Nobody likes change, whether it is good or bad. We will always question what is foreign to us and rather than explore it, we avoid it to be on the safe side. Do we take the risk to adapt to what is foreign and get to know if it was worth it? Taking a risk in knowing someone, ceasing an opportunity, or eating a delicacy, all are things that we are not familiar with. Two people taking the same risk will have different end results. What matters in the end is that they took the risk.
Fashion Designers over the years defied what is odd and made it the norm. It seems, in order for them to make it into the industry, they had to depend on shock-value. The risk fashion designers take is to go against what society accepts and make them believe it’s worth buying. The cycle the fashion industry adapts is one that repeats itself, where you ask yourself who would wear this? But the next season everyone is wearing it. Is it peer pressure or is it the idea of fitting in to be part of the elite trendsetters? It seems shoppers transcend the peculiar and foreign message for the sake of standing out whether they agree with its elements or not.
The Emirati women’s national dress has witnessed an evolution. Over the past decade, the ‘Abaya’ has become the subject of international conversations. Emirati women designers have found their calling in expressing themselves through the ‘Abaya’ in distinctive designs. They re-defined the ‘Abaya’ while keeping it within traditional measures. However, not all your apples are alike; there is an emergence of designers that strip the Abaya from its true purpose such as covering up and guarding the body in front of God and prying eyes. National dress is a symbolism of culture and tradition, its history lives with us everyday and makes us find our individuality.
Some designers have created ‘Abayas’ that are sheer, tight, and extenuate a woman’s body eliminating the whole purpose. These newly designed ‘Abayas’ are influenced by pop culture and imported European fashion trends. The ‘Abaya’ is losing its value more and more everyday and young girls are investing into these ‘Abaya’ trends not knowing they hurt their culture and identity. Designers as well have dabbled into the ‘kandora’ or ‘disdashah’ (Emirati men’s national dress) by using new funky colors and modernizing it. While design is a school within itself, the focus on risking tradition and culture for the sake of what’s in fashion now isolates and strips you from your national identity.
There are many influential designers that inspire and complement the ‘Abaya’ and ‘Kandora’. Design makes sense and is more beautiful when you play with details rather than create something elaborate. Tradition is not untouchable, but it’s the persona of a nation that can’t be abused, retouched, excluded, or insulted.
An individual that is aware and is playing a key role in society must know and understand that every mannerism, word, and item of clothing is a reflective of his cultural and national identity. It was called a “national” dress for a reason; one should defy all odds and modern day influences to preserve tradition as it is the soul of a nation. Fashion and Tradition lay at an intersection where they can easily collide. The approach in reinventing national dress design has taken a wrong turn, it seems the motive has become commercial success defeating traditional and religious purposes. The risk of this trend is successful to the designer, not the naive consumer.
I have witnessed an immense talent in the UAE that beautifies an element without dismissing its past, that appreciates the gold because it’s old, and embeds roots within risk.