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'Pantaloon abaya' designer is top seller

Lamya Abedin loves to blend international fashion with Arabic designs. (LOAY ABU HAYKEL)

By Aimee Greaves

An Emirati designer is changing the face of Arabic fashion by creating abayas based on trousers rather than the traditional dress.

Lamya Abedin, the owner of Queen of Spades, started designing two-and-a-half years ago and has seen the popularity of her "pantaloon abayas" rocket in the past few months as Galeries Lafayette began stocking her designs in its The Dubai Mall store. She has also designed abayas based on kimonos and saris, but it is the pantaloons that have pulled in the punters.

"People get scared when something new comes on to the market, but my abayas have been very well received. I love blending international fashion with Arabic designs and the jumpsuit is very trendy. I love to look to other nationalities and cultures to come up with different looks," says mother-of-three Abedin. "I'm proud to say that I'm the first abaya designer to be stocked in the store. They approached me and that's really great as it meant my work stood out. They say my abayas are fashionable and sell well so people do like them."

But her designs are about more than just making a fashion statement; they have a lot to do with practicalities as well. As a busy mother herself, Abedin says she finds it easier running around in trousers than a skirt or dress, but even though much of the inspiration for the collection comes from her own needs, they have been well received.

"The pantaloon abayas are very comfortable therefore good for travelling as you can lie down in them easily. I travel a lot and didn't find the old style very practical," says Abedin.

"The old style isn't easy for women to exercise in either, as they often have to hold their abayas. So I wanted to create something that will make life easier for them. Fashion was created a long, long time ago and things always come back in style, but I think it's important to keep it updated and fresh. We have to put the sugar coating or strawberry on top."

With four collections a year and one-off designs for holidays such as Eid, Abedin is constantly busy coming up with new designs, not least because every piece is one-of-a-kind.

For Valentine's Day, she has created three designs based on the 1930s cartoon character Betty Boop, with flashes of red both in keeping with the day of love and the colour Betty often wore.

"I really like Betty Boop as a character and thought she was the best person to represent Valentine's Day. My designs are a little out of the ordinary and I wanted to choose a character in keeping with that," says Abedin, who now lives in Saudi Arabia.

"But she also represents a woman's figure very well. It's something I wanted to replicate in this collection to give women a better shape, so I've used a belt in one to give the wearer a better shape."

The collection comes a couple of months after the success of her Eid designs; 30 pieces were bought from Galeries Lafayette in just two days leaving only a couple of abayas left. One piece in the Betty Boop range features a leather heart on the front, while another has a detachable apron, with the third having red sleeves. Polka dots also feature heavily.

And Abedin has the scope to produce more of the Dh2,500 items should demand be there.

"Some women ask for the same design as someone else, and while I won't do it, I will create it in a different colour. Likewise, if a customer loves a colour, I can keep that but change the design slightly."

But nevertheless, Abedin has faced some resistance along the way, especially from women who find it difficult to picture a piece before it is ready, but she has a very simple solution.

"I've built trust with them, so I make it and if they don't like, they don't have to take it," she says.

"I was one of the first people to wear my abayas and often have women stop me in the street to ask where my abayas are from. My clients often call to say the same thing and it's great to hear and shows that women want more from fashion today."


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