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Diane Von Furstenberg: Taking A Page Out Of Her Remarkable Book Of Life

Five lessons on success from Diane Von Furstenberg

Diane von Furstenberg is truly a name to be reckoned with. Daughter of a Holocaust survivor, a cancer survivor, inventor of the iconic wrap-dress and founder of global fashion brand DVF, author, mother, grandmother, and philanthropist, at age 73 she has not only lived a full and fabulous life, but a life several people combined could achieve. A symbol of fashion and female empowerment, she’s an inspirational figure dedicated to giving back to her community. With that in mind, DVF could teach us all a thing or two on how to navigate our lives for success. 

As we gear up for New York Fashion Week, which will undoubtedly become the most talked-about on record as the industry navigates our new, COVID-19-induced normal, here are five fundamental values and lessons the legendary New Yorker embodies that make her one of The Gaggler’s favourite female fashion icons…

1. Be fiercely independent

Watch any YouTube video with DVF, and the first thing you’ll pick up on is her fiercely independent streak. Adamant on being a self-reliant woman, she started out going from door to door in New York trying to sell her clothing It’s no wonder that the wrap-dress she created in 1974 would become ‘the defining power symbol for an influential generation of women’. Today, the dress has made its way into both the Smithsonian Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

5 DVF WRAP DRESSES WE LOVE

Tilly Satin Midi Wrap Dress, PRP AED 2086.22, available at dvf.com

Paloma Ruffled Mesh Wrap Dress, PRP AED 1461.83, available at dvf.com

Abigail Silk-Jersey Maxi Wrap Dress, PRP AED 2563.71, available at dvf.com

Maisie Silk-Twill Mini Wrap Dress, PRP AED 1572.01, available at dvf.com

Tilly Satin Midi Wrap Dress, PRP AED 2563.71, available at dvf.com

2. Believe in yourself

Besides being magnificently independent, Diane has stayed true to herself and her values, which shine through her work. Appearing in a TedX talk last year, the fashion designer made several powerful statements on self-confidence.“If you doubt your power, you give power to your doubts.” Equally poignantly, she stated, “The most important relationship you have in life is the one you have with yourself.” With her brand embodying authenticity and confidence, it’s no wonder the woman who created it oozes the same.

3. Face your fears

Diane is adamant that despite being frightening, you need to face your fears, a lesson she was taught by her mother, which perhaps comes as little surprise considering she was a survivor of the Second World War’s Nazi death camps. Afraid of the dark as a child, her mother would put her in a dark place so that she could overcome her fear. Today, Diane comes across as a staunch female warrior having fought back from countless challenges, from cancer to divorce, all the while building the DVF empire. Indeed, there seems little that can faze her, as she has faced each of life’s hurdles head-on. 

4. Age gracefully

Speaking about ageing in one interview, Diane explained that she was not a fan of plastic surgery as it served to erase the life that she had chosen to live. Specifically, she was afraid of not recognising herself in the mirror and wanted to be ‘as real as possible’. At age 73, it seems her tactics are working as she appears ever-youthful. And as she continues on her mission of empowering females across her industry, she stresses that older women have an essential role to play in society. Their wisdom is just as valuable as that of their male counterparts, even though they are often far less visible. Diane offers us a role model that challenges these traditional boundaries.

5. Give back

As an active philanthropist, Diane continues to support women in achieving their independence as part of several organisations, including Vital Voices and the DVF Awards, which seek to empower emerging female leaders and entrepreneurs. From launching a YouTube channel to attending talks and seminars, creating her masterclass series, and much more, DVF is keen to leave behind a legacy that calls on women to realise their potential. In an interview with The Financial Times, she explained “Once I used to be an icon. Now I want to be an oracle.” Keen to pass on what she has learned in the course of her life, she has been recognised most recently for her philanthropic efforts with the prestigious French Legion d’Honneur, the highest honour for civilians who contribute to the country.

Diane always says it’s not her who made the dress, it’s the dress that made her. An icon of modern fashion, the wrap-dress undeniably put DVF on the map. But today, Diane Von Furstenberg is an icon herself. Embodying the same values as her wrap-dress – a celebration of individual freedom and empowerment – Diane continues to stay true to those values. Perhaps this is the most important page of all that we might take away from her remarkable book of life. 

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Ghaliah Amin

At Home with Saudi Model Ghaliah Amin

Meet a woman on a mission.

In a world where impossible body types (read: skinny) are glorified, regardless of the cost, International No Diet Day is a celebration that deserves more recognition. Marked annually on May 6 to promote body acceptance and body shape diversity, it aims to help both men and women worldwide to appreciate their own bodies – a mission that Ghaliah Amin is all too familiar with.

She is widely hailed as Saudi Arabia’s first plus-size model, but in the process of breaking boundaries and defying stereotypes, prefers simply to be known as ‘a model from Saudi Arabia’. The Dubai-based model and TV host is also an outspoken body positivity activist – and full of surprises. For starters, she has a master’s degree in Art History and Museum Studies, a fact reflected in every inch of her eclectic apartment, where we spent an afternoon discussing filters, photo retouching, family pressure to lose weight, and the often-unseen resilience of Saudi women.

She also founded the Ana Ghaliah (I am precious) social media initiative to promote body positivity after first-hand witnessing the lack of diversity and inclusion in the fashion world. “Beauty is all about becoming the best version of you,” she says, setting out to remind all women that they’re precious, regardless of their shape or size. And because the correlation between a positive body image and improved mental health is undeniable, we’d be remiss not to celebrate this model – and role model – for her self-love message on International No Diet Day, today.

Watch The Video: Ghaliah Amin Gets Candid

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Sweet Dreams: This Sleepwear Brand Is Not Like the Others

Meet entrepreneur Natasha Inman.

As yet another challenging year draws to a close, we’re continuing our series on female entrepreneurs, recognising the female entrepreneurs who turned an obstacle into an opportunity. Case in point? Natasha Inman, who moved from the UK to Dubai in February 2020, just as the pandemic struck.

Like countless women around the globe, she spent a lot of her time during lockdown in her pyjamas and was therefore inspired to create something that looked sophisticated and elegant, but was super comfortable to wear – et voilà! Luxury sleepwear and loungewear brand State of REM was awakened. Today, Natasha is all about focusing her business on the things most important to her: living a healthy lifestyle, raising awareness around mental well-being, and treating oneself to things that elicit joy.

Natasha Inman

WHO?

Natasha Inman

FOUNDER OF?

State of REM

AGE

31

What was your ‘lightbulb moment’?

I don’treally recall having a lightbulb moment. I remember thinking I wanted to try to create something better than what was in the market already in terms of sleepwear, as well as make a brand based around community, self-care, and wellness. I don’t have any experience in textiles or fashion design, but I’ve always been very interested in business and entrepreneurship. I’ve also always wanted to create something bigger than myself, so I saw this as a challenge. Now, my vision is to be the number one place globally for sleepwear, loungewear, and gifts, all of which are sleep-related. I want to use my brand to raise awareness of mental health and the support that is out there for people.

What makes your business unique?

I like to think of State of REM as a community, not just a brand. We create luxury sleepwear and loungewear investment pieces. We source the best materials and ensure every item we produce passes the most stringent of quality checks. I want my customers to be blown away with the quality and service and, so far, I’ve had a lot of happy customers.

Above all, I want to support a positive change in the world, and for me to use my brand to raise awareness of mental health and financially contribute to mental health support is an amazing feeling. State of REM is a platform where people can get self-care tips and quotes, discover ideas on living a healthy life, and even engage if they’re struggling with their mental health. And I don’t think there are many brandsin the region that are doing this right now. As the brand grows, this emphasis will only get stronger.

What has been your proudest moment as an entrepreneur?

Seeing some well-known regional influencers buy my product felt great – people I’ve been following for a while and whose style I’ve admired are now wanting to wear my pyjamas. Also, being able to donate AED 2,500 to Al Jalila Foundation after only 12 weeks was a proud moment. Building your own business is about making money, but being part of a positive change in the world is so satisfying.

Which other entrepreneurs do you admire?

I admire anyone who puts themselves out of their comfort zone and executes. It’s easy for a lot of people to have an idea, but to take it right through to execution and have that resilience and patience to keep going takes a lot of character. I tend to follow Reece Wabara (founder of Manière De Voir), George Heaton (founder of Represent Clo), Grace Beverley (founder of Tala & Shreddy), Rokeya Khanum (founder of Khanum’s), Conna Walker (founder of House of CB), Nicola Elliott (founder of NEOM). I admire them because most have founded something from nothing, creating a community and core cult following through just being a great brand. They live and breathe their businesses, like I do. They inspire me and I learn a lot from these people.

Are you a part of any mentor or support groups? 

Not officially, but I’ve managed to grow my network considerably since starting State of REM, with lots of entrepreneurs and I connecting via social media. We share ideas, successes, and failures. I prefer to learn from podcasts and books. I think it’s amazing how I can listen to an inspiring entrepreneur on Spotify for an hour whilst he offloads 20 years of experience onto me.

Who is your biggest female business icon, and why?

I have lots of favourites, but I’d say Jo Malone. I’ve read her book and listened to lots of her podcasts. She’s a true inspiration – so many setbacks, yet an amazing amount of resilience. Whenever I think times are tough, I remember people like her have been through a lot more and it really drags me through. Not to mention, she created a globally recognised brand and has now started another.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?

“Never give up” is what keeps me going. There are so many examples of brands in every industry thatinitially struggled and arenow aspirational. Victoria Beckham didn’t make a profit for 11 years, Amina Muaddi is the most desired shoe company at the moment, yet she had a couple of failed businesses before that. Conna Walker had a failed jewellery brand, but is now every woman’s #girlbossgoals. There are so many examples, but the common denominator is that they never gave up and kept on going. An overnight success isn’t a feasible thing; everything takes time and effort.

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7 Takeaways from Our Conversation with Wild Fabrik

The ethical marketplace is on a mission.

In a city where fast fashion (unfortunately) reigns supreme, it’s time to acquaint with Wild Fabrik, a new online marketplace with purpose at its core. Created by a trio of passionate nature lovers who want to make sustainable style a lot more accessible, its curated selection of fashion, home, luxury, and self-care products hails from the likes of Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Poland, and Ecuador. Not only is Wild Fabrik on a mission to provide small, independent sustainable brands with a platform to sell their goods and create a living for themselves, but also ensure that they are paid fairly. A conversation with co-founder Gergana Abdulrahman brought with it plenty of takeaways about the realm of sustainable fashion. Here are our favourites.

1. Sustainable fashion is an ambiguous term.

“There are different ways that something can be sustainable, and it’s very difficult for it to be truly 100% sustainable. For example, when we select our brands and evaluate the materials being used, there’s a deeper element even then. Let’s talk about cotton: there’s a big movement around organic cotton, but that doesn’t reveal who picks it and how fairly they’re paid. That’s an element of sustainability. It doesn’t reveal that organic cotton takes more water to produce than regular cotton. Then again, there’s no chemical in the process, so in that sense, it is sustainable. 

There really are so many components in sustainability, and that’s where the confusion sets in. You almost have to choose what is more important – is the fair trade element more important or the fabric that something is made of? Is it the process? Further down the line, the production process is another element – dye is one of the world’s major pollutants because leftover dye water usually ends up in landfills or even river water – so it’s very complex. What we hope to do at Wild Fabrik is educate shoppers by using little icons that describe exactly how each brand or each product is sustainable. At the end of the day, you just have to try your best to make more conscious decisions.”

2. Education is key when it comes to lasting change.

“As a region, we’re definitely behind in terms of knowledge when it comes to sustainability. We found out that people like the idea of purchasing ethically, but if you dig deeper and analyse their habits, you find that they’re just saying it because it feels good maybe? They’re not really practising it and they don’t realise it. It’s going to take time. There are some surprising things, though. For example, my husband and one of the co-founders is Emirati and his younger cousins, who are in their early 20s, are very much in tune with the sustainability side. That was a very interesting find for us. There’s a growing community of young people who are concerned and will steer the sustainability movement here. 

Apart from that, we’re not at the point where everyone’s on the sustainability bandwagon, and actually that’s why we structured Wild Fabrik the way we did. We decided to find pieces that people will want to buy anyway, and then that’s giving them a step into the sustainability sphere. And once they’re in, you take the opportunity to educate them – which is usually the hardest part – through social media and other channels. And they learn. That’s how we all started – it can be a platform, a Netflix documentary, or some other trigger. Everyone will get on the right journey, it just takes time.”

3. Sustainable fashion can be affordable.

“Sustainable fashion is expensive, but I’ll tell you why I think it’s true and what we’re doing to combat it. When you look at what’s available, sustainable fashion is very expensive because we, as a society, are pushed to do a business a certain way. Everywhere you go, it’s always profit, profit, profit. Everyone wants to be a millionaire – and the idea is flawed in this sense. You have to take a lesser cut if you want sustainability to work. You have to do things for moral reasons, not just for profit. And as long as the business is seen as just for profit, then sustainability doesn’t work, so what we’re doing is taking a smaller percentage than anyone else within our business. We’re trying to do it for the right reasons and, if we make enough money to be okay in our lives, that’s enough. Whenever you have a lot of gap between the rich and the poor, someone is not getting paid fairly in the process.”

4. Not all fabrics are created equal.

“There’s this recycled fabric called Tencel that I like because it’s soft, so you’d actually want to buy it. I would gravitate away from anything polyester because there’s a lot of microplastics that come out when you’re washing it and end up in the ocean. Cotton is good, linen is the best – linen is actually the most waste-free fabric when it is produced. Something I would also say is stay away from the major brands like H&M and Zara if you can. Yes, they sell these fabrics, but they’re part of the bigger problem in terms of how much clothing they burn and how little they pay the people who make the clothes – this is the real problem. Even if they have a sustainable collection, how are their employees being treated? We need to start acknowledging that as part of the sustainability cycle.”

5. Mindset and purchasing habits go hand in hand.

“Personally, I haven’t felt the urge to shop lately – maybe because the need to buy faded after learning about everything? Not to say that I don’t want to shop anymore, but yes, there was a mindset shift. At some point, what matters in your life and how content you are with what you have is more about your state of mind, your state of being. If you’re going to change your shopping habits, you have to have the right mindset. You have to realise why you’re shopping because some people shop to fulfill themselves or fix a bad day. I was one of those people! It was a lot of mind work that led to this moment, but I’m not perfect. None of us are, and that’s why we wanted to create a place where sustainability doesn’t feel intimidating.”

6. Think quality, not quantity.

“Rewear your clothes. One of the biggest problems is that, on average, each piece is worn only seven times before getting tossed, so a lot of waste comes simply from buying new things and throwing out the old stuff. Invest in quality. There’s fast fashion and then there are expensive brands, and both contribute negatively, but if something is high in quality, you’re unlikely to throw it out – that’s not as bad! And if not, we’re partnering with Thrift for Good, which resells clothes at very reasonable rates and donates 100% of its profits to charity. My tip is that if you want to give away something that you don’t love anymore, give it to someone like them so that your clothing can find a second home.”

7. Ask why.

“Think about your purchases – why do you need another black T-shirt ? Make better choices – choices that will make you happy – and try to buy sustainably if you can. There are black T-shirts on our marketplace and there are black T-shirts in H&M. Yes, H&M might be a little less expensive, but you know that it will change shape once you’ve washed it a few times and won’t fit you anymore. You’re going to have to buy another one anyway, so buy something sustainable that will last you and try to consider who makes your product.”

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50-Something, but Make It Fashion

As Carrie & Co return to our screens, meet the Dubai women who personify #stylegoals.

It’s the TV show that changed the way we thought about fashion. And it’s back – well, almost. And Just Like That, the follow-up to Sex And the City, is set to make a return to the small screen this autumn. And while the actual release date of the first episode – which famously reunites Carrie, Charlotte, and Miranda, but not Samantha – is yet to be confirmed, what is certain is that every SATC fan worldwide will be OBSESSED with the minutiae of everything they wear 23 years after we first met them and fell in fashion love. 

Navigating New York City as 50-somethings (with a variety of partners/kids/baggage in tow according to behind-the-scenes snaps), Manhattan’s most famous friend group may well be older and wiser, but they’re no less fashion-obsessed than before. Setting social media alight with images of her awesome on-set outfits, star and executive producer Sarah Jessica Parker was pictured rocking numerous showstoppers: a shimmery purple Fendi Baguette (an upgrade to the beloved version stolen from Carrie on the street in Season 6), Celine Melody tri-buckle Mary Jane pumps, a bag from this year’s highly coveted Gucci x Balenciaga Aria collaboration, and a huge feathered headpiece (much like the one Carrie wore during her first attempt to marry Big). These are just four of the big-ticket items loudly dinging our fashion radars. 

Still mixing patterns and prints to dazzling effect and accenting her vintage finds with offbeat accessories, 56-year-old SJP is proof that Carrie (and indeed all of her friends, both old and new) have most definitely still got it. And why wouldn’t they? Would we have expected any less from the women who have always encouraged us to break fashion rules and wear whatever the heck we wanted whenever we wanted? Nuh-uh, honey. And despite the fact that SATC’s original costume designer Patricia Field is not a part of the reboot (passing the reigns on to protégée Molly Rogers and co-costume designer on the Sex and the City movies Danny Santiago), the sartorial legacy she created for Carrie & Co in their fledgling years remains firmly intact.

So what of our own city’s fabulous, 50-plus fashionistas? Well, there are plenty. Look around your average mall or restaurant, and it’s clear that Dubai has numerous exceptionally stylish older women, all of whom could give SJP and her NYCgal pals a run (or maybe a fast walk, heels permitting) for their money. Below, we meet three who you should follow immediately – your wardrobes can thank us later.

WHO?

Caroline Labouchere

AGE?

57

FROM?

England

OCCUPATION?

Model and ambassador

FOLLOW HER AT?

@carolinelabouchere

How would you describe your personal style?

Definitely classic – I do love a bit of monochrome. Colour scares me a little.

When did your love affair with fashion begin?

I’ve loved fashion forever. I used to cut and drape fabric around my body when I was young to create outfits. They looked great on the outside, but my finishing left a lot to be desired. 

What’s your signaturestyle?

I almost always wear a belt.

Whose style inspires you?

Susi Rejano rarely gets it wrong, and I love Queen Letizia of Spain’s look.

What makes a woman stylish to you?

Possibly being subtle with trends – showing that you know what’s going on in the world of fashion, but remaining classic. 

How would you describe your style uniform?

Ballet flats, jeans, and a long- or short-sleeved T-shirt.

Can you share your favouritedesigners or places to shop?

I’m finding brands I had never heard of before that I absolutely love – Dea Kudibal, Michael Kors, Mr Mood, Me and Em, and Wear Commando are just a few.

How has your styleevolved over the years?

My style is more capsulated – I know what works and I make fewer mistakes. I also now have some key designer pieces that can be dressed up and down.

What’s your take on sustainable style choices?

I definitely don’t visit high street shops as much as I used to. And my daughter Mimi and I wear each other’s clothes, too, so that adds another layer to my fashion sustainability.

What’s your ultimate style no-no?

Cut-off trousers – it doesn’t matter what shape you are, they look awful. 

What are your five style rules to live by?

  1. Less is more.
  2. Boobs or legs.
  3. Wear comfortable shoes to the mall.
  4. Make sure your shoes are well-heeled.
  5. Always wear a belt with your jeans.

What are the key items that every woman should own?

Belts, white shirts, straight and bootleg jeans.

What are the three pieces in your wardrobe you couldn’t live without?

A sun hat, a good long cardigan, and my black pleather leggings.  

What’s the best piece of style advice that you can give?

Take one thing off before you leave the house.

What’s the worst fashion mistake you’ve ever made?

Can’t think of any!

Which local brands/designers do you love?

Ezra Couture and Master Elliott.

Which Sex and the City character’s style do you most associate with and why?

None of them!

WHO?

Emma Sawko

AGE?

51

FROM?

France

OCCUPATION?

Founder/owner of Comptoir 102 and Wild & The Moon

FOLLOW HER AT?

@emmasawko

How would you describe your personal style? 

Parisian, sunny, feminine, rock, cool.

When do you think your love affair with fashion began? 

I can’t remember exactly. I feel it was always here. I remember my friends telling me I should work in fashion, and I was still in middle school…

What’s your signaturestyle?

I have a seashell necklace that I bought in New York and kept ever since and, because I am working part-time in Dubai, I always wear a tan and a smile in the midst of the Parisian winter. My signaturestyle is called “summer in my heart”. 

Whose style inspires you?

I love Caroline de Maigret’s French style, Alexa Chung’s British style, and Leandra Medine Cohen’s crazy New Yorker style – but I have my own.

What makes a woman stylish to you?

Kindness, good posture, and manners. 

How would you describe your style uniform?

I used to wear heels more often, but having to run between meetingsall day, I gave them up and adopted sneakers and jeans. I try to make up for it with nice tops.  

Can you share your favouritedesigners or places to shop? 

I never go shopping. I am a buyer for my concept store, Comptoir 102 in Dubai, and I do so during the fashion weeks. I only buy what I love and would wear myself, and therefore inevitably end up buying from my own shop. I like Isabel Marant, Forte Forte, Raquel Allegra, and Ulla Johnson the most.

How has your style evolved over the years?

Even if I always loved fashion, I suppose my style evolved a little when I became a buyer as I had to develop a keen eye. When you shop for yourself, you may be more impulsive and sometimes make mistakes. But if you shop for others, you need to think about what will work, what will look good on your clients, and what style you want to convey. 

Getting older, however, didn’t change the way I dress. Society expects women to hide their ageing bodies – what is totally acceptable for a 20-year-old girl (showing legs or shoulders, for example) becomes more and more ‘ridiculous’ or ‘shameless’ as she ages. Youth is prized, wrinkly knees and bat wings not so much. It’s very sad because getting older is wonderful. Being faithful to your style and who you are, dressing the way you feel like? That is important. 

What’s your take onon sustainable style choices?

Sustainability has always been a concern and, as a buyer, I do take responsibility. We curate brands that work ethically – some because they are supporting women with financial independence in small communities, others because they chose to use ecological materials. As the market slowly opens to these values, we started scouting for green brands and recently introduced collabs with 100% ecological and vegan brands.

What’s your ultimate style no-no?

I have three. Classic leather handbags – especially those with ostentatious branding or logos all over – worn in the elbow crease are a bad idea. You can’t pretend you have something important or meaningful to do when you have a pink leather bag hanging from your elbow, nor can you look cool with your arm perpetually bent at a 90-degree angle. ‘French’ manicures are not French and look tacky. Total looks and trying too hard are the worst enemy of style.

What are your five style rules to live by?

  1. Wearing something that fits you rather than the latest trend. 
  2. Mixing low-key pieces with more sophisticated ones.
  3. Your clothes and shoes need to be comfortable because painful feet show on your face.
  4. Your style must reflect your personality – don’t try to look like somebody else.
  5. Recycle, re-use, or donate.

What are the key items that every woman should own

There is no such thing. Every woman should wear exactly what she loves and what she feels comfortable in. I suppose 20 years ago, the answer would have been “a little black dress” or “a pair of Manolos”, but we can live without a LBD or a pair of signature heels. In fact, the people we admire most for their styles are often non-conformists. 

What are the three pieces in your wardrobe you couldn’t live without? 

I only have two: a good pair of jeans and some cool sneakers. 

What’s the best piece of style advice that you can give?

Don’t be scared to develop your own style. Wear clothes that make you feel beautiful. Don’t obey fashion and society’s diktats.

What’s the worst fashion mistake you’ve ever made?

Each time I tried to go out of my own style. But at 51, I don’t do that anymore. No matter the circumstances, I never overdress. 

Which Sex and the City character’s style do you most associate with and why?

These girls are real New Yorkers with hairdos, perfect nails, designer bags, and heels. It’s harder for a Parisian like me to associate with that, but Carrie in her ballet skirt and wild hair looked amazing.

WHO?

Silke Styles 

AGE?

56

FROM?

Germany

OCCUPATION?

Personal stylist

FOLLOW HER AT?

@silke_styles

How would you describe your personal style? 

Casual creative with a Scandi twist.

When do you think your love affair with fashion began?

At a very young age, probably in my teens.

What’s your signaturestyle

Less is more!

Whose style inspires you? 

Jenna Lyons.

What makes a woman stylish to you? 

When she wears outfits that reflect her style personality.

How would you describe your style uniform?

In Dubai, I like to wear wide-leg trousers with a button-down shirt and most probably sneakers.

Can you share your favouritedesigners or places to shop?

Usually second-hand stores, sustainable fashion. Sometimes COS and & Other Stories.

How has your styleevolved over the years?

It has changed a lot over the years as I’m not a trend-follower anymore. I need my wardrobe to function for me and my current lifestyle, so practicality, comfort, and nice fabrics are key.

What’s your take onon sustainable style choices

I’m trying to make more sustainable fashion choices, and wear items that I already own by styling them in different ways. I know it’s a journey, but small steps will get us there. I believe this is the future for the fashion industry. I’m a big supporter of slow and sustainable brands here in the UAE and always on the lookout for new brands to recommend to my clients. I’m very excited that now we are starting to have more second-hand choices as well as renting fashion.

What’s your ultimate style no-no? 

When you’re not yourself.

What are your style rules to live by?  

Discover your style personality, find your colours and body shape, and just experiment and have fun.

What are the key items that every woman should own

There is no rule that applies to everyone since we come in all sizes and shapes and our daily routines are so different. A perfect outfit is something that underlines your inner beauty and makes you feel fabulous. It can be a very elegant dress or the perfect pair of sandals. 

What are the three pieces in your wardrobe you couldn’t live without? 

Sneakers, blazers, linen shirts.

What’s the best piece of style advice that you can give?

Be authentic and true to yourself.

What’s the worst fashion mistake you’ve ever made? 

Ha ha, too many – that’s why I studied to become a stylist! But I guess neon leggings?

Which local brands/designers do you love? 

So many, and they are all slow and sustainable fashion brands: @emiliaohrtmannofficial, @by.m.a.r.y, @goshopia_official, @mykaftan, @onlyethikal, and @f_l_o_r_e_n_c_eowens just to name a few.

Which Sex and the City character’s style do you most associate with and why? 

Can I pick two? Carrie and Miranda.

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5 Times Meghan Markle Defied Convention

And looked fabulous doing it.

Love her or love to hate her, Meghan Markle is a trailblazer through and through. Long before she made headlines for stepping back from her role in the British royal family in January 2020 and ‘that’ bombshell of an Oprah Winfrey interview earlier this year, she set tongues wagging purely as a result of her sartorial choices – who can forget the “revenge wardrobe” that she put together for all her final royal outings? Today, as she turns the big 4-0, we’re looking back at the five times she defied convention, bypassing the royal dress code and dancing to her own tune. How many of these do you remember?

1. Ripped Jeans

September 2017

According to the royal dress code, jeans are considered too casual for events and appearances, so ripped jeans are simply a big no-no. But that didn’t stop Meghan from wearing a white shirt and ripped jeans during her first ever public appearance with Prince Harry at the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto. Cue the first of many shockwaves.


2. Bare Legs

November 2017

Committing her first fashion faux pas before even marrying her prince, the royal rule-breaker went sans pantyhose during her engagement photocall in November 2017. Kate Middleton, on the other hand, is all about super-sheer hosiery – she allegedly sports the Barely There Non-Slip Tights variety from John Lewis.

3. Suit Up

February 2018

Royal protocol dictates that female senior family members don’t wear trousers to official engagements, but Meghan frequently broke this tradition, too – and looked super stylish in the process. She chose to wear an Alexander McQueen suit to the Endeavour Awards in 2018, completing her look with a pair of pumps and a pussy-bow blouse. Even the colour of the suit was deemed inappropriate, but more on that later.

4. Something Sleeveless

July 2018

Sleeveless dresses aren’t normally spotted on royals, but the duchess has sported the sleeveless trench dress on more than one occasion – including when she and Prince Harry introduced their son, Archie, to the world back in May 2019. Clearly, Meghan has always been a fan of this silhouette. She wore it to the Nelson Mandela Centenary Exhibition in London in July 2018 and then again in October 2019, this time during a public engagement in Johannesburg.

5. All Black

September 2018

When it comes to the British royal family, the colour black is generally reserved for funerals and mourning periods, but Meghan has defied this norm repeatedly. Interestingly, she made headlines for not one, but two different reasons when she made her first ever solo appearance in September 2018. Not only did she wear a black dress – a stunning, sheer-sleeved number by Givenchy – but she also closed her own car door, causing a stir with this simple act. Gasp!

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Can This Activewear Brand Be Your Next Workout Buddy?

Entrepreneur Kelly-Marie Hodgkin is on a mission.

The art of juggling business and passion projects is something that Kelly-Marie Hodgkin has mastered. Establishing modelling and promotions agency Lush Group in Dubai in 2007 after a successful modelling career of her own, followed by an appointment as Director of global media group PPMG, Dubai-based British entrepreneur has turned her sights to something new: Gym Clothing Co. This soon-to-be mum of three is the Co-Director of the home-grown activewear brand that combines business, fashion, and fitness – three of Kelly’s greatest loves.

Founded in the UAE by former semi-professional footballer and PE teacher Max Bissell, Gym Clothing Co. was created to deliver high-performance activewear combining quality, style, durability, and value. Fiercely proud of its GCC roots – as its name, logo, and acronym suggest – the brand offers an extensive product selection inspired by the dynamic landscape, demanding weather conditions, and picturesque colour palette of the UAE. 

After wearing Gym Clothing Co.’s separates for her workouts, Kelly was initially approached to serve as an ambassador and fitness model, but was quickly convinced to expand her involvement with the brand. Joining Max (along with fellow fitness enthusiast and entrepreneur Jamie Cormack) as a Co-Director and equal partner, Kelly is now able to to inject both her commercial prowess and creative talents into the brand as the team moves into its next stage of expansion, having recently launched in the UK.

Watch The Video: In Conversation with Kelly-Marie Hodgkin

“Gym Clothing Co. has done an incredible job of building a loyal following here in the UAE, and it’s a really exciting time now as we expand into the UK,” says Kelly. “Along with developing new product lines, we’re also focusing on prenatal fitness education, which is very close to my heart, having worked out regularly during my first two pregnancies. I’m currently expecting my third child, so I’m passionate about motivating other mums-to-be to stay active in a safe way.”

With comfort and confidence high on the agenda, the women’s collection is a real reflection of Kelly’s personal style and demands of her workout wardrobe. It features high waists, soft seams, subtle contouring, and lightweight materials, all in a beautiful range of colours. 

“We want to inspire people to be more active, challenge their limits, and strive for their best while feeling their best – and wearing the right fitness clothes is a crucial part of that,” adds Kelly. “Now more than ever, value is just as important as quality and, as an affordable luxury brand, Gym Clothing Co. customers are empowered to stay fit without worrying about their budget.”

Available online at gymclothingco.com for delivery across the UAE, the brand has also launched direct delivery in the UK through a dedicated logistics partner. 

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#SheCreates – The E-book Every Woman In The Middle East Needs

Insight, inspiration and all-round awesomeness from brilliant women of the UAE

We’re all for shining a light on how incredible the women of this region are. So when the world’s most powerful social network gets on board with championing fabulous females of the UAE, we’re hitting the ‘like’ button in a major way.

Launched in celebration of International Women’s Day, and inspired by their #SheCreates event held in December, Facebook has developed an e-book featuring words of experience, encouragement and advice from 26 amazing women in the region’s media and entertainment industries.

Commemorating the achievements of women from the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, and designed as a tool of inspiration for women everywhere, #SheCreates spotlights women who are creating change and paving the way as leaders in their fields, communities and businesses. 

Featuring an array of the Middle East’s most inspirational females, including Joelle Mardinian, Karen Wazen, and Hend Sabri, the ebook highlights how the social media giant’s apps have been integral in supporting and uplifting its users throughout the pandemic, with each of the women revealing how they built their communities, grew their businesses, created movements, and inspired future generations to come together as they overcame unforeseen challenges brought on by the pandemic.

“Every day is a day to celebrate and elevate women. The purpose of #SheCreates is embedded within its name – it’s shining a much needed spotlight on the incredible, daily impact of women around the region, the difference they make, and the change they create”, explained Derya Matras, Facebook’s Regional Director for Africa, the Middle East and Turkey. “Across all sectors and industries, women are leading profound initiatives, growing businesses, and creating movements that touch the essence of this project: to inspire future generations of women for years to come.”

From creative influencers to CEOs, the booklet showcases the personal and professional journeys of each of the women as they discuss what it means to have power in today’s society, and the inspiration behind their content creation. 

“We’re amplifying the voices of a diverse group of women who are creating value across communities in the region – influential individuals who, in some way or another, have shown an ability to bring people together both on and off our platforms by creating change and leaving a resounding impact on the lives of others”, explained Facebook MENA’s Strategic Partner Manager, Moon Baz. “Though our work around promoting greater inclusion is not tied to a single day, month, or year, we partnered with these women on the momentous occasion of International Women’s Day to support their journeys and achievements.”

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sustainable fashion directory

The UAE’s First Sustainable Fashion Directory Is Here!

Marine conservation organisation Azraq launches the region’s first guide to all things sustainably stylish

Incredible news for all sustainable style fans in the region – Dubai-based marine conservation organisation Azraq has launched the first UAE Sustainable Fashion Directory. Giving visibility and accreditation to sustainable fashion labels, multi-brand stores, outlets and artisans, the launch of the directory marks Azraq’s continued efforts to help guide and educate the community to a more sustainable way of living whilst supporting local businesses in their efforts to reduce their environmental impact.  

By M.A.R.Y

Featuring clothing, handbags, swimwear and lingerie from brands including Ayesha Depala, By M.A.R.Y, COEGA, Peahead.eco and VINO SUPRAJA, the directory will be visible on Azraq’s social media sites. 

Created to educate, motivate and activate the region’s buyers by further highlighting the environmental concerns within the fashion industry, Azraq’s mission is to increase knowledge about the ongoing problem of microplastics, creating a conscious community of consumers who want to shop sustainably for their fashion requirements. Reports from the UN Alliance state that the fashion industry contributes to 10% of global carbon emissions, and nearly 20% of wastewater, while an additional 35% of microplastics in local waterways come from synthetic fibres used in clothing, impacting not only marine animal health, but our own. 

“In the UAE, Azraq is seen as one of the main marine conservation organisations, taking action to conserve and protect local waterways,’ said the organisation’s founder and director, Natalie Banks. ‘We are  passionate about acting as an advisor to brands and companies that are looking to increase their sustainability efforts, and the UAE Sustainable Fashion Directory creates a platform of impact and action, driving a change for positive behaviour from both businesses and consumers towards their carbon footprint and its effect on the oceans.” 

Brands are accredited via four tiers on the directory. Tier one, the top level of accreditation, represents companies that meet eight of the following criteria: slow fashion, ethically made; the use of natural fibres; no use of plastics in materials; no use of plastics in packaging; the use of natural dyes; compostable hang-tags; carbon-neutrality; supporting the CSR efforts of an environmental agency; promote cora balls or guppy friends wash bags or microplastic filters and lastly, champion the recycling of clothing. Tier two hosts brands that meet seven of the determined criteria, tier three represents businesses that meet six of the outlined criteria, and tier four at least five. 

“With Azraq’s operations team’s vast knowledge of sustainable fashion and the impact of microplastics on the health of local waterways, we are more than qualified, not only to compile a directory on this issue, but also determine the tiers that each brand sits within, so they may be acknowledged and promoted accordingly as part of their and our sustainability mission,” explained Natalie.

Businesses looking to register for verification must complete the questionnaire. On successful completion, the directory will link to the online store or social media page of the business and illustrate the achievements and actions they are doing to offset the negative impacts on the environment, with a ‘Blue-Tick’ tier system showcasing the level of sustainability of each business. The format of the directory starts with the most sustainable brands visible at the top, scrolling down to reveal the rest of the tier, encouraging brands to want to increase their visibility. 

For more information on Azraq, visit azraqme.org. To register for inclusion and verification in the directory, click here.

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Madiyah Al Sharqi x Karen Wazen Debut

Madiyah Al Sharqi x Karen Wazen Make Their SS21 Debut

The first collaboration between Emirati designer and multi-million-followed fashion influencer launches this week

If you love the work of Emirati designer Madiyah Al Sharqi, and the style of Lebanese influencer and entrepreneur Karen Wazen, news of their debut fashion collection should be music to your sartorial ears.

Launching this week, the SS21 Madiyah Al Sharqi x Karen Wazen collection is a balanced interpretation of the two friends’ distinct aesthetics and individual identities, combining Sheikha Madiyah’s signature exaggerated silhouettes and luxurious detail with Karen’s modern and adventurous feminine style. 

Reimagined from silhouettes within the Madiyah brand archive, multi-million followed, Dubai-based digital influencer Karen conceptualized new styles from her favourite pieces, culminating in a collection of statement dresses, soft tailoring and casual separates in a natural-toned palette of fresh blues, white, blush, olive and taupe, using lustrous silks and bold ikat-style prints.

“The brand has been creating collections for 8 years and with the times we’re living in, now more than ever felt right to explore a new direction, away from what we normally show season on season’, revealed Sheika Madiyah of the collection. ‘Collaborating with design talents from the region is not unfamiliar to the brand, but a partnership of this scale – an entire ready to wear collection – was a first for us.”

Designed as a seamless summer capsule, each piece offers the flexibility of mixing and matching separates, with a focus on effortless, laid-back dressing. Silk high-waisted shorts and wide-legged trousers pair with a luxurious button down, which can also be thrown over a luxurious cowl-neck slip dress, monochromatic tailoring takes shape in a boxy blazer, lapelled crop top or peplum blouse with matching shorts and trousers in a lightweight, wrinkle-effect fabric, while tiered skirts abound throughout, from floor-grazing gowns with a ruffle collar, to off-the-shoulder midi dresses affixed with elaborate sleeves. Meanwhile, multi-purpose bandanas worn wrapped around the head, tied as a top, or to cinch a waist are the key accessory of the collection. 

“I’ve always admired Sheika Madiyah’s work and have been wearing her designs since 2016. Her collections naturally speak to me, so coming together to create a collection with a long-time friend and collaborator was very special’, explained Karen. It’s the first brand partnership I’ve done on this level, and it was a very enjoyable learning process. The collection was created during a strange moment in time and was truly a result of a partnership, so came from a very personal place – a blending of perspectives, founded on pursuing reinvention.” 

The Madiyah Al Sharqi x Karen Wazen collection launches this week, both in-store and online at Bloomingdale’s Dubai and Kuwait, Rubaiyat Jeddah, Ounass, and Farfetch. For more information, visit madiyahalsharqi.com and check also check out Instagram.

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The World’s First Fashion Council For Sustainability

The Middle East Fashion Council makes history as it strives for a more sustainable fashion future.

Following this month’s announcement that Middle East Fashion Week will make its debut in Spring 2021, there’s more good news for the region’s fashion industry – the Middle East Fashion Council has been revealed as the world’s first fashion council for sustainability. 

Positioning the Middle East as a major player in the global fashion scene, the MEFC has made a commitment to the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, aiming to foster a culture of diversity and inclusion, tackle socially and environmentally pressing issues and implement positive change.

Simon Rubel Lo Gatto, CEO Middle East Fashion Council

Founded by Simon Rubel Lo Gatto, who holds the position of CEO of the not-for-profit entity, the MEFC’S board includes two of the region’s most notable sustainability advocates – Faris Saeed, CEO of Diamond Developers and Founder of The Sustainable City, who now undertakes the role of Director of Sustainability, and Director of Arts Nayla Al Khaja of Nayla Al Khaja Films – widely acknowledged as the first female film Director-Producer in the UAE.

MEFC Director Of Sustainability Faris Saeed

Driving sustainable fashion to the forefront of the industry, and working alongside the four main international fashion councils: the British Fashion Council, Fédération Française de la Couture, Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana, and Council of Fashion Designers of America – the MEFC will encourage sustainability that conserves resources and minimizes our carbon footprint.

MEFC Director Of Arts Nayla L Khaja

Collaborating with like minded platforms and organizations to drive sustainable fashion to the forefront of the industry, the MEFC’s regional mission is to connect local designers and talent with the mainstream market, empowering them to develop their brands, and maintaining a strong ethos of quality and professionalism.

“Style is a simple way to show the world who you really are,” said Simon, whose endorsement of Middle East Fashion Week will see more than 20 designers take part in the five-day fashion extravaganza, which includes a 3-day forum on sustainability in the fashion industry. “Our platform was born from an inspiration to address climate change and pollution as a direct cause of the industry we love, and the Middle East Fashion Council is committed to sustainable fashion for a healthier planet.”

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