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| by Hanane Fathallah

Wareda Shah Talks About Her Journey in Plus Size Fashion Design

Although so far, my main focus has mostly been on shedding light on plus size fashion, bigger/curvier women and their style needs, it has come to my attention that I should also focus on nurturing this movement. Any fashion trend or movement cannot come to life without the fashion designers. My blog Nounzilcious has always been a platform where I welcome anyone with an encouraging comment, a constructive tip, a request for friendship and collaboration and a space where opinions can be formed.

I was recently approached by up-and-coming fashion designer Wareda Shah. It was so refreshing to know that she had designed a plus size collection and showcased it in Saudi Arabia. It is esteemed individuals like Wareda Shah, who will help put plus size fashion in the Arab region on the global - or let's just start with – the regional map, and who will maybe inspire other promising designers to venture into plus size fashion.

Wareda Shah tells us more about her journey and her ambitions, her attention to what the Arab woman wants, and her understanding of the art of fashion design and the business aspect of it. So read along...

Who is Wareda Shah?
I'm a fashion designer. My passion for designing is reflected through my clothing brand, Wareda Shah Collection – of course named after me. Besides that, I am also designing womenswear for the fashion brand Lomar, based in Jeddah,Saudi Arabia and working as an instructor at Future Institute, providing workshops at a professional level.

Where did you continue your higher studies?
I completed my degree in Fashion Design from Trent University in Nottingham, England. It enhanced my passion for fashion immensely throughout. I have learnt so much from its diverse culture, rich historical sites, museums like V&A London and attending London Fashion Week. I recommend that if you want to pursue your career in fashion, dig in the cosmopolitan city, London.

What does fashion mean to you?
Before I started studying fashion design, I always thought fashion is just about creating a piece of art and showing your creativity. But once I stepped into my career, my view has changed. I realized “Fashion is also a reality of everyday life – it’s about being practical and sensible.”

How did you come to embrace plus size fashion and actually design a whole collection based on it? Was there an inspiration or a mere sense of curiosity?
After graduating in 2012, I returned to Saudi Arabia to my family. I always knew what I wanted to do, but I couldn;t make head nor tail of the Arabian trend at the time – I didn’t know where to start from. I began to study the Saudi fashion market and dedicated a whole year to carry out a market research.

Whatever the trend be, the universal truth is every woman love to shop and is constantly hunting for something comfortable to wear. But sadly, almost everyone in Saudi Arabia was focused towards regular sized designer wears. Plus size designer wears were totally forgotten. This really inspired me to launch my first capsule collection at Tashkeil Jeddah during Ramadan in 2014, which was a great success. Almost all my designed clothing was sold within three days of Ramadan bazar.

I will share a story with you just to emphasize the importance of plus size fashion in Saudi Arabia. During my collection launch last year, a lady approached me and requested me to deliver one of the design in her size within three days. Because it was my initial launch, I was not ready to manufacture a design in such a short period of time. I explained to the lady my unfortunate situation, but the lady was offering me triple the price just to make it possible. I wish I could have given it to her within three days at the fair price, but I didn’t have the resource to make it happen. But it did make me reflect and realize how important plus size fashion is in Saudi Arabia.

Do you think plus size fashion and bigger women are a taboo in Arab society? Why?
Bigger women need to be aware of fashion clothing, and demand to bring the plus size fashion in the Saudi Arabian market. They are not a taboo, but it’s just that they are forgotten in fashion industry. Because of their silence, the question of plus size fashion has never been really asked. It is time to change the game. Women are more aware of their physique and they are bringing the plus size fashion movement in Arab countries. So it's better for the Arab fashion market to be ready to accept this challenge and embrace plus size fashion.

What was the concept and inspiration behind your latest collection?
The inspiration behind my latest collection was to create a piece that is classic and effortless to wear. I believe less is more, so I have used a minimalistic concept.

Would you consider designing a line that is more casual and accessible to all ages?
At the moment, I am targeting youngsters and middle-aged women in Saudi Arabia. Maybe in the future I can extend and bring more varieties and take it to an international level.

Do you have any rituals before and/or during your design process?
I often dream of the day when I will have my own fashion show, and I am desperately looking forward to it. I even have some specific music that I dream to play in that fashion show. Every time I listen to that particular music, I am just in right mood to deliver the designs. For example, Nicholas Jar, Emiliana Torrini and the list can go on.

Plus size models are being nurtured by their own supportive agencies now, so we are starting to see them – slowly – emerge in mass media and publication. Are you familiar with any of these models? If yes, who would you consider working with? 
Yes, I am familiar with these models. Well, in general, I would like to work with a plus size model who is confident about herself and her body; who is also very challenging in terms of fashion. So far, at the moment, I would like to work with Nadia because her daring and challenging move in fashion was really impressive.

“Healthy is the new skinny.” - Do you agree with this motto?
Everyone wants to be skinny, because society emphasizes us to believe skinny people are beautiful and normal. Why can’t “healthy” be one word enough to describe beauty? In my opinion, this is a just a mere slogan but personally, I will never compare ‘healthy’ and ‘skinny’ - these two words together. I believe a person can be any size and be healthy too – and beautiful.

Fashion is an art but it is also a business. What are your plans for your brand?
Plus-size fashion is still a new concept to Arab fashion market. So at the moment, I am trying to inject my brand gradually until it is acceptable to the society, while filling the market gap. Currently, I am selling my collection online, and you can see it on Instagram @waredashah. Very soon, you will be able to see my next collection in a shop named Elsheikha located on Tahlia street, Albasateen Centre, ground floor.

What is your biggest accomplishment as a designer to date?
My first capsule collection was the greatest success, because I could hit the right target market in first go. As a designer, I found happiness and felt accomplished when I saw the smile on my beautiful fashionistas and their satisfaction, and for me that is my biggest accomplishment.

Every designer has a must-have toolkit that he/she can't work without. What are the things that follow you wherever you go?
I have to have Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, and I always need a personal journal along with a very sharp pencil to sketch my inspiration of my new design.

For fun, tell us something not everyone knows about you.
I have two souls – an independent strong woman to the world, and a child-like soul to my family. I can’t fall asleep without someone patting on my back, and need constant pampering to feel loved by closed ones.

Photo Credits: Photography by Taha Khan

Tags: Hanane fathallah  Guest writers  Blogger  Fashion bloggers  Wareda shah  Fashion designers  Arab fashion designers  Plus size fashion  Arab women  Women  Inspiring women  Interviews  Saudi arabia  Saudi fashion