“Despite being covered, I am blessed that we are in a part of the GCC where we are openly allowed to express our personality through clothing and colors.” Mashael Al-Mutawa hits the nail on the head when it comes to Kuwaiti fashion. Though we undeniably live in a conservative part of the region, traditions here are embraced through fashion, rather than used as a tool to restrict style.
Mashael’s Design Me Boutique and Atelier is the perfect example of a hub that houses brilliant, traditional inspired collections with an edge, focusing around the classic, esteemed kaftan – a garment that most ladies of the region collect, and can’t live without – especially during major holidays such as Ramadan and Eid. Through her vision, Mashael manages to take the traditional look to new heights, from offering a twist on the original design, to bespoke dresses delicately ornamented with traditional motifs. The Kuwaiti working mother of two is truly inspiring, as she still manages her full time job while also running an atelier and design team.
Mashael describes her passion for design as a journey that began from a young age, which transformed to practice only five to six short years ago. “I have always enjoyed designing and dressing family and friends but I took it to the next level and opened my small Atelier which has expanded to a larger one in Hawalli with a team of professional tailors and in-house design team with me being the lead designer,” she says vehemently. “It hasn’t always been easy as this is a very competitive market, but I am lucky to have a very supporting family and a strong willed PR Agency run by Tara Sillery who pushes me endlessly!”
But even the best PR Agency can’t give you a hunch for style – though Mashael doesn’t need to worry about that as her designs are truly original and beautifully crafted. Inspiration for such pieces comes from different life elements, such as the colors of different skies she sees and foreign architecture she comes across during her travels. “I think the architectural aspect can ben seen in my structured cuts with the additions of metallic and signature silver beadwork and outlines.”
While some may believe that even the most intricate of kaftans should be reserved for specific times of the year, mainly Ramadan, Mashael gently protests otherwise: “Let’s be honest: us girls like to have the luxury of wearing a flowing yet highly fashionable item of clothing without worrying about hiding our overeating habits!” and she makes a valid point. Kaftans are a lovely go-to staple that can be played up when paired with the right accessories, and very rarely do you find that a gorgeous, locally made kaftan resembles one that your friend, mother, sister, aunt or cousin might already own. They easily create an ensemble that showcases your personality and originality, and with a bold design, need very little accompaniments to make a statement. In addition to their beauty, they are ideal for the harsh temperatures of the region’s hot climate.
What’s next for Mashael? She is currently reviewing her options for Fashion Week, trying to decide which she will participate in come October: “I was honored to be in Phoenix Fashion Week in Arizona last year, which was an amazing feat for me and my brand.” Also, her agenda will be filled prepping for Bridal season! So if you know someone who knows someone who’s due to wed, Mashael has got your back!
Love kaftans? Visit Design Me’s Instagram account @design_me. Call them at 2261 2319. DesignMe Boutique and Atelier is located in Hawalli, on Beirut Street, near Amal Al-Kuwait.
Photography by Jalil Marvin.