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Abayas laced with French Haute Couture

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Judith Duriez, the French talented designer of Arabesque, takes us behind the scenes of the traditional Abaya industry. Based in Dubai, she shares with us all her secrets of success story.

How did the concept of Arabesque come about?
It all started as an experience. I designed my first abaya on a special request for a particularly fashion savvy client who desired to have a matching ensemble for big occasions.

How long have you been designing clothes?
I was brought up in an environment of a true love for art; my parents passed their passion on to me, and I was introduced to the science of colors and sketches at an early age.
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The Abaya is very traditional piece of clothing, how did you succeed in giving it such a modern edge?
Today Abaya has become a fashion statement, but it’s also a traditional garment, a strong symbol of national identity. This is the most important thing to keep in mind while creating a new design. This is why I stick to black color, because I don’t want to distort the traditions.
It might seem restricting at the first sight as you have to evolve within the limits of traditional shape and color, but in reality it is a blessing! Black is the fashion color by definition, it is eternally trendy and elegant, and it is a perfect base to work with. Whatever color is your embellishment, it will come out nicely on black.

As a European woman, how difficult was it to enter and grow in the Abaya market?
I was filled with excitement to explore this new area and to apply my Haute Couture experience in the traditional world of sheilas and abayas. It was a huge challenge, but I think it was a very successful experiment as today Arabesque is seen as a main trendsetter in this market, an original concept bringing together quality and creativity.

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What is the secret recipe to designing an elegant Abaya?
Each Arabesque design is the result of a long creative process; first I will established a “mood board” for the collection, the colors of the season, the shapes…Then I will visit my suppliers in Paris, who are supplying too the workshops of very famous and prestigious French Haute Couture brands. We will work together in creating and manufacturing the best fabrics and most exclusive laces suitable for Arabesque designs. Lace is for me like a heritage of French Haute Couture, and it has also become a part of Arabesque identity since I’ve been using it for many years, adapting it to the latest color trends for each collection.

What is the most challenging part of the Haute Couture industry?
To always please the customers, push the limits of the creativity new and innovative techniques, source innovative materials… Haute Couture has no limit in terms of creativity!

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This French touch that is promoted on your website, why is it important for an Arab woman in the Gulf?
The years spent in those prestigious fashion houses gave me a solid technical foundation of the French Haute Couture ‘savoir faire” that I perfected through years of experience and hard work. Working with some of the masters of Haute Couture brings a unique French touch to my designs, to achieve the higher grade of quality as per French Haute Couture standards and the creativity Arabesque designs are famed for.

Do you try to illustrate a part of France and if so, how and why?
Through my designs, I try to illustrate French ‘savoir faire” and craftsmanship to achieve the higher grade of quality as per French Haute Couture standards and the creativity Arabesque designs are famed for. To me, it’s really important to source the best quality laces and fabrics to bring to the abaya market.

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Any advice or tip to other designers who would want to launch their own brand?
I think that my best advice to an aspiring designer would be the spend years studying technique in a good fashion school and to train with famous couture houses, so as to get a strong background and sharpen their skills.

After Abu Dhabi and Dubai, is Arabesque looking to open more stores in the future? Maybe in other GCC countries?
Arabesque is thriving to enhance its brand success by opening new boutiques in the GCC countries, where there is demand for our trendy and high quality abayas. We’ve launched a new boutique concept with Dubai Flagship store in Sunset Mall, it’s a minimalist showroom, architect designed and using the most refined materials.
We are also very popular in Qatar, where we have a lot of customers who like Arabesque Abayas, and we will be looking to open in the future a shop in Doha.

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Which famous Haute Couture designer do you most admire and why?
It has to be Valentino!
As one of the best known Designers, Valentino created some of the most elegant and luxurious outfits with intricate detailing and both delicate and rich fabrics.
Graduated from l’Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris as her icon, Judith can only admire the highly complex structures and the old school, yet classical touch of the Italian maestro designs.

What is the accomplishment you’re most proud of so far?
Having managed to set up and maintain a fashion company while keeping time for my family.

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