Arab Saudi — Saudi fashion designer Yasmin was born and raised in London with a Saudi father and an English mother. Growing up, she was mostly inspired by her mother, who was one of the most tasteful women of her time, according to Yasmin. Her mother – “May God rest her soul” – had an eye for everything beautiful.
The first serious fashion piece Yasmin designed was a thobe. Her inspiration came from her mother, who used to buy some of her thobes from English designer and fashion legend Thea Portman.
“When I first started designing I was hesitant about my work. I thought my first piece was good, but part of my personality is to always strive for better. My eldest daughter realized my lack of confidence at the time and pushed me to believe how wonderful a piece it was,” said Yasmin.
Yasmin named her brand Jilbab, a name derived from the Holy Qur’an and Arabic for “dress”.
“After creating my first collection I needed to find a name to represent my brand, and at the time my sister-in-law reminded me that the most perfect place to find a name is in the Qur’an, so I did,” she said.
Yasmin designs thobes six months before they are exhibited, but she takes orders all year round. As for abayas, she designs them all year round, as this dress is worn in every season.
When asked about her ability to mix cultural with modern designs, Yasmin said her international background often helps her to see things in a multicultural way. Her English mother was the epitome of elegance and grandeur in the most simplistic way, according to Yasmin.
Everything inspires Yasmin when designing a new line of Jilbab. “Although it might seem too vague to say this, everything that surrounds me does truly inspire me: culture, nature, fabrics, textiles, and basically all that is beautiful and that captivates and compels me to express myself creatively,” she said. “My new collection was inspired by vintage collages of fabric, especially Afghani pieces, as well as modern neon colors and Aztec embroidery,” she added.
Yasmin’s designs are simple with an edge of refinement mixed with a fusion of cultural designs. “Usually, our abaya clients come to boutique Sabine Nada, where the abayas are currently stocked, and choose the dress of their choice.
Our customers are also allowed to choose their own color combinations,” she said. “As for Jilbab thobes, I usually work at least six months in advance before I exhibit my thobe collection at Sabine Nada, generally before Ramadan,” she added.
The Saudi fashion market is a competitive one when it comes to abaya designers, but according to Yasmin, she is extremely competitive. She thinks designers have become more creative, which could be explained by the fact that the world has become increasingly interconnected, resulting in the exposure of Saudi designers to the international fashion scene. “This exposure is quite evident in the way Saudi designers have become more experimental with different fabrics and colors in their designs,” she said.
Yasmin’s daughter is in charge of choosing the models and the photographers. “In our last photoshoot, my daughter chose to work with Saudi photographer Fahad Ayyad. The model involved in the photo shoot, Vanessa Fernandez, was exactly who she was looking for, since she wanted to merge modernity, tradition and youth in a multicultural way,” Yasmin said.
The designer’s strength would be her attention to detail. “My weakness would be my perfectionism; my daughter always reminds me to never let perfect ruin good,” she said. “Every year there is some kind of theme I am more likely to be inspired by. In the past I have been inspired by Chinese patterns, among others, and lately I have been inspired by Bohemian and Aztec designs,” she added.
Until recently, Yasmin’s main form of marketing is word of mouth, but recently, her daughters have been marketing her through Facebook, and they just launched the website www.sabinejeddah.com.
Jilbab abayas and kaftans can be found at boutique Sabine Nada in Jeddah. The designer also has some customers in Jordan, the UAE and Qatar. Yasmin hopes to reach other Arab countries as well.