Arwa Al Banawi: A Marriage of Two Cultures
I studied in America.
Arwa Al Banawi founded her self-titled clothing label on the foundation of showcasing diversity; through clever linguistic messages placed on streetwear inspired clothing. A brand that personifies the ability to merge cultural backgrounds, and learn from international exposure, Arwa Al Banawi is a Dubai based label founded by an open minded, well educated and proudly cultured Saudi Arabian female.
We spoke to Arwa about building her brand, creating "The Suitable Woman" persona, and finding an aesthetic that seamlessly marries two cultures through fashion design ...
Who does the Arwa Al Banawi brand represent?
The brand was inspired by female empowerment; it's for the urban successful creative female. I was inspired to take the classical suit and make it more urban by also flirting with the lines of steer wear, aesthetically the brand is androgynous, yet simultaneously very feminine. I like to play with masculine silhouettes; mostly inspired by the 80s and 90s.
You use a blend of elegance and street fashion to create clothes for the modern Arab female, was this a conscious decision? Ex. Graphic T's mixed with blazers.
I’ve always been an old soul ever since I was in highschool. I listened to jazz music and collected vinyls and still do. I have an appreciation for antiques and history, but I also witnessed the age of hip hop and streetwear take place. I used to listen to the new hip hop artists that came out from Dr Dre to Tupac to Eminem; this was my youth but I still also listened to opera and jazz so my brand is a mirror of this. Modern versus vintage.
I used to buy CDs and floppy disks, then USBs and iCloud so the brand mirrors an ever changing generation and the future I see for the youth I speak to. Having grown up in Jeddah and being Saudi Arabian, I also felt it natural to translate streetwear with words and Arabic statements, which I relate to and are part of my background.
How do you feel about being part of a movement that celebrates and showcases young designers in the Middle East?
Hamdillah, I’m thankful and happy that my brand speaks to so many people and young entrepreneurs that also feel the movement happening. Also of course, that it is seen as a brand that represents female empowerment through bold statement clothing.
Arwa recently collaborated with Levi's Middle East creating a custom version of their iconic jeans trucker jacket. This collaboration is what originally drew us to the Arwa Al Banawi brand; she refers to to the collab as a "marriage of two cultures". The designer used the American flag, as she studied in the USA, and the Saudi Arabian flag her home country, as patches added to the jacket, along with pieces of a culturally iconic material known as the "bicht" taken from Saudi traditional dress robes.