Body Amr is sexually aggressive, cutting-edge and the designs sit well with quintessential modern alpha females. But the man behind the daring drapes is cut from a different cloth.
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Omani-born, London-based designer Amir Ali, who designs under the name Body Amr, has taken the fashion world by storm and is on the speed dial of many celebrities including Madonna, Claudia Schiffer and Whitney Houston, is surprisingly sensitive and does not wear his aggressiveness on his sleeve. Though he admits the run-up to the unveiling of his collections is manically stressful, Amr resorts to lighting up cigarettes instead of flaring up at anyone hovering around him. When we meet, his first show in Dubai, touted as the highlight of Dubai Fashion Week, is less than 24-hours away.
"I can never de-stress before my show. I know everything has to go just right. There is no time to make any major changes and I have to make sure the looks I am trying to send out there come out right. Everything happens so fast, girls flitting in and out, and you have such limited time,"says Amr, puffing away.
The collection is a blend of Amr's autumn-winter 09 collection and spring-summer 2010 collection and has already completed a lap at London and Paris Fashion Weeks. But the perfectionist that he is, Amr - who pioneered the use of Swarovski crystals on vintage T-shirts and silk jersey jumpsuits - tweaked the showcase by including a few abayas and accessories to suit Middle Eastern sensibilities. But be warned, he has not tempered his bold threads and has whipped up a sizzler with kaftans, short dresses and chiffon gowns.
"When I think about Arab women, I think of a woman with a strong character, powerful and successful in her own right. She is independent in her style and has a unique sense of fashion too. Striking, confident when she enters a room," says Amr.
His inclination for super achievers is underlined when you sift through his ever-expanding celebrity-collaboration roster. In less than a decade, Amr has knit collaborations that most designers take a lifetime to accomplish. Amr's regular working day involves sitting down for coffee with the likes of Madonna and Mary J. Blige, having animated conversations on how to push the sartorial envelope and whipping up a creation that would please both the muse and the creator.
"Collaborations are a beautiful process. I work with people who have the same kind of vision. I have admired Madonna since I was a child and she has inspired me many times. And when we sat together, it felt good because I realised now I was going to create something that would inspire her," says Amr.
He's has also worked with star shoemaker Christian Louboutin and acclaimed jewellery designer Pebble.
"We have a connection and when I tell them what's on my mind they seem to understand. They both work well with Body Amr."
But his dream partnership is far removed from celebville. A personality that has wound him tighter than his drapes is the charismatic American First Lady Michelle Obama. Unravelling her mind over a cup of coffee tops his list of dream collaborations.
"She is very different from a celebrity. She has a strong mind, strong political views and has achieved so many things and to be honest, a celebrity will not even know where to begin or fathom it. Her mind is so fascinating. The idea of sitting down and discussing, where she came from, how she came to be is great in itself," says Amr.
His take on Obama's choice of opting for a one-shouldered Jason Wu gown at the inaguration ball borders on the ambivalent.
"It [Jason Wu's creation] was beautiful and was nice for the occasion. But I would have dressed her in a Body Amr way and kept it more simple and elegant. Weren't there many flowers on her dress?
Well, that is not my style. It would have been more clean and modern. Very Body Amr," says Amr with an endearing earnestness.
A refreshing change from serial celebrity name-droppers and catty couturiers, does Amr keep track of his competitors? "I am fascinated by designers in general and I am inspired by the likes of Alexander McQueen, Azzedine Alaia and Thierry Mugler. I love [McQueen's] impeccable tailoring and they way Alaia cuts the clothes to a woman's body. And Mugler makes such inspirational pieces for almost space-like woman. There is so much to learn from them."
Calling himself a babe in the woods, Amr loosens up a bit when asked about being an Arab designer in a Western world. Amr lives in London and shoots off to the fashion capitals of the world to expand his exclusive patrons.
"Being a European and competing in the fashion world is hard enough. So being an Arab and competing in a European fashion world is even tougher," says Amr. Despite developing a cult celebrity following, Amr still has to fight battles about his Arab roots.
"Most of them look at me and think, what does this Bedouin know? I know Paris has this history, but I think they forget, Oman has an immense amount of interest and culture. We are from the Old World and there is so much there. There is a mix of all influences like African and Indian cultures. But I have now trained myself to hear it and then discard it," says Amr animatedly. But there is one remark which negates such collective misgivings.
"When I feel down, I think about Tom Ford's [the Texan designer who resurrected Gucci] remarks. After seeing my collection, he said, 'Give me a job.' It is an all-time confidence booster and sees me through my dark days," says Amr. The conversation shifts gears when he talks about his long-cherished dream.
"I am only six seasons old and I have a long way to go. I want people to know it's a Body Amr creation the moment they see it. I need to solidify my identity. That's my priority."
Amr Ali and his seductive silhouettes clung to the right places and his structured drapes wrapped up the mixed bag that was Dubai Fashion Week with a much-needed shot of sophistication and glamour. The hour-long wait outside the door and the delayed start of the grand finale after 11pm on Thursday evening were long forgotten as Amr unravelled his bold silk jerseys, knitted silk catsuits, wide-legged trousers, scrunched-up pants and V-necked tops.
The crystal headbands and anklets added the right amount of bling while the cinched waist and exposed shoulders dialed up the sensual factor. The colour palette swung between subtle and strong, with ivory, fucshia pink and pearl whites woven into his sizzling stock. Though his drapes were given a nod, his predatory slinky jumpsuits and knee high boots was met with knotted eyebrows. .
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