviews; the last was in February 2016 and touched on her career as an architect and her desire to work in Arab countries. She said that the main difficulties that she encountered in her career were related to the fact that she was a woman and an Arab.
During her interviews with Asharq Al-Awsat, the innovative architect of Iraqi origin expressed a desire for her work to be appreciated in the Arab world in the same way that it is in the west. Her desire was fulfilled to a certain extent in the past few years.
Zaha Hadid, a very controversial architect whom designs are seen by some as creative beyond all competition, while others find nothing special about them, just for the sake of refusing them, or perhaps because she is a woman.
Hadid believes that all those who reject her work are simply biased and have not accepted that the previously male-exclusive art domain of architecture has now honored a woman.
History puts down her name as the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the noble to the world of architecture, in 2004. Hadid is also the first woman to receive the 2016 Royal Gold Medal from the Royal British Institute of Architects (RIBA).
The Royal Gold Medal is usually granted to those whom are considered to have revolutionized the world of architecture and developed it sizably. The medal was previously given to architectural geniuses like Frank Gehry in 2000, Sir Norman Foster in1983, Le Corbusierin 1953, and Sir George Gilbert Scott in1859. The medal prize dates back to year 1848.
Professor Sir Peter Cook, English architect recognized by the Royal Institute of British Architects in 2004, in his speech at the ceremony, said that Hadid is unique beyond comparison. Any distress caused to other architects is because, deep down inside, they envy her; the award could have been given to a good and qualified architect, but they gave the medal to Hadid because she is beyond qualification, Cook said.
RIBA President and chair of the selection committee, Jane Duncan, said:
“Zaha Hadid is a formidable and a globally-influential force in architecture. Highly experimental, rigorous and exacting, her work from buildings to furniture, footwear and cars, is quite rightly revered and desired by brands and people all around the world. I am delighted Zaha will be awarded the Royal Gold Medal in 2016 and can’t wait to see what she and her practice will do next.
After receiving the award, in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Hadid expressed that to begin with she refused to be categorized as a female or Arabian architect. However, she now sees that it is necessary for her to accept her journey and achievements so that she is an inspiration to other females who have recently embarked into the domain or are thinking of getting into it.
Hadid explained that she is a woman, and Arab, and an architect all at the same time, and moreover, even if she had no say in the first birth given realities the third the “architect” in her evolved after 40 years of hard work. She stated that most of the difficulty inflicted on her career was not because of her incapability of production or work efficiency, the hurdles she was faced with were at a majority because she was either a woman or an Arab.
Hadid said that the increase in female students taking on architecture sets her mind at ease. Yet, she adds that acceptance is still not far-reaching before female applicants. Obstacles based on tradition and perceptual fundamentals still exist, with one difference at hand, the chance of the survival of the fittest being open for prospect female architects.
Born in Baghdad to Iraqi parents, British architect Zaha Hadid left Iraq for the American University of Beirut at the age of 17. She subsequently trained as an architect in London, which later became her home.
Despite a decorated career in her field since opening her own practice in 1980, she initially had to wait six years to see one of her designs make the transition from the drawing board to the physical world. Today, she had designed buildings around the world, in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the Americas, winning a slew of awards, including the Pritzker Prize, the most prestigious in modern architecture, in 2004.
Regularly voted one of the most influential and respected women in her adopted country in national surveys, she was awarded a CBE in 2002 and made a Dame a decade later, in ceremonies at Buckingham Palace.
She spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat about her career, her most recent projects, and her thoughts on the future of her profession.
Asharq Al-Awsat: It must have been a struggle to reach your current position. How do you feel now that you have reached the highest point in your field? Do you feel some sort of relief?
Zaha Hadid: Yes, you could say that. Although I did succeed, it was difficult, and I continue to fight a never-ending battle. Don’t think that everyone says “yes” to me now and accepts everything I propose; working in architecture is extremely difficult, and I still struggle every time. I suffer even though I have gone through this experience hundreds of times.
Q: Does rejection still cause you the same amount of frustration it caused you in the beginning?
I try not to open the way for frustration. Yes, I admit that I went through periods when I felt frustrated, but they did not overcome my optimistic nature and my belief in my work and personal capabilities. Perhaps the greatest frustration I experienced was in 1994 when we entered a competition for the rights to design the opera house in Cardiff in Britain, and won. After hearing the announcement and celebrating our win, we were crushed when the project was cancelled. The experience seriously impacted the psyche of my staff, and it was my responsibility to reinvigorate them and raise morale. During that time, we had entered several competitions and did not win any of them. Perhaps there was something out to get us—all the designs that we entered into these competitions were good. Today I remain convinced that despite never seeing the light of day, these designs were important and necessary for our development and for the enrichment of our portfolio.
Q: Why do you say these designs were important, even though they remained on the drawing board?
Since job prospects were scarce thanks to the economic situation, we focused on completing a lot of charts and drawings on paper. Despite our receiving a lot of criticism that what we did was merely “paper architecture” and avoids grappling with reality, I am certain that this time period, through all its finer details and experiences, was a positive one, because it gave us the opportunity to learn more and develop our current style.
Q: But you did not actually answer the question: How do you feel now that you’re on top, after all the frustrations of the past?
Of course, fame affects a person one way or another. I cannot do the things I used to do without attracting peoples’ attention, and this creates some funny situations. Generally, though, people treat me well, often telling me positive things, like how they have been influenced by my work and how it changed the course of their lives, for example. I think this increased interest in architects is a good thing, because almost 25 years ago, no one knew much about them or heard about them. Architecture as a profession is considered to be lower on the hierarchy of occupations, and because of this I’m happy that I played a role, even just a small one, in altering this perception.
Q: The Heydar Aliyev Center is one of the most beautiful projects you’ve completed so far. Do you think you will be able to top it in the future?
I’m possessed by curiosity and am always thinking of the next step, or what I call the ‘big project.’ I think the computer has encouraged us to think about more complicated forms of engineering, an exciting phenomenon that makes many things possible. The rapid evolution of the computer along with what architects have been granted in terms of wider capabilities is absolutely amazing. Our designs need to develop steadily in the realm of construction technology, among others. We must respond by using materials and tools that are more complicated and further developed. All of this inspires me to design in order to push the field to limits it has not yet reached. Great things can be borne from these methods.
I want to add here that in all of our work we face new challenges. You must create daring and ambitious designs and look toward achieving something great, especially when we learn of new possibilities offered by technology. I can say that the next step for me will involve modern materials and new inventions, as we have a whole department that specializes in researching design and construction techniques. Engineers and researchers are collaborating to test new materials with the goal of finding discoveries that can push the field forward, and our role is to implement these discoveries on the ground.
Q: All those who have seen your latest work, the Heydar Aliyev Center, felt that it has a different feel to your other work. What do you have to say about this?
This is the last work I completed, which means it combines 30 years of research, the fruit of which is both constructing a civilian, cultural building and inspiring other works. The building engages with the city and gives people a place where they can communicate. Those who follow my work know that creating public places that people can use freely and that allow the city to flow smoothly are important to me because it connects everything together. I believe that we invest in these public places, whether they be open spaces or buildings, because they are a vital element of a rich urban life. In the city of Baku, for example, the external space flows around itself to demarcate a series of interior public spaces, positioning the urban fabric of the capital in all or part or a corner of the center. You can consider building a natural landscape, or rather an engineering landscape that touches the ground and spreads without reaching its face. For example, interior spaces exist that are linked without anything opposing them. This was the idea from the beginning and it has been successfully implemented.
This project did not spare anything on Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. The budget was open-ended, and this is important, because when the budget is not operated in this way, concessions or compromises are made that do not benefit the work.
Q: How many times have you been in this position, and how many times did you have to accept compromise to complete the work you committed to?
I do not like compromise at all because it means weakening the project. We are supposed to always work toward building something better than we have built before. Because of this it is necessary to work with a team that understands this and shares your vision, and one piece of this team is the customer. Fortunately, in recent times innovation and creativity have become more appreciated and are not bound to a certain sector. This trend includes a lot of institutions that have expressed their preparedness to resolve issues related to innovative architecture and adapt to needs dictated by the environment and lifestyle of the time.
Q: Where does your desire to do things differently and love for design come from?
I have believed, and continue to do so, in evolution and progress since the sixties. During that time I was still a young girl, but I took note that the time period took a special interest in construction. There was a large focus not only on architecture in the Arab world but also in South America and Asia because the field has become linked to progress, development and growth. This has had a significant impact on my own personal development. When I was studying in London, the environment was one of bubbling creativity at the university. Every one of us was ready to accomplish something new, and this is what solidified in my own memory and existence. After cultivating 30 years of architectural experience, that time remains influential, along with the professors who were among the first generation to blend engineering inventions with pioneering ideas and principles.
Q: Is this alone what makes you push the limits, or is there, to some extent, a desire for self-fulfillment?
I’ll explain something important to you: Architecture does not operate on seasonal cycles like fashion. It follows a different logic which depends more on the innovations generated by social and technological developments. The period we live in now is dealing with a group of serious social complications. These complications, in light of the dynamics of contemporary life, cannot be addressed through traditional construction using networks or architectural blocs inherited from the 20th century.
I think that one of the most fascinating challenges faced by contemporary urban architecture as a whole is to move away from methods based on the division which marked the 20th century. The transition to the 21st century requires a different approach, [one] that addresses the new requirements of life through buildings that interact with their owners and adapt to changing needs. There is no doubt that design technology allows the engineer to exploit spaces, methods of construction, and materials from a new perspective. The result is either to create new spaces, or create buildings that take into account the social and ecological environment.
Q: Are the meandering lines found in much of your work influenced by Islamic art?
There is certainly a kind of flow in Islamic art and architecture where lines of calligraphy and elements of engineering extend from the carpet to the walls and ceilings and then to columns, roofs, and domes. They form a wonderful spread and there is a relationship between all of the elements. Even today I continue to be amazed by the Arabs’ abilities in mathematics: they were capable of a combination of logical and abstract thoughts. My interest in architecture began mainly when I was studying mathematics at university. During that time I observed the link between logic, math, architecture, and abstract shapes in calligraphy. This connection has increased with technological advancement and computer simulations that employ the systems and algorithms we utilize to develop our designs.
Q: Out of all the work that you have done, which project was the most challenging, technically?
This is a tough question because I cannot identify a specific building. Each one is designed during a different time and presents a unique challenge, and this fact makes me proud of each and every one of them. I can say that the De Maxi Museum in Rome and the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku matched the customer’s specific instructions and presented a new type of challenge. The result was an inspirational and dynamic work.
Q: You always talk about the fifties and sixties in Iraq with nostalgia. How would you feel if you went back to Iraq today?
I had a happy childhood in Iraq and I feel proud of my ability to contribute to rebuilding the country now, although the process involves so much more than a single building. We need to build public institutions while also thinking about urban planning, housing, schools, hospitals, and basic infrastructure. Unfortunately, I do not have any family in Iraq now since the death of my parents, and if I went back it would be a difficult and poignant experience. Everyone I remember from that period of my life either died or left the country.
Q: We have taken note of your recent interest in fashion. Some may view it as strange since you work at a level much more refined than that of these collaborations.
On the contrary; the experience gives me a chance to express a range of ideas on a different scale and to use different tools. I consider it a part of researching the world of design as a whole. I am closing in on new types of architectural design, and learning from them at the same time. It is clear that many common denominators between architecture, fashion, and art have recently emerged.
Q: You always repeat that you love working in the Middle East. Are there projects you are working on now or hope to work on in the future that play on the dynamics of the region?
This certainly is an important period for all architects working in the region. There are a lot of possibilities for discussing innovative designs, and new construction techniques allow projects to develop in line with the diverse cultures and lifestyles of the region. One of the most exciting things about the dynamism I am referring to is that it reflects a strong sense of optimism. It is expressive of big aspirations, which is a good thing. In terms of urban planning, I think that it has not always been successful because the process was carried out quickly. However, the region is serious about working to improve infrastructure, and among many new projects there are some very attention-grabbing elements. These projects are impressive in their ambition and attempts to break traditional molds.
Q: If you could go back 20 years, what would you change?
(Smiling) I would try to work at a different pace, probably a bit less serious.
Q: Is there anything you regret?
It’s more heartbreak than that I have regrets. I lost my father before he was able to watch me develop from a student to a successful architect.
This interview was originally conducted in Arabic.