“I’m so, so happy. I’ve been trying to tell my parents, but there is no Internet, so I can’t tell anybody I won yet and it’s stressing me out. Now it means that I can move my brand to the next level, which for us is growing our direct-to-consumer business model and working with the right wholesale client and setting our e-commerce, which is really important.

Those were the words of Zaid Affas when Pulse asked him how he feels and what’s next, right after winning the Fashion Trust Arabia Prize in the Ready-to-Wear Category last week, on the 3rd of November. The California-based Iraqi designer is now more than ready to spread his (large) wings all over the fashion planet.

Pulse talks to… Zaid Affas

What is the one thing you wish people would stop wearing?
Anything with a princess seam.

What creation of yours are you most proud of?
There are too many to answer, but the tailored pieces are very special to me.

What was your worst fashion faux-pas?
Not realizing the Valentino event the other night at the Doha Islamic Museum was a glamorous one, I showed up dressed in a t-shirt and trainers because we were setting up at the showroom just before!

If you were to choose one of your looks, or that of any other designer, to wear every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Anything comfortable and black.

Who do you dream of dressing?
It’s always been Tilda Swinton (sharing is caring, Haider…), but now that I have personally met the stunning Caroline Issa, I have to have her wear my tailored looks. So Tilda, Caroline, oh and Zendaya!

When was the last time you pulled an all-nighter?
For fun, celebrating the night of 3rd November (the night of the FTA 2021 Prize). For work, trying to get the brand overview deck done for the judges so we could win and be able to celebrate the night of 3rd November.

Name five people, dead or alive, that you’d like to invite to a private dinner party at your house.
Prince, Azzedine Alaia, Zaha Hadid, Cristobal Balenciaga, David Bowie and Yves Saint Laurent….That’s six, but let’s not be sticklers.

What does the word “sustainability” mean to you?
What it should really mean, actually being sustainable without doing it to be relevant, woke, or for PR and marketing reasons.

What would the title of your Netflix documentary be?
The Next Emperor

Describe the MENA region in 3 words.
Stunning. Passionate. Rich (in culture and history).

How is “Young, Arab and Proud” translated in your work?
Not sure the ‘young’ bit applies, but thank you… I’m guessing it’s the good skin. I’m very proud to be an Arab designer who doesn’t conform to the expected aesthetic of either the ‘Glamorous Arab’ or the ‘Ethnic Arab’ designer.

What is Arab DNA made of?
Abundant passion.

What is the most common misconception about being an Arab?
Abundant passion.

If you could travel in time to meet any Arab icon, who would it be, and why?
Zaha Hadid.  To be an Arab, Iraqi, Muslim woman in such a male dominated profession and to persevere to become one of the most prominent groundbreaking architects of the 20th and 21st Centuries without having to conform to fitting into the box of her cultural background is an exceptional achievement. Not to forget that she was also a brilliant architect.

What is something that makes you uncomfortable in the MENA fashion industry and that you would like to see changed?
Unlike you see in other cultures, I’ve always been uncomfortable that we in the  MENA fashion community don’t truly support each other. Having said that, I’m proud to now be part of the FTA family as I believe this is the perfect platform to change that. Not only in terms of the organization helping young designers, but in bringing together MENA designers, photographers, creatives, executives and so on. It’s now our responsibility to truly build on our relationships, support each other and collaborate!

How is the gender-neutral trend translated in MENA fashion?
Hellooo… men across the MENA region have been wearing ‘dresses’ forever…

What is one Arab tradition you would want to change, and what is the one you adore?
Abundant passion, abundant passion.

What is the Arab dish you could eat every day?
Anything my amazing mother makes!

What is your favorite Arabic song, that is often stuck on repeat in your playlist?
“Fi Youm W Leila”, by Warda Al Jazairia… Love!

Um Kulthum or Fairuz?
That’s the hardest one to answer… I love both!  We are a very musical family and grew up listening to both these phenomenal, iconic woman.  Not to mention always listening to our father, a brilliant oud player, play their music beautifully.

What is this one city in the MENA region you could live in forever, and why?
Beirut, I love the mountains, the lifestyle and the people really know how to have a good time!