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“Although the designs are modern, you can still see the influence of my Arabic roots” – Kalyah’s Nora Aldamer on her new collection

In conversation with the designer
Ounass just added another Middle Eastern label to its luxury portfolio and we sat down with the designer to discuss her new collection, modest dressing and the positive spotlight on Saudi Arabia women of late...

ounass is already home to several coveted brands such as Zimmermann and Bulgari, but there’s been a strong focus on emerging regional talent and their new upcoming collections in recent seasons. Now, the site has just welcomed Kalyah, the brainchild of Nora Aldamer, launching with the brand’s S/S ’18 collection.

The Middle Eastern designer is known for her ability to twist traditional shapes into modern, wearable and comfortable ensembles that are injected with Arabian elements and intricate details. 

Find out what Nora had to say about the launch, her inspirations, fashion advice and of course, what it means to be a Saudi Arabian woman today…

Your pieces are traditional yet modern and elegant — when did you decide you wanted to start your own label and bring this aesthetic to a wider audience?

After graduating from Parsons School in New York, I decided to start my own label. A few years ago the wave of change in fashion was quite strong in the Middle East and I couldn’t find modern-day wear with a traditional twist and a high-quality standard.

You’ve enjoyed a great amount of success (showcasing collections in Milan and being named as one of the finalists in The Green Carpet Fashion Awards) in the past two years. Was the reaction something you expected?

Fashion is not always glamorous and fun, it’s a lot of hard work and effort. In these days it is fulfilling to see your efforts being recognised. 

I will always be thankful to the late Vogue Italia Editor in Chief Franca Sozzani who encouraged my work from the very beginning, presenting my work in Milano at Palazzo Morando Vogue Talents. Afterwards, also Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana supported my work during Milan Fashion Week.

I believe that if you have worked hard and if you love what you do, you will reach your goal. 

What was the most challenging thing for you when you started your brand?

The hardest thing for me was to be properly considered by retailers. It’s unfortunate that we had this misconception that being a local designer would mean a compromise in quality. On the contrary, Ounass saw the potential of a new gap in the market and approached us. 

The Middle East has a very strong cultural identity. Being from Riyadh, how does your upbringing influence your work today?

My upbringing has influenced my work by emphasising traditions in my design. Although the designs are modern, you can still see the influence of my Arabic roots in the shapes and silhouettes.

How does this new collection differ from previous collections?

This collection is modern and bold. I have used bright colours and new materials such as acrylic embellishments and raffia. I tried to make it more fun but still wearable.

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The upcoming release of your collection on Ounass will feature a wide selection of your creations that are mostly modest. Why is modest dressing important to you?

Dressing modestly is part of our culture and tradition. Although sometimes I feel using the word ‘modest’ limits the creativity, I believe designers shouldn’t be afraid to create then style it in a way that makes the look respectful to our culture in a modern way. 

What’s your most important piece of fashion advice?

Don’t simply follow the trend, always be yourself.

With all of the positive changes happening in Saudi Arabia at the moment, what does it mean to you to be a Saudi Arabian woman today?

Opportunities are much greater than in previous periods. And as a woman, I have the ability to take risks and be able to succeed.

What else is coming up for the brand this year? 

We are working on our next collection and will be participating in great local events. We successfully presented the Kalyah Winter Collection 2018 in Paris last week and we will participate in beautiful local events, also via the web, with  Moda Operandi. Plus there’s many other surprises! 

Now, read our interview with celebrity makeup artist Hung Vanngo, who is in town to launch Marc Jacobs Beauty new So Shameless foundation