The COVID-19 pandemic did not play into the plans Nour Kelani had for her new fashion brand Noukliér. The Saudi Arabia-based designer of Syrian descent had just begun producing her ready-to-wear evening-dress collection in Milan when the world came to a halt. But, not one to be overwhelmed by obstacles, Kelani saw this as an opportunity to look closer to home for the best seamstresses and manufacturers, and will soon be producing Noukliér from Riyadh, as she and her family relocate from Jeddah.
You may, however, already recognize the name. Noukliér recently unveiled a collaborative capsule collection with Orange Blossom – a range of striking kaftans inspired by Lady Jane Digby, the British aristocrat who had a famous love affair with Sheikh Medjuel el Mezrab in Damascus in the late 1800s. Digby has been a vivid source of inspiration for Kelani, who has always been enraptured by the idea of a foreign woman wafting about the sand-colored desert landscape in vibrant pastel gowns. This vision, coupled with the designer’s deep admiration for fashion icons Loulou de la Falaise and Elsa Schiaparelli, has Noukliér emerging in a burst of color still relatively new to the Saudi Kingdom.
“I am obsessed with color and drama and good fabrics that make a beautiful, rich sound when a woman moves,” says Kelani, who learned the art of tailoring by watching her grandmother at work in her small atelier in Jeddah while growing up.
Noukliér is the culmination of a career that has had Kelani involved in a multitude of fashion- and art-related projects over the years – from marketing and buying for a fashion retailer and consulting for big-name labels, to fashion editing a magazine, heading up an art gallery and acting as the PR for Jeddah Art Week. A passionate painter, sculptor and art collector, she has fused all her loves to create a brand that is as exuberant and multi-faceted as she is, filled with narratives that women can embody with grace and whimsy.
With her fashion brand now being produced locally, Kelani looks forward to seeing more women from the region dressed in Noukliér’s statement pieces. “There’s a cultural movement happening here,” she says of the Saudi zeitgeist, “and I need to be part of it.”