Birds Eye View Festival: Interview with Director Soniya Kirpalani

ICA Cinema

8 Apr 2013
Birds Eye View Festival favourite, Fashion Loves Film is back this Tuesday at the ICA for an assumption-shaking dose of glitz and glamour.

Birds Eye View Festival favourite, Fashion Loves Film is back this Tuesday at the ICA for an assumption-shaking dose of glitz and glamour. In keeping with the 2013 festival theme, this year’s edition of FLF will focus solely on films by Arab female filmmakers. Centering on themes of dress and identity, we’ll be showing provocative, moving and frankly fabulous films, from the satirical short Niqabitch, which challenges the French banning of the hijab, to DoBuy, a documentary that shines a light on fashion and faith in the MENA region.

Post-screening, we will be joined by Kathryn Ferguson (filmmaker and Fashion Loves Film curator), Reina Lewis (Professor of Cultural Studies, University of the Arts London), Emily Harris (director, DoBuy) and Sophia Al-Maria (Artist, writer and cinematographer of How Can I Resist You) for further thoughts on an exploding style scene.

Eager for fashion insights in advance of this Tuesday’s screening, Birds Eye View caught up with Do:Buy The Fabric of Faith director, Soniya Kirpalani.

Here’s what she had to say about the clothes currently causing a stir in the Middle East:

'Dress from across the Middle East and North Africa has evolved. As the skylines of the region shoot upwards- especially in the GCC countries- dress sensibilities are also adapting, increasingly reflecting the region’s emerging cultural identity and creative mindset. Suddenly it’s all about creative cuts, clever local graffiti that benchmarks ‘chic’. Of course, this takes on its own cultural inflections. The UAE, for example, despite being a multi-cultural and liberal design hub, is showing a marked preference for modesty and an even greater pride in the distinctively dark shades of hijabs and abayas. Yet the designs show an intriguing balance of conservatism and individuality: this is traditional dress infused with modern design.

Until the early part of the Millennium, fashion of the Middle East was all about bling, Swarovski sparklers and lavish embellishment. Today, trends play with hints of color, and creativity in the way in which the hijab is tied and worn, defines personal style. Don’t be surprised to see Miyake cuts, single seamless abayas, Asymmetrical abayas, draped duster coats, double-wrap abayas, even jumpsuit-skirt suit designed into abayas!  Set off with butterfly sleeves, sari drapes, Grecian drapes, kimono sleeves, a clinched in waist there is a visible play on fabric. Gossamer silk, crepe, jersey, lycra and even raw denim is being used. Some traditional collections are based on flowing silhouettes of the caftan and the djelleba, which now morphs into a cloak. Hints of embellishment and appliqué are also popular trends. Oman’s designer’s embellish with bold silver pieces, Morrocan with gold, silver beads and crystals, Lebanon with lace and rare thread work, the Khaleeji UAE girls go for a more clean cut with a rustic-embellished feel. Gone is the hangover of the 80s, the OTT bling, now it’s ‘thinking trends’ and less is certainly more.

It’s not just about what you are wearing, but ‘who’. And the ‘who’ is a local designer. Every country now has a fashion week, and these high-glamour displays act as a podium for a host of emerging and established talent. In UAE expatriate designers Amato, Essa, Arushi, Rabia Z, Amber Feroze, Rami Al Ali, Micheal Cinco have taken lead. Local Arab designers,  Zahra M, Sumayyah Al Suwaidi, Sarah Madani, DAS, KANZI, Afaf & Aida Al Farsi from Oman, Toujouri, Aisha al Bedeed from Qatar, Ahmed Talfit from Tunisia, Lamyaa al Abidin, Iffat al Dabbagh, Saudi designer May al Jayed and Taa Marbouta are also all proud representatives of their nation’s talent. Path breaking stores like Sa*ce, Chedi, Graphika, The Starchh Project, Forever 13 & Bird Cage in Lebanon, IF Boutique, Boutique 1, Valley Dez, The Cartel  are experimental boutiques with a single minded passion for positioning and promotion local design talent. This is the time of extempore experimentation and slowly but steadily there are a lot of names to watch out for. As global urbanization takes center stage, Abu Dhabi to Ankara the ramps resonate with cut, crafts, creativity and culture. Reform is certainly afoot.'

We can’t wait to get a glimpse of burgeoning creative dress on screens this Tuesday 9 April., so join us for a night of fun and fearless fashion!

This article is posted in: Film, Interviews