Young Saudi fashion designer Safiah Alaquil is a promising name in the fashion industry. Here brand ‘Badawiah’ is inspired from cultures and traditions of different countries. She uses the traditional craftsmanship of Saudi Arabia and combines it with modern and ethnic fashion. With this project she also aims to support children in need using half of the profits earned. In a chat with Arab News, she talks of her journey so far and where she hopes to see herself in the future.
Tell us about yourself and what sparked your interest in fashion.
I’m Saudi Argentine, so from early childhood, I was exposed to different cultures and the enrichment of traveling. Having relatives in Argentina, I finished my high school there, and then moved to California, where I graduated with a major in Psychology and a minor in Art. Fashion and jewelry design have always been my passion. I first started making jewelry when I was 11, which fed my hunger for designing ever since. I recently moved back to Jeddah and decided to pursue something that combined my love for designing and traveling, along with the opportunity to give back to communities and help children in need. With those elements in mind, Badawiah was created.
Can you tell us more about your clothing label?
The idea behind Badawiah is to blend different ethnic and traditional cultures. I thought of giving a unique colorful twist to something so traditional like an abaya and to include other handmade textiles from around the world. I think women in Saudi Arabia look for freedom of expression while maintaining traditional culture and style and Badawiah abayas just do that. Since each collection is based on different countries where I travel, I am usually able to have a collection ready every 3-4 months.
Apart from being an entrepreneur and a good fashion designer, what do you believe is the role or the responsibility of the contemporary fashion designer in today’s society?
I think a contemporary designer in this society should find a balance between the traditional and modern. Although being a good designer and an entrepreneur is difficult here, the authenticity for fashion arises from the courage of the individual. Since women here want to express their own individual style while still maintaining traditional culture and customs, it becomes our responsibility to create a fashion that may go in their direction yet keeps the designer’s fashion statement.
I have learned that you have recently spent some time in Argentina working on a new fashion design collection. Can you tell us more about this collection?
Yes, I decided to travel to Argentina for my second collection, and it was such a great learning experience. I was able to meet local artisans and learn more about their culture, which is also my culture because my mother is Argentine. I learned how they hand make their wool yarn, and how they use natural products to dye it (like fruits, vegetables, and flowers). Once the yarn is hand spun and dyed, they then weave these beautiful and intricately designed “Aguallos” which can be used for many things. I decided this would be the perfect thing to incorporate into my new collection.
Moreover, I met up with local farmers and gauchos (Argentine cowboys) and noticed they all wore this waistband that is all handmade, and in all different designs and colors, they are called “fajas”. So this is the other item that I am including in my new collection. It’s a nice blend between traditional and artistic designs from Argentina.
How is your new collection different from your last?
I always wanted to create an image of a futuristic and colorful city with the collection having a stronger image than in my previous ones. For this timely collection, I decided to keep the abaya colors more neutral in order to focus more on the colorful trims.
What do you hope to achieve with this collection?
I hope to blend a touch of Argentine style into local fashion, and create a bridge between these two cultures! My main goal for each collection of Badawiah is that people get a taste of another culture while also helping to support children in need in that country.
Is there any other project that you are currently undertaking and where do you see yourself in the future?
This is all I’m focusing on at the moment. My main objective while starting Badawiah was to keep it small scale, and focus on quality. I didn’t start Badawiah to become a huge name in the fashion scene, nor to mass-produce. I enjoy working on each item personally to make sure it’s up to standards and dealing with the customers personally. The fact is I am concerned with the designs, if it triggers a reaction or is able to receive feedback, that’s enough for me.
However, when it comes to future, I see myself exploring new cultures around the world. I love traveling, and I’m so fortunate to have something that combines all of my passions — traveling, designing, and helping children in need.
What are the challenges you faced in starting your own label?
I wouldn’t say I faced any challenges, and this I give credit to my parents who believe and encourage that each person should pursue their dreams and goals no matter what obstacles are ahead. They taught me to believe in myself and always go forward. Moreover, I am still proceeding with this idea, I do this for customers and to be happy, so it makes no difference what challenges I have to go through.
Any tips for new fashion designers?
I’m still new in this fashion industry, so I am getting tips from others. The only advice I have for anyone wanting to start their own line of clothing is to have fun with it, and to never get distracted from the main reason why you started it in the first place.