Handmade for Ramadan

The Grand Hyatt Muscat’s lobby is under the sedative spell of the Ramadan season. Amidst the silence, Sheikha Sarah Ahmed Farid al Aulaqi is bustling through meetings and discussing logistics with her team. They are all busy with the preparations for the ‘Hand Made for Ramadan’ exhibition to be held from May 31-June 2 at the hotel.

Sheikha Sarah along with her mother Ahmed Farid, the owner of the fashion house Qansar Couture, are hosting this event to establish a platform for handcrafted fashion - with local brands and designers from the GCC.

“We call it ‘Hand Made for Ramadan’ because it falls in the middle of Ramadan and there is also a charitable cause associated with it,” says Sheikha Sarah as she explains the concept of the event, which will highlight not just clothes and abayas but also jewellery, and high fashion shoes and bags. The event also aims to support the Oman Cancer Association.


Sitting across the table, her abaya is embroidered with colourful patchworks of floral designs. “The prime focus is on handcrafted fashion and

of course colours.” Sheikha Sarah flaunts these motifs and explains that both she and her mother share a long history and love for artisanal handcrafts especially when it comes to clothing designs. Their very own fashion brand Qansar Couture specialises in this and their atelier is a sacred place when it comes to embroidery. “At our workshop we’ve had craftsmen sew these motifs onto clothes for ages now and we are strong supporters of this art,” she says and adds that the event will also showcase a dressmaker hand making a dress for people to watch.

“We wanted to create a unique exhibition and we wanted to use this opportunity for people to appreciate handcrafted designs and the time and effort that goes into making them.”

Most of the designers and artisans who are exhibiting their works over the coming weekend are telling stories through their creation, says Sheikha Sarah. “In the Middle East, fashion is one way for a woman to express herself and abayas are an integral part of that expression. And that is what these women are doing,” she says about the exhibitors. “They are sharing their stories through their art.”

An artist herself, Sheikha Sarah speaks of the relevance and need for such events in the Omani market, firstly due to a slowly changing cultural landscape and secondly because there is a “huge potential for it to grow”. As opposed to the opulence of the Kuwaiti and Emirati fashion markets, the sultanate’s market is still untapped. Events like these are ideal for a beginning, says Sheikha Sarah. “It’s also an important platform for local brands and artisans to keep themselves relevant in the regional market.”

Initially, there was skepticism among the regional invitees, “not many were sure about the Omani market”, she says. But she quickly dealt with the apprehension by presenting this opportunity as a testing ground.

Sheikha Sarah compares this to the neighbouring Arab countries that witnessed a fashion boom in the recent past. “When it comes to Kuwait and Dubai - the locals witnessed massive changes over a short period of time and that helped change their fashion worldview. The world was brought to them and they were able to experience so many international brands in a short period of time. That helped shape their attitude towards fashion and made it easier.”

Similarly when it comes to Oman, she believes that hosting such exhibitions help build platforms for local brands to stand out and make way for international and regional brands to come in.

She sees this as an investment for the future when it comes to “opening doors” for other designers. This is also a medium to open up the economy for outsiders to invest and support local artisans.

‘Hand Made for Ramadan’ exhibition will take place at Grand Hyatt Muscat at the Afrah Ballroom from May 31 to June 2.

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