Fashion design sophomores, juniors and seniors at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar (VCUQ) had their debut night on Tuesday at the ‘Fingerprint’ fashion show featuring their work in the form of fall and junior sportswear collections.
The show comprised looks that students started designing in January and working on in March. Yesterday and today these young designers also showcase their work for a different audience at The Gate Mall at 7pm.
This year students had opportunity to learn and work hand in hand with Eric Gaskins, from New York, who also made a collection especially for the occasion. The North American designer graduated from Kenyon College in Ohio at age 20 and was awarded the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship which led to an interview with Hubert de Givenchy, which then led to an apprenticeship in Paris.
Alongside, the experienced professional, The Gate Mall’s runway saw the designs of five senior students: Sultana Jasmine, Rabab Abdulla, Oulla Al Samarrae, Dana Masoud and Basra Bashir.
Gaskins’ collection was the first one to appear and consisted of luxurious day and evening pieces that have been worn by celebrities such as Salma Hayek, Natalie Portman, Sharon Stone, Kim Cattrall, and many others. “What I love is the feedback from the client when she says that she’s worn a dress or suit over and over, the cut making her feel incredibly confident, sexy, the fit making her look better than she ever thought she could. For me that is really what it’s all about,” Gaskins has said.
Next-up on the runway was ‘Patterns’ the collection for kids that awed the audience who accompanied the small models with clapping all the way. The show continued with the senior fall collection, ‘Illusions,’ and the junior sportswear collection, ‘Denim Focus.’
The closing of the spectacle was the senior thesis collection, depicted as an eclectic mix of day to evening looks that reflect the individual aesthetic of the designers.
Rabab Abdulla, an Indian brought up in Qatar, got inspiration from the clothes from her home country. “I look at a woman as someone who is always active and working. I wanted to make something that made you feel comfortable, no matter what you are doing, whether it’s something at home or a special function,” said the student.
For this young designer, her objective was to create something that could be worn in different events and at different times and that will always make the user comfortable. “I’m a double major in Interior Design and Fashion. This is my first fashion show and I’ve learned a lot, the more I learned, the better I got,” she added.
In the fashion world, working backstage also is a great source of knowledge. The young designer stated: “It was difficult staying up all night and not seeing my family so much, but I really enjoyed it,” she admitted.
The seniors were asked to start thinking about the collection since October, but started designing in January and actual production in March. After this experience, Abdulla recommends those who are in the fashion industry not to be scared, come out and try to be recognized by others.
On her part, Basra Bashir, original from Pakistan, gets her inspiration mostly from her culture. “I wanted to use the shawl like the one I want to use for my wedding. Ultimately, I aimed to give the collection a regal monarchy look, which is also the title of my collection, Monarchy.”
Bashir added: “I challenged myself to go out there and buy materials that I had never bought before, like silk, which, by the way, is very hard to sew. The fabrics and colors are also those that are in my accessories for my wedding. I wanted it to look like it was an actual royal palace.” The student also talked about the great experience of working with Gaskins. “He has been our mentor, he has given us feedback for about two weeks,” she said.
Sultana Jesmine prepared nine looks for the occasion. “The whole process is very stressful but at the end it feels good to make something,” she admitted. The student considered that a lot of changes are already happening in fashion, while adding that “young ladies can wear anything they want under their abaya.”
Dana Masoud, a Palestine-Canadian student, decided to do a very classic, simple and elegant collection, with very simple silhouettes and a lot of embellished fabrics. “I actually bought beads and put them on my garments, getting inspiration from my childhood, when I always wanted to wear embellished clothes,” she said.
“Before I design I chose a target audience, in this case it was for ladies from 18 years to their late 20s,” she explained. For Masoud, the experience of working with Gaskins was also great: “He taught us a lot of techniques and interesting things, like how to sew garments in a short time, because we used to take very long.”
The Chair of Fashion Design at VCUQ, Sandra Bell, explained that, after 14 years in Qatar and putting together this fashion show, “sometimes it’s really easy to do it, the students are very talented, they know exactly what they’re doing, and sometimes it’s the opposite, and it’s difficult to get them motivated and get them involved.” However, “with a little love and motivation, you get what I got tonight. That’s what I love to do,” she continued.
Every year the University chooses a designer to act as a mentor, most frequently from the region. Nevertheless, VCUQ has hosted designers from the US, Brazil, India and Cambodia, among other origins. “I’m always in search of someone different, because fashion is an international business and I want students to understand that there are successful designers all over the world,” stated Bell.
Despite living in the Middle East, fashion students have an esthetic that is very Western. “I think we’re often taken aback by the abaya and the fact that it covers, but what most people don’t understand is what’s underneath is very Western,” explained the Chair of Fashion Design.