Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fashion Inteligensia: A conversation with Deena Al-Juhani Abdulaziz

Between shows during New York Fashion Week, The Polyglot caught up with HH Deena Al-Juhani Abdulaziz to discuss what it takes to become a success in the fashion business and why craftsmanship is important today more than ever.
How has DN’A evolved since its launch five years ago in Riyadh?DN’A has always been a reflection of my own personal take on fashion and style, and because of that the store has grown and evolved with me as I’ve matured in this business. When I first began attending the shows or going to designer showrooms people were shocked that I did all the buying myself without an entourage. The only other buyer I know who does that is Colette’s Sarah Lerfel. I’m also fortunate to be able to select from a global roster of designers and I never place limitations on myself in terms of what I can and can not carry in the store. I will showcase any designer whose work I feel strongly about.

Is DN’A’s success a collective effort?To create a successful fashion business you need a strong team, not only from a creative standpoint but a financial one as well. I knew I couldn’t go forward without my childhood friend Manal Al-Rashid by my side. She’s really the Robert Polet to my Gucci or Domenico de Sole to my Tom Ford; and it’s that healthy balance between fashion know-how and business sense that has helped us grow.

What are some of the challenges you see facing young designers today?The shuttering of textile mills in Switzerland, factories closing in Italy and even the shrinking of the garment district in New York are all having an adverse affect on the quality of work produced by young designers. The creativity is there in abundance, but we’re losing the technical know-how and resources to execute those ideas well.

How important is craftsmanship to a fashion buyer?Although I make it a point to support young talent, as a fashion buyer I also have to keep quality of craftsmanship in mind. I often attend the shows of up-and-coming designers in New York, and although the clothes may appear very editorial and photograph beautifully, close up the fabrics and execution may not be at a very high level. Saudi women are very informed when it comes to tailoring and details so I keep that in mind when selecting collections.

Who are some of the new designers you’ve brought on board at DN’A?Most of the designers I carry are exclusive to DN’A in Saudi Arabia. That’s very important as I’m trying to provide an alternative perspective on fashion that’s not found anywhere else. At the moment Peter Copping’s collection for Nina Ricci is doing exceptionally well amongst our clients. He’s managed to take a very bourgeois approach to dressing and render it in a modern way. I’m also very excited to have picked up Haider Ackermann’s line. He’s a designer I’ve been watching for the last couple of seasons.

You’ve referred to Azzedine Alaïa, who designed your wedding dress, as “the master of them all.” Are there any other designers whose work inspires you?The Paris-based Turkish designer Ece Ege, who creates under the label Dice Kayek, is someone whose work I’ve championed for some time. She’s been around since the early 90’s, but one doesn’t hear about her as much in the press even though she creates these extraordinary sculpted and embellished pieces. I think fashion should make one dream and it’s important to support its visionaries.

Images by Sueraya Shaheen
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