While the contemporary abaya may be the core product of Qatar-based label 1309, its founder Ghada Al Subaey wants her brand to be one that talks about the modern Arab woman. She started her label six years ago with a conscious ethos: she used vegan fabrics, has a zero-carbon footprint and creates seasonless designs. Additionally, 1309 recently collaborated with Jordan-based label Nafsika Skourti for a post-pandemic ready-to-wear collection.
Q Tell us about your cool take on the abaya.
A Our abayas are very daring. We’re not afraid of colors and patterns on our abayas. We were one of the first designers in the Middle East to use a full pattern on the abayas and scarves. Even today we like to keep pushing the envelope. We see abayas as a fun, complimenting outfit rather than something women use only to cover up or doll down. We also have a sustainable approach, so most of our abayas are made of sustainable fabrics and even our labels’ packaging is sustainable – and that is a first in this region.
Q You are zero waste brand. Can you tell us more?
A We always try to adopt practices and resources that are zero waste and highly efficient. We aim to produce superior quality pieces that last customers for years and from which they can get multiple usage. Our future priority is to be able to make this a strict standard for all our production. We aim to invest in creative pattern making that uses 100% of a given material and adopt upcycle practices to generate garments from remnant materials – to not only reuse and recycle fabric but reduce and reuse all material such as textile scraps, leftover fabric, excess paper waste and threads.
Q Do you hope to sell internationally?
A We would love to sell internationally as we would want our abayas to be recognized internationally, just like kimonos. The kimono is something that is seen as a form of art and celebrated, but the abaya is looked at as a form of oppression and we would like to change that narrative. We want women to feel like an abaya can be worn anywhere and anytime, over jeans, to the beach or over a dress. We want it to be something every woman on earth can wear at any time or place.
Q You believe that regional brands should collaborate together. Why is this?
A Don’t compete, collaborate. It creates a healthier fashion environment. Brands should collaborate when they have great ideas and want to create together with another brand. This is what happened with our collaboration with Nafsika Skourti. Even though our lines are very different, we have a similar message that we want to put out there, and so collaboration came about!
Q What do you mean when you say 1309 is more than a fashion brand?
A It is a concept, a feeling, a universe. We have built a community. We put out ideas for people to reflect on, to empower women, put out good in society and stir inspiration that might possibly create change.