Three Emirati women challenge stereotypes and the OTT trend with their loungewear line for Etihad
Sleepwear isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of multi-functional clothing. But with celebrity airport looks featuring joggers receiving the same scrutiny as a red carpet look, a slouchy old tee may not quite make the cut. Revamping the familiar leggings and sweatshirt look by offering luxurious cotton sweatpants, wispy silken slips and designer slippers, premium loungewear is soon becoming a quintessential style that admits the comfort of home while keeping functionality at its core. Focussed on preserving the ease of the traditional Emirati menswear - Kandoora, designer label A Friend of Mine spent the last couple months creating a loungewear line that takes the wearer from a comfortable home-style to an outdoor look, much like athleisure did with sportswear.
While going against the trend of over the top designer clothing was not easy, it was their gumption of sticking to their signature minimalism that got the brand this far, admits co-founder of A Friend of Mine Rawdha Al Shaffar on the sidelines of the launch of the brand’s exclusive line for Etihad Airways. Centred on the theme Runway to Runway, the event titled Night at the Museum was jointly hosted by Etihad and the online multi-designer retail brand, Moda Operandi and marked the first-ever fashion event at the Louvre, Abu Dhabi. Inspired by the loungewear line, the art and civilisation museum transformed into an evening of chic style with models Halima Aden and Eric Rutherford sporting different looks from the collection.
Chatting with us following multiple photo requests, the three designers Rawdha Al Shaffar, Buthaina Al Marri, Fatma Al Muddhareb offer us insights into the collection that features tees and sweatpant sets, top and skirt sets and hood dresses. The collection will be offered to Etihad’s guests on all First-Class flights, as well as to those staying in The Residence on board the Airbus A380 fleet.
Excerpts from the interview with Rawdha Al Shaffar
1. Could you tell us how the brand originated and where your aesthetic springs from?
With the growing number of local brands, we felt that design was becoming ‘too designed’ with an excessive use of embellishments and decorative elements. We wanted to go against the stream and introduce super casual/comfortable wear that would focus on functionality. Looking at revolutionising the fashion industry (especially) in the gulf our core focus was on design details like simple minimal cuts, soft fabrics, but most importantly on ease of wearing - comfortable enough to sleep in.
2. Nightwear is often associated with something that one would probably wear at home. How as a brand have you challenged these perspectives to bring about a collection that can be seen as bespoke fashion?
Simple minimalistic designs have a longer lifespan in your closet because they don’t go out of style as fast as other clothing does. This makes it appealing. So we stuck to keeping things minimal and worked cuts that were comfortable. With our designs, you have the freedom to make your style dressy or casual just by adding the small details such as shoes and accessories.
3. In your collection, what are the ways that you have employed (in terms of silhouettes and fabrics) to reinvent the growing trend of loungewear that can be worn outdoors?
A Friend of Mine signature style revolves around modern silhouettes and wearability. Those are the two main factors that we focus on when starting every design process. The fabrics we have used for our collections (anti-bacterial and hypoallergenic modal) is light and breathable making the apparel apt for a hot summer day. We also use neutral earthy tones that will almost go with everything. This makes our pieces a wardrobe staple.
4. Your collaboration with Etihad has been ideal as a platform to showcase elements of your fuss-free style sensibilities. How has the experience been?
The experience was absolutely thrilling. More like a rollercoaster ride with its up and downs, a lot of back and forth with the overseas manufacturers, some compromise here and there, but I think overall we are happy with the final result and the whole experience was great. We have learnt so much in such a short period of time. It is very interesting that when you look at it from the outside, things look so simple, but the process behind it involved months of hard work.
Etihad has been a great support for us as a local talent and we are so happy to have worked with them.
5. Could you give us a brief run through of how you created the mood board and the other detailing that has gone into the collection?
Inspired by the colours of the date palm tree, the green/grey compliments both genders and multiple skin tones. The collection was also extensively inspired by the traditional Emirati menswear – Kandoora. The round neck, discreet V stitch across the chest and straight cuts are modern interpretations of this timeless traditional wear. Also, all stitching comes with hidden seams. The collection also uses Tencel, a sustainable natural fibre that drapes beautifully.
6. If you could pick out a signature piece from the collection, what would it be and how would you style it for the outdoors?
Difficult question! It would probably be the t-shirt dress. If worn with sneakers, a bomber jacket and a waist bag it can look very chic.
7. What's next from A Friend of Mine?
A Friend of Mine is looking at expanding into the global market. We are looking into contacting worldwide stockists where we can stock our collections and have a global market.
The writer was invited by Etihad for the launch of the collection.