They say it is all about the energy. So when two designers unite at Misha Daud’s Eye Candy boutique in Opera Galleria, there’s everything to be experienced rather than said. The boutique was abuzz on December 1 with clients walking in to see the designs firsthand and chat with Mimi Shakhashir and Nadine Kanso.
The Dubai-based designers’ creations are reflections of their personalities, a short while in their company revealing them as grounded and exuberant, as they explained their designs to clients one minute and had their own fun the next like a well-deserved time out while the results of their hard work enjoyed the attention.
Misha said, “They are such amazing talents. The fact that the designers are here is because of their clientele in Muscat. Mimi’s vivaciousness and Nadine’s energy make them so different. There are lots of orders for the designs which are all about feeling beautiful and free.
If Nadine’s Bil Arabi pieces are bold statements – “I am bling,” she said, Mimi’s Kaleidoscope has all things rich with history, while playful and bright. Eight years into the design industry, Nadine’s jewellery carries the message she started out with – pride in her Arab identity. A photographer, an exhibition on the subject that she held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the timing of the September 11 attacks forced her to translate her passion to include jewellery design to share her ideas more with the world.
“Everything was so daunting for us after that. Any artist would find it hard not to be affected by it more so than others. It is up to us to say what others are not saying. It was my way of saying know us first, don’t judge us,” she said. The collection of rings and bracelets are a play on calligraphy. “I use Arabic words and letters in the designs to make them more accessible to people, modernise the art. I come from a family where my father was constantly reminding us to be proud of our heritage. I say we are Arab first, then Lebanese, not the other way around.” The same spirit resonates in everything that is close to her heart, including a pet cat called Kifah. “It means struggle, for something good,” she explained.
Nadine describes her designs as straightforward and big, like the eye ring that she sports on one finger. “It is the from the ‘Eye’ collection this year.” It brings up another issue Nadine is miffed by but has now learnt to deal with as she reminds herself about updating her social network account. “I was late understanding how it would benefit me because all I saw were my designs being copied and passed off as someone else’s. And NO, it’s not called ‘inspiration’. Now I let my account followers see my designs as soon as it is out so that they know who came first.”
“I am a gypsy at heart,” Mimi said as she showed a caftan dress with a panel inspired by the designs of Banjaras or gypsies in Rajasthan, India. Wearing a kimono with a Pearly Kings and Queens Association mother of pearl button print and sneakers, Mimi is all about style within the realms of comfort. “I believe my line is all about dressing up or down to personalise it according a woman’s tastes and make it her own. Often you find people wearing styles that are fashionable but they can’t wait to take it off because they can’t breathe in it.” Mimi credits her mother with encouraging her sense of fashion even as a youngster, further developed by her upbringing in France and the UK and then moving to Dubai which played a larger role in shaping her career as a designer.
“She told me to always make my own fashion statements. I wish I could live in the 60s and 70s. The fashion from then has always been my favourite.” Her designs also extend to include bags, decor and jewellery. The cushions, clutches and pouches are very much what the boho chic in Mimi would design with elements of 60s kitsch, pop art, Baroque, ethnic African and Indian influences. Symbols such as Fatima’s Hand, Evil Eye, skulls and snakes feature on jewellery. “Skulls generally have a negative connotation but it also means a new life,” Mimi said.
The hand-embroidered panels come from Mimi’s association with a children’s foundation called Food for Life in India which she hopes to visit with her 16 year old daughter soon. She believes her designs are for keeps, exclusive like her own choices, “When I buy some things, I tell my husband these will be passed on to our daughter, and that’s how it should be.”