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When the abaya becomes a style statement.

Emirati designer's bold take on the dress gets international recognition .

The 'abaya' or a cloak is a simple, loose over-garment, essentially a robe-like dress worn by women in parts of the Muslim world. At least that is how the Internet defines the abaya. But for Lamya Abedein who specialises in creating chic, wearable, and fashionable abayas, the dress means much more.

"Perhaps I would have to write a book on what the abaya means to me. I cannot explain it in a few words," laughs the Emirati and owner of designer label Queen of Spades.

Khaleej Times caught up with this extraordinary self-taught designer and multi-tasker who juggles between being a successful businesswoman, a supportive wife, and a doting mother of three children.

Lamya is someone who has customised, or changed the way the Arab world perceives an abaya. She has steered clear of the 'all black, and sequins at the hem' kind of designs. Her designs have seen reflections of a unique form of traditional wear like the Indian saree, the Japanese kimono, and sometimes pantaloons, too.

She is one among the first Emirati woman and designer to have been recognised by international designers and have her abayas exhibited in international stores like Galeries Lafayette and Harvey Nichols. Perhaps it is her bold take on her designs that caught international attention. Who would've dreamt of fur or a brightly coloured belt on an abaya?

Take her Betty Boop collection launched in 2010 for example. She adorned it with polka dots, heart-shaped leather frills, detachable aprons, and long red sleeves.

"My designs suit the tastes of the cosmopolitan woman. It is for everyone and it is so because, the abaya is a very cool thing to wear," said Lamya.

"It is not just for the women in the Arab world. You can add shawls, belts, colourful pockets and accessories on an abaya. I got a lot of flak for adding a belt on the abaya, because it brings out the shape of a woman. But you push the limits, every single day," said Lamya.

Small beginnings

Lamya's love for fashion began at a very young age and she took a lot of inspiration from her grandmother.

"I would sometimes change my school uniform to make it look more fashionable. I used to wear below the knee length skirts, sometimes turn them around my school pants to look like three-quarters, and sometimes try on cowboy pants, as well. I was a very shy child in school," she said.

After graduating with a bachelors degree in Business Administration from Higher Colleges of Technology, Lamya travelled and lived in several countries across the globe with her husband. "When in college, I worked as an HR consultant for special needs children. I had worked with special needs schools across the UAE and I had placed several children across various companies in Dubai. Of all the things I've done, this is something I will be most proud of," said Lamya.

"But the real jolt to create a fashion line and make a business out of clothing began when I was staying in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia," she said. Abaya fabrics from KSA hold something of a fascination for most women across the GCC. "The fabric has a very dark shade of black and it looks very distinguished," said Lamya. "I began designing abayas for myself and people would love seeing it on me. Slowly I began custom-making them for people I knew and eventually I decided to turn it into a business," she added.

Queen of Spades

"I decided to name the company Queen of Spades, because I refer to women wearing by abayas as Queens. They are special, and one of a kind," said Lamya.

A lot of her designs have vintage-inspired elements, including pop colours and antique embellishments. "I love recreating dresses from the 50s and 60s. I love playing with fabrics, as well. I've used fleece, jacards, brocades, dyed fabrics, cotton mix, and, brocades," she added.

For the 40th National day celebrations of the UAE, Lamya created a 40-metre-long abaya which was showcased atop the helipad of Burj Al Arab.

Lamya said: "My experiences in travelling has helped me a lot in what I am doing right now. Dubai has a very cosmopolitan environment and I am really happy that I can serve my country."

Operational since 2009, Queen of Spades is something like Lamya's fourth baby.

"I spend a lot of time with my children. I have two sons and a daughter, and I can proudly say that I don't send them to tutors. I teach and sit down for homework with them myself," said Lamya.

When asked if she was ever worried about running out of ideas, Lamya asked: "How can anyone, who is constantly learning, and educating themselves run out of ideas?"

dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com

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Publication:Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Date:Feb 16, 2014
Words:820
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