For Najla Al-Eida, design is the perfect lens to show the world who she truly is. Her designs are now on display at M7 until 31 August.

Ever since I was young, I used clothing as a reflection of my personality and interests, says Najla Al-Eida, a fresh graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar). She took up Bachelor Fine Arts in Fashion Design but has since been inclined towards the creative arts. 

After studying at VCUarts Qatar though, she said that the four-year programme did more than channel her creativity; it gave her courage to celebrate and interpret her culture through her own eyes.

Throughout my life I have lived in a paradox of my own; as an introvert, it was hard for me to express my ideas to my surrounding.

She said she kept her ‘bold thoughts’ regarding culture, identity, to herself. However, as she started experimenting with ideas and techniques as a fashion major, she started ‘challenging’ the existing norms. After all, as a designer, she said that it’s part of her job to offer different pathways for individuals to express themselves and not get stuck in a niche market.

Najla said she reached a chapter in her life when she developed ways to express herself in an ‘unapologetic manner’.

I feel like my collection screams ‘This is me, and these are my thoughts’.

Her collection, Confessions of a Local, offers a platform for expression under the uniformity of the thobe and the abaya. She said that she used the essence of her culture to create an altered khaleeji anti-form.

Confessions of a Local

According to Najla, her design focuses heavily on the concept of upcycling, especially to preserve the essence of the traditional clothing seen throughout the collection. She said she can’t – and don’t want to – limit her outlook in life to one concept and would rather keep it evolving and open for experimentation.

The young designer shared that to get to the point where she could confidently express herself through her designs, she first needed to gain a thorough understanding of what fashion design was all about. A process which, according to her, taught her a lot, including letting go of a few notions that she had about fashion design prior to joining VCUarts Qatar.

But thanks to VCUarts Qatar, she said she now have a well-rounded knowledge of what fashion design is.

However, whatever notions she had about the glitz and glamour associated with fashion quickly faded on the very first day. She saw, first-hand, the effort and collaboration that goes into ideation, material selection, all the way to tailoring and the final finished collection.

But it’s that knowledge that made me realise how the development of each design, of each collection, is a new start that gives yet another chance to show the world who I am. That, for me, is empowering.

VCUarts Qatar, a partner university of Qatar Foundation, offers valuable opportunities for cross-cultural exchange and connects VCUarts to the influential art and design world of the Middle East and beyond. For more information about their programmes, visit their website at qatar.vcu.edu.


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