Posted on April 16, 2016

Fashion students from Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar (VCUQatar) recently presented ‘Reach’, the 17th Annual Fashion Show, hosted by Salam Stores at The Gate Mall. The highly anticipated annual event took place from April 12-14, and was attended by many of Qatar and the region’s most discerning fashion followers. Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairperson of Qatar Museums, Doha Film Institute and Reach out to Asia attended ‘Reach’ and showed her long-standing support for local and international design.

‘Reach’ celebrated the end of another academic year for the students of VCUQatar’s Fashion Design program by bringing together friends and family, VIPs, members of the press, and fashion enthusiasts from across the region to enjoy a spectacular show. The fashion show was opened by Sandra Wilkins, VCUQatar’s Chair of Fashion Design, who reminded the students and the audience, that: “The only way to be successful is to work really hard and reach out.”

Wilkins was alluding to the theme of this year’s fashion show, ‘Reach’, which was all about inspiring VCUQatar’s talented students to excel in what is a very competitive industry, and to remind them to ‘reach above and beyond.’ Rami Al Ali, whose collections have been worn by the likes of Beyoncé, Aishwarya Rai, and Diana Haddad, was the guest designer at the show.. Dubai-based Rami came to international prominence in 2009 when his Spring/Summer couture collection graced the runway during Rome's AltaRoma couture week, the same year in which The Middle East Magazine named him as one of the 50 most influential Arabs.


His latest Autumn Winter 16/17 ready to wear collection was given an exclusive showing on the catwalk at VCUQatar’s 17th Annual Fashion Show. Strong colors in classic designs were mixed with paillettes, tulle and floral applications. The collections by the senior students displayed a variety of innovative creations, using unique materials. Samia Zar Mohammad presented a ready-to-wear collection that used pleated white, blue and black silk crepe duchess, and was inspired by modern and asymmetrical buildings from around the world.

Farzana Abedin presented a military-themed collection. She used a variety of trendy materials while incorporating Arabic script into her designs. Khulood Al Busaidi showcased her Ivory collection that combined elegant and classic white items, while adding a local touch with a traditional GCC overcoat. Joyful emotions were communicated through Aisha Al Malki’s pink, beige and green pastel collection, which featured wonderful floral prints.

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Lolwa Al Hudaifi, whose focus was on black and white, presented a classic, yet trendy collection. Outfits that express class without being classic were presented by Dania Al Qwasmi, who conveyed an air of romance with her white silk collection. Kiara Hodge demonstrated her fascination with illustration by creating colorful pieces for her collection entitled, Death of the Mermaid. She experimented with acrylic ink to create unique hand-painted pieces with an environmental message. Functional wear was presented to the fashion show audience by Noor Al-Mannai with her ingenious double-sided jackets and detachable pockets that can turn into purses, with her collection, Attach. Detach. Al-Mannai wanted to design pieces that can be customized and adjusted to everyone’s needs.

Mahnoor Ansari showcased Tanuvo, which used silk, floral and pearl embroidery to celebrate the multi-dimensional aspect of a woman. Sarah Wanas captivated the audience with her capes of different designs, which included a variety of patterns that created a spectacular feeling of flow. Saadia Khabab used laser-cutting machines and fabric manipulation to express her admiration for high-tech fashion. Her collection featured various see-through patterns combined with tulle and latex.

The concept of sustainability was explored by the sophomore students’ collections, which concentrated on the zero waste philosophy. Every collection had to fully use its materials without producing any waste, which challenged the students to come up with unique creations. From Bedouin tent patterns, or by incorporating whites and pastels, from Indian styles, and to black and white designs, the sophomore students showed that sustainable fashion is achievable. The collections by junior students impressed the audiences. Strong Arabic elements were represented through various Islamic patterns, with some of the designs featuring a type of niqab worn by women from the GCC. At the same time students experimented with different materials such as neoprene and mesh, or they created contrasts by combining pastel-colored pleated skirts with sneakers and denim jackets. 

Milan-based fashion designer and VCUQatar fashion show jury member Kristina Spirk, who gave a well-received Crossing Boundaries lecture at VCUQatar during the week preceding the fashion show, urged the students to, “Find who you really are, and make this an essence of your development. Who we are is what defines our design and it’s the essence of the story of the creation.” This was in evidence over the three days of the show, during which the fruits of their labors were presented to large, prestigious and discerning audiences.

The fashion show allows VCUQatar Fashion Design program students to display their creative abilities, while simultaneously giving them a sense of the reality of the enormously competitive and demanding, yet fickle, fashion industry. While this was their opportunity to be creative, it was also “their time to sing their own song and for people to hear their individual voices”, explained Wilkins. The fashion show allowed the students to be judged by experienced jury members who have a thorough knowledge of the fashion industry. The emphasis throughout was one of turning creative concepts into ready-to-wear pieces for the runway, which not only had to be beautiful, but also wearable and above all marketable. Fashion professionals and especially retailers are regularly invited each year to review the collections and concepts and give their expert advice to the students.

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The Salam Fashion Award, introduced in 2013 by Salam International Investments Chairman and Deputy COO Abdul Salam Abu Issa to support a graduate’s transition from student designer to a career in design, was presented this year to Mahnoor Ansari. The award includes mentoring in the development and design of two bespoke collections, which will be sold exclusively within a dedicated space in Salam Stores, Doha. Malia Bennett Henry, the winner of last year’s Salam Fashion Award is currently selling her collection at Salam Stores at the Gate Mall in Doha.

The W Doha Award in its sixth year was awarded to Saadia Khabab. The award was presented by Clara de Lama, Director of Marketing at the W Doha Hotel and includes the opportunity to use the W Doha, and another W Hotel around the world as a platform to showcase her collection at various events happening throughout the year. Selina Farooqui and Mona Al Ansari, the winners of the W Doha Awards from 2011 and 2012 respectively, have grown to become local fashion talents.

The GLAM award, presented by Sindhu Nair, Managing Editor, and Sakala A. Debrass, Marketing Manager was awarded to Mahnoor Ansari for her outstanding creativity in the Tanuvo collection. “Tanuvo, my senior collection, celebrates multi-dimensional women. This is represented in the transformation of my pieces from mundane maroon shapes to a visual narrative that is dynamic, full of life, and does not constrict women into being an object” is how Mahnoor described her collection. VCUQatar’s Golden Needle Award, which goes to the best Senior Collection, was awarded to Saadia Khabab. The much coveted and much anticipated awards on the final night of the three-day annual event recognize and promote the extraordinary talent amongst VCUQatar’s graduates.

With support from Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, VCUQatar is helping to develop Qatar’s growing fashion industry. Launched in 1999, VCUQatar’s annual fashion show has grown to become a much-anticipated event amongst Qatar’s fashion and business community. Thirty-two models displayed the students’ wares at this year’s show, while nearly 100 people worked backstage to ensure its success. The proceeds from the event’s ticket sales will be used to support the costs of sending the students on field trips as part of VCUQatar’s socially responsible initiatives.

The fashion show counts not only on an extremely supportive audience, but is also supported by the W Doha Hotel, Glam magazine, Guerlain, Carolina Herrera, Tajmeel Qatar International Beauty Academy, Makeup District, Bombay Silk Centre, and Sara’s Secrets. All this helps to catapult VCUQatar’s graduates into the fashion industry, and to create a strong local and regional talent base that will support the economy.