Madiyah al-Sharqi - business owner, fashion designer and Fujairah-born Emirati princess - is leading the way in Middle Eastern design and taking Emirati elegance global with her label Madiyah Al Sharqi.
She is dressing some of the world’s most famous faces - including Alessandra Ambrosio, Nicole Richie, Megan Fox and Kris Jenner - gracing the covers of some of the industry’s most popular publications, and playing a prominent part in Paris Fashion Week. Al Arabiya English spoke exclusively with the woman behind the brand.
Q: How did your fashion career begin?
I started my journey when I was a little girl. I grew up immersed in high fashion, with tailors around the house, because my mum would be designing clothes. I’d see the process of designing and tailoring, which I always enjoyed. I always knew this was the direction I wanted to go in.
When I discovered my passion for design, I pursued my education at the French fashion university Esmod, and interned under renowned Lebanese designer Abed Mahfouz. It was then that I started my own label, and I was able to give life to my dream.
Q: What is the concept and inspiration behind your label?
I get very inspired when I travel. I adore Europe, especially Paris. I always feel the need to create when I’m there, because it’s a beautiful city of effortless glamor and timeless allure, which is what I strive for in my designs.
Q: How do you begin designing a new collection?
Design and fashion are art, and art is chaos. It should never be limited or defined in any way. I don’t limit myself to a process in the first stages. It all begins with inspiration, which is usually felt by the most random things in my daily life. After that, I sketch the designs and go to Paris to pick up the fabrics. I then send them to production, the designs start to come to life, and I work on alterations and amendments accordingly.
Q: What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far?
My biggest achievement is having stockists internationally, such as in Paris, Mexico, and most recently New York.
Q: What is the best piece of advice you walked away with from studying fashion design?
At Esmod, we focused a lot on pattern-drafting and design. It was very technical, but it’s crucial to have such experience as a designer. I’d tell upcoming designers to focus on the technical side, and always put a little bit of your heart and soul into each piece you create.
Q: Why do you think your label has been so well received?
Fashion lovers will always want a taste of something new and different, which makes room for new designers to emerge. I’m lucky to reach out to people who see themselves in my collections.
Q: What is the biggest challenges you have faced when building your business?
There aren’t a lot of production companies in the region, or a diverse supply of fabrics for designers.
Q: Who do you feel represents your brand best?
I’m honored to have so many famous and regular faces wear my pieces. It brings joy to me seeing anyone wear a Madiyah Al Sharqi piece. It would be the hardest thing to just choose one person to represent the brand, as it represents so many people.
Q: Is there anyone in particular you would love to see wearing your pieces?
[American socialite and reality TV star] Olivia Palermo
Q: What is your latest collection about?
I like to experiment a lot with color, juxtapose fabric and get creative with lengths and layers. The collection is a reinterpretation of some of the most iconic silhouettes of the 1970s.
Q: How has the fashion scene grown in the region over the years?
I’m impressed because there are so many talented emerging designers in the region. We’re slowly benefiting from the support systems around us, such as fashion schools, media etc.
Q: Is there a difference between what Middle Eastern and European clientele look for?
Each market has its own style, culture and origins, and it’s definitely reflected in its demands and tastes. In Europe, they go more for fabric mixture, solid colors, edgier cuts, and generally “less is more.” Middle Eastern women love anything shiny, they love their embroidery and cuts that complement the figure.
Q: What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the industry?
It’s important to be passionate about what you do when you enter the fashion world as a designer. The industry is very hectic, so it can sometimes be challenging and even frustrating, but if you have big passion you can make it and succeed.
Q: What does the future hold for your label?
I never plan too far ahead as the fashion industry is always very surprising, with new trends emerging every day. I prefer to take it one step at a time. Let’s keep my future plans a surprise for now!