David Light (Senior Reporter)
Now exhibiting at Dubai’s EMERGE fashion event, designer Feiruza Mudessir lets us in on her influences
It’s early December, the festive season is soon approaching and that can only mean one thing – every Xmas-themed song ever written being played on repeat for the next few weeks. It begins well, but by day six, the barrel’s bottom is close to being worn out from the incessant scraping. “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth,” is a ‘tune’ you’d resort to on day 24. It is terrible, yet like many of the season’s bizarre traditions including paper crowns and Brussels sprouts, almost necessary for the holiday to pass happily.
However, the song’s subject matter – a young lady wishing for her incisors to grow – according to Ethiopian designer Feiruza Mudessir, would be well understood in her homeland. Feiruza titled her first fashion collection ‘Finchitua,’ an Ethiopian word that translates to ‘the girl with a gap between her teeth’ – a sign of distinguished beauty in African culture and a physical feature she possesses making the designer/model instantly recognisable among the UAE’s close-knit fashion community.
Cultural appropriations not only from Ethiopia, but also the multitude of ethnic influences found in Feiruza’s adopted hometown Dubai are hugely apparent in her recently released second collection, AfroRetro, which debuted at BurJuman’s EMERGE event last week.
The daughter of a tailor, although she admits her father’s connection with the clothes industry was not one that prompted her to embark on a career in fashion, Feiruza spent much of her early life travelling the world, exploring various ways of life. At home there was an emphasis put on interior decoration, which she credits for instilling a love of art and design. Since graduating in 2007 with a qualification from Edexcel University, which she completed in Knowledge Village, Dubai has been her base, although Ethiopia will always be where the heart is.
On her personal life, Feiruza remains somewhat shy.
“I like to be behind the camera,” she says before adding, “I can stand still in front of the camera if I am dressed in my clothes, but I don’t enjoy speaking.”
Approach the subject of clothes, though, and the shyness dissipates.
“I went to boarding school. There you don’t get to break the rules. Fashion is a space where you break all the rules. It’s channelling my rebellious side.
“My designs are very wild. AfroRetro is where I show off my personality.”
The use of vibrant colours – a trademark of African fashion – is mixed with a heavy reliance on denim throughout the AfroRetro range.
“I also use traditional hand-woven materials, mainly wool, because that’s what we make in Ethiopia. You don’t wear my clothes in this collection to the office, but you can wear them daily.”
Feiruza does have a signature high-fashion assortment, but says she enjoys making a piece that can be worn for many occasions.
On the EMERGE event at BurJuman, the reason she was attracted to take part in the show was because it was a “fun group of designers and work” and she felt she fit in well. She says to be fun, you need confidence and that is what AfroRetro inspires.
“There is nothing wrong or right in fashion, I think. You must show your personality with what you wear. I would never say I don’t like something, because that is the person expressing who they are and how they feel. I would never change anyone’s sense of style, but would encourage them to be outgoing.”
But does Feiruza have any influences?
“I don’t have a specific designer I like. I like a little bit of everyone… Apart from my mum. She is very stylish. I like everything she wears.”
EMERGE seeks to provide a creative platform for emerging designers at a re-emerging BurJuman which will unveil its refurbished fashion portfolio in 2015.
To allow fashion-savvy shoppers make the most of the trends, BurJuman is offering them the chance to win Dhs20,000 every week until December 13. Guests can also look forward to winning a shopping trip to London with the assistance of a fashion coordinator chosen by the Stylist magazine.
Visitors can enter the draw by spending Dhs300 at the mall.
The weekend stage shows continue on December 12 and 13.
What is it about African design that you think is most appealing?
“When you look at an African item it always has originality. Many fashions take their influence from something that was originally African. It is such a big continent; there is a lot of creativity. You can look at an African piece knowing there is nothing like it in the world, but maybe something derivative. They are very unique.”