Algerian-born fashion designer Ilyes Ouali founded his eponymous brand with the image of strong women that he always wanted to dress – notably his mother. And also with a clear goal: put an end to the underrepresentation of Arab and North African women in the fashion industry.
Diversity, inclusivity and sustainability are therefore the heart of the brand led by Ouali, who was also one of the finalists of the FTA Prize for the “Evening Wear” category.
One last thing: one can’t stop looking at Ilyes Ouali’s hieratic dresses…
PULSE’S QUESTIONNAIRE TO… ILYES OUALI
What is the one thing you wish people would stop wearing?
It’s a tough question, beauty can be found in the most unexpected places. But I would say that logomania should be dead by now!
Which creation of yours are you most proud of?
The fully cord embroidered dresses that I create for every collection. Its sentimental value is huge, since it’s hand-made in the most artisanal way back in Algeria.
What was your worst fashion faux pas?
I have made a few so far, trying to satisfy every buyer and not going with my initial instinct. But we always learn from our mistakes.
If you were to choose one of your looks, or that of any other designer of your choice, to wear every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Nothing would fit me from my collections, but if I really shrink, I’d choose the crystal midi cord dress from my FW21. This dress catches the light of day and night.
Who do you dream of dressing?
Every single woman on this planet, with no exception.
When was the last time you pulled an all-nighter?
I never did that. Sleeping early and waking up early is so important to me.
What does the word “sustainability” mean to you?
A revolution needed to save our planet. The consumers have to change their behavior, then the producers will change theirs.
What would be the title of your Netflix documentary?
Describe the MENA region in 3 words.
Rich, culture, genuine.
How does “Young, Arab and Proud” translate in your work?
When it comes to my brand, everything is inspired from my country, Algeria, and partially produced there. Every season, I try to take a step forward towards sustainability, as well as showing Algeria’s artisanal treasures.
What is the Arab DNA made of?
Tulle and beads, mostly.
What is the most common misconception about being an Arab?
That we are all called habibi.
If you could travel in time to meet any Arab icon, who would it be, and why?
Princess Fawzia Fuad of Egypt.
What makes you uncomfortable in the MENA fashion industry and that you would like to see changed?
We need new talents making it on the international level.
How is the gender-neutral trend translated in the MENA fashion?
I think “gender-neutral” is more of a reality than a trend. The people’s freedom to express themselves is more powerful than before, it’s not a trend!
What is the one Arab tradition you would want to change and what is the one you adore?
I wouldn’t change a thing, because this constitutes the beauty of the Arab world. And the one I adore is Ramadan.
What is the Arab dish you could eat every day?
What is your favorite Arabic song, that is often stuck on repeat in your playlist?
“El Layali” by Nawal Al-Zoghbi.
Um Kulthum or Fairuz?
What is the one city in the MENA region you could live in forever, and why?
Beirut. There are so many treasures and beauties, it’s a magical place.