Designer of the week: Najla Zuhair

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Saudi Gazette

Omani bag designer Najla Zuhair started her label in 2005 called ‘Jizdaani.’ Using traditional motifs, she started off by creating a line of bespoke handbags. “Each style had a story behind the Omani silver piece that was used. Then in 2015, I found my style evolve so I slowly started working on my new brand ‘Najla Zuhair’, which reflects my current taste of simple, elegant and timeless designs,” she told Saudi Gazette. ‘Skin 2 Skin’ is the first collection from Najla Zuhair. Inspired by vintage camera boxes the collection uses luxurious details and captivating colors in different sizes. “I worked with leather and exotic snakeskin in shades of baby blue, rose gold, ivory, grey and black. There is use of polished metal hardware in nickel, gunmetal and gold trim for bags.” The designs are available in two styles, ‘Diana’ and ‘Ella’. Diana is crafted from grained calf leather and python with a front flap and detachable chain strap while Ella, crafted from the same materials, is a slender box shape with a top flap and push-lock fastening. Micro versions are designed to fit essentials and can be styled together in multiple ways or with their larger counterparts. The biggest challenge for her remains to be sourcing raw materials from abroad and its costs. “The GCC does not have a real leather industry so it is challenging to source materials and manufacture. It means that you need to import or take your manufacturing elsewhere. Both options create a cost burden that, for example, a designer based in Spain, Italy or even Lebanon doesn’t have to face. In addition you have to achieve certain minimum orders in order to maintain costs.”

Discussing market trends and consumer buying habits, Zuhair said the last decade has seen a drastic change. “When I first started, I believe there weren’t any other local GCC bag designers. In the Middle East market itself there were very few. Local customers back then also did not necessarily appreciate paying as much for local brands. It is heartening to see the growth of designers in the GCC and in the region now. The competition helps to raise standards and inspires more creativity and innovation as each designer tries to find his or her own space in the market.”

She described ‘the Najla Zuhair woman’ as someone who likes to have fun with fashion, elegance and class. “She is well travelled, career driven and family orientated. She takes pride in her look and likes to invest in classic styles that transcend seasons. My brand focuses on quality and differentiation so I’m able to offer something unique that customers may not have seen before,” Zuhair told Saudi Gazette.

Currently based in Muscat, Zuhair is working on a new range of mini accessories currently and experimenting with new styles for 2018. Her products are available at Amal Al Raisi’s Dar Al Aseel boutique in Muscat, Cream and Larishka in Beirut and Etoile Boutique in Dubai. Zuhair aims to establish a stronger regional presence with plans to eventually taking it beyond the Middle East market.

Instagram: @najlazuhair


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