As our FTA Prize 2021 event in Doha Qatar approaches, we continue our mission to shed light on our remaining eight finalists, through a visual journey into their worlds, the creative spaces sacred to them, and the muses who inspire them and embody the essence and uniqueness of each of these designers’ brand aesthetics. Here’s a look at our remaining eight finalists across all categories from our FTA campaign shoots.

Mohamed Benchellal

Moroccan Evening-Wear category Finalist and designer Mohamed Benchellal, founder of his eponymous label, strikes the perfect balance between classic versus fantasy, timeless versus contemporary, with his obvious preference towards larger-than life voluminous dresses and celestial silhouettes. When one sees glitz and glamour, one may not necessarily associate it with sustainability and environmental responsibility, but Benchellal proves that it can be done, with the use of recycled and dead-stock fabrics in his couture-like creations. 

For his muse, Benchellal chose his close friend Valentine Bouquet, who he also featured as the face of his latest two collections. “Besides her sophisticated beauty, Valentine exudes a sense of pure femininity. A dancer and photographer in her own right, Valentine is able to embody the timelessness and grace of Benchellal by the way in which she carries herself, and each garment she wears,” the designer explains.

On a deeper level, Benchellal tells us how he also draws inspiration from his roots. Featured in this exclusive shoot for Fashion Trust Arabia is a portrait which shows his grandfather, mother and uncle after they immigrated to Europe from Morocco in the late 1960’s. The duality of his Moroccan and Dutch upbringing is a strong thread woven through his latest collection; a proud showcase of the combination of the MENA region’s beauty and European elegance.

Haya Alabdulkareem

Kuwaiti accessories designer and FTA Finalist Haya Alabdulkareem established her leather goods label FOLKLORE in 2014 after graduating from Central St Martins. Inspired by art, design, history, tradition and, of course, folklore, the brand focuses on artisanal production to create high quality accessories by dropping exclusive capsule collections every season. Her signature geometric shapes and modern aesthetics along with her functional designs have quickly made Folklore stand out from the crowd.   

For the shoot, Alabdulkareem is photographed with her muse, Aseel Al Yaqouba, a renowned researcher and multi-disciplinary visual artist based in Kuwait.  According to Alabdulkareem, Al Yaqouba embodies the true concept of female empowerment in the region. “Through her work, Aseel tackles intriguing topics in a professional manner, which in my opinion personifies the ideal FOLKLORE woman,” says Alabdulkareem.

Mina Tahir

Egyptian Debut Talent Finalist Mina Tahir’s career is off to quite the impressive start. After completing a BFA in Fashion Design at Parsons School of Design in which she achieved with the BFA scholarship, Dean’s BFA Scholarship, and the BFA supplement award, the designer founded her eponymous label. She describes her design sensibility as blending seamlessly with her heritage, artwork, and textiles and the past, present, and future. Her work is largely focused “on exploring the nuances and dynamic relationships between East and West,” she says. Tahir also incorporates digital technologies which are heavily inspired by the MENA region’s subcultures, blending traditional and local references with contemporary, alternative hip-hop and skateboard cultures of the West throughout her work.

For her muse the Finalist chose Khaled Khalifa, a multi-disciplinary artist whose practice explores identity and cultural roots. Mina shares with Khalifa an exceptionally organic and authentic connection that fosters a continuous stream of creative consciousness. “I’m very grateful to have such an inspiring and encouraging friend and muse in Khaled and I am truly inspired by his holistic approach and thought process when creating,” says Mina. 

Roudha Al Mazroei

After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar with a BFA in fashion design, Qatari debut Talent Finalist Roudha Al Mazroei’s love for architecture, art and storytelling led her to launch her namesake ready-to-wear bridal label. She draws inspiration from what she describes as “chaos and uncertainty.” While designing she likes to incorporate elements from the past and visualizes dressing daring, strong and straightforward “rebellious” women.

Al Mazroei chose yoga teacher Hana Elleithy as her muse for this shoot, who the designer describes as someone who is deeply passionate about the process of self-discovery and self-remembrance. Through yoga and other intuitive practices, such as expressive art-making, Elleithy was able to embark on her personal journey and unleash her full potential. 

“Her passion towards art has heightened her sense of sensitivity towards both the internal and external worlds. Roudha Al Mazroei the brand celebrates women that are willing to go further to discover more and always improve, trying to be the best version of themselves, women that are confident and fearlessly go for what they want,” explains Roudha. 

Maram Aboul Enein

Egyptian designer and Ready-to-Wear category Finalist Maram Aboul Enein completed her BFA at Parsons Paris before training at some of the world’s most renowned fashion houses such as Pierre Balmain, Oscar de la Renta and Zac Posen. Her passion for art and textiles and an “obsession” with craftsmanship led her to establish her “off-duty luxury’ label, MARAM. Her creations seek to deconstruct the preconceived design boundaries of classic clothing by creating modern day luxury with a major emphasis on craftsmanship.

Aboul Enein chose creative director of Living In Interiors and founder of Don Tanani, Tamara El Tanani as her muse. El Tanani was the first person to ever wear and model Aboul Enein’s designs while she was still a student at Parsons and didn’t have the resources to hire professional models. Besides the fact that Aboul Enein considers El Tanani to be an incredibly talented interior designer, she admires her style, which she describes as “very distinct yet refined and nonchalant, always stays true to herself. She takes risks and never conforms to trends. Her authenticity has always inspired me to stay true to mine. Our dynamic and sisterhood has shown me that when women genuinely support each other, it creates a very powerful momentum- a message that is at the core of the brand and what we stand for.”

Azza Skhiri Bouchamaoui

Tunisian fine jewelry designer and Accessories category Finalist Azza Skhiri Bouchamoui founded her own high-end Dubai-based label Didon Jewelry. Having always been drawn to strong and powerful female figures, her brand is inspired by the legacy of the Queen of Carthage, named Didon. As a result, the designer has decided to pay homage to all the strong women who are “unapologetically” themselves. We also couldn’t help but notice just how Didon’s minimalistic aesthetic and cool sculptured pieces are a nod to the founder’s rich Tunisian heritage. 

Skhiri Bouchamoui’s choice for a muse falls in line with her brand ethos. Lina Lazaar is an art specialist currently serving as the president of the Kamel Lazaar Foundation. She is also an advocate of cultural activism across the MENA region. She champions all forms of creativity and strongly believes in the power of ideas, the potency of the human spirit and in achieving change through all forms of community empowerment.

“For me, Lina Lazaar is a creative muse and inspiration both personally and professionally. I see in Lina the modern direction of my label Didon. She represents the junction between creativity and women’s empowerment,” explains Skhiri Bouchamoui.

Laith Maalouf

When it comes to layering, draping, complex patterns and embroidery, Jordanian Evening-Wear category Finalist and designer Laith Maalouf’s statement gowns do not fall short. After earning a degree in fashion at Lebanon’s ESMOD and training under renowned Lebanese couturier Elie Saab, he launched his eponymous label in 2013. The designer’s passion for photography, drawing, art and graphic design are clearly reflected in his pieces often donned by regional celebrities on the red carpet. 

For this shoot, Maalouf chose Shirene Rifai as his muse. Although she’s a lawyer by education, Rifai is considered a patron of Jordanian designers. This passion led her to establish Jordan Fashion Week. 

The two have fostered a strong and absolute friendship, “If Shirene is to be described as a work of art, she would be an avant-garde collage – a true instrument of inspiration. A true friend and patron, always hugely generous to the artist she believes in. Shirene is my compass when searching for perfection to elevate and bring out the beauty in the world, because to her it is a vital necessity. She always reminds me to create ardently by marrying flare with insight and imagination. Daring to pursue passion because it brings life!” saysMaalouf. 

Malik Thomas Jalil Kydd

Iraqi Debut Talent Finalist Malik Thomas Jalil Kydd is part of a new generation of emerging designers who have joined the slow fashion movement, with sustainability at the core of their brand ethos. He founded his gender-neutral label Malik Thomas Studio using a mix of traditional techniques alongside modern screen printing. He works with Arab artisans to create hand-stitched, carefully produced, unique pieces that reflect his nuanced outlook on his culture and surroundings.   

Thomas is photographed in this shoot with his muse Noura Al Khasawneh. Al Khasawneh is an artist and curator from Amman. Known for her generosity and giving nature, she has spent years building institutions and residency programs in Jordan in support of the creative community. Her work has been essential in helping dozens of young creative practitioners and artists establish themselves and thrive in a highly challenging environment where fundamental art resources are scarce. 

“At the beginning of 2020 whilst working as Director of MMAG Foundation, Noura offered me a residency and my first workspace, allowing me to begin my independent studio practice. The most fabulous travel companion, to encounter the deserts, countryside and hills of Jordan through her eyes is to make a sublime intervention into layers upon layers of history and ecology. It is her sensitivity to the most delicate of experiences, coupled with her understated radiance which make her the most quintessential Malik Thomas Muse,” explains the designer. 

Zaid Affas

Iraqi Ready-to-Wear Finalist Zaid Affas has  a knack for minimal-yet-masterful tailoring as evident in his signature architectural silhouettes and intricate use of refined materials. His portfolio is impressive, having held positions at Ralph Lauren and BCBG Max Azria before launching his eponymous label in 2014. The designer is on a quest to redefine the concept of wearable luxury by employing sustainable practices in his production process, from recycling, minimization of material waist and zero over production. 

For his muse Affas chose his close friend and client, Latondra Newton, Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of The Walt Disney Company, and Founder and Creative Director of her own luxury jewelry collection, STÔN. Affas considers Newton to be the embodiment of his brand. He describes her as a professional, sophisticated, confident, and beautiful woman with her own distinctive personal style and aesthetic.  

“I’m continuously inspired by how she effortlessly handles being one of the most important and highly respected executives in the movie industry with designing, creating and running her own exquisite luxury [pieces], which she is wearing in our shoot. It really is amazing how Newton is so creative and innovative with her jewelry line, always producing new collections while simultaneously being so dedicated to her culturally and socially responsible and impactful role as the Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at The Walt Disney Company. For me, nobody could be a more perfect muse than a woman who is the pure combination of a creative executive,” Affas tells us.