Andraya Farrag / “I am always inspired by contrast, culture and women”

As she prepares for London Fashion Week 2018 in February designer, founder and creative director of Bedouin Andraya Farrag talk to us about heritage, influence and style without borders.

'Art in general is a medium for expression and can be appreciated by anyone from any culture,' Designer Andraya Farrag. Photograph: Supplied

By Sally Otman

Fashion 3 March 2018

Bedouin is a brand you need to know. We here at The Arab Edition have had our curious eye on the contemporary ready-to-wear label and its designer Andraya Farrag for some time. Since first catching glimpses of Bedouin pieces online and on the streets and then meeting the creative behind the brand, our curiosity has since transformed into true admiration.

Keeping detailed notes of everything we love about the flattering easy to wear clothes whose aesthetic is familiar but different, unique yet accessible and ultimately aspirational, we couldn’t help but notice a correlation between the everything that Bedouin represents and Andraya herself. Motivated and passionate, it takes a brave person to start their own fashion label at 25. And yet meeting Andraya, one gets the sense of someone, who although works incredibly hard, has a relaxed sensibility and attitude to style.

Andraya comes from a mixed background where her Egyptian and English heritage has influenced how she creates clothes. And interesting fact given that  Bedouin resonates with both Arab and Western women.

‘Our tribe of women reaches from Riyadh to London,’ Andraya told The Arab Edition, ‘I can honestly say that there is no definite correlation to one region buying more than the other.’

The Bedouin woman like it’s designer who splits her time between Dubai and London, is a spontaneous, cultured, free-spirited and confident woman. Bedouin manages to blur the lines between casual and evening wear, East and West, chic and casual  through a minimal approach, loose tailoring and with a consistent theme that less is more. Andraya’s ethos and her work atBedouin pushed the idea that style has no borders and that we are all part of the same nomadic tribe.

The Arab Edition managed to have a chat with Andraya as she was busy fitting her new AW18 collection for London Fashion Week in February to ask her about her Arab influence, the fashion industry and how fashion can bridge the gap between cultures.

When did you decide to launch your own brand?
I decided to launch my own brand after I came back from living in India. It was after my time there managing the relationships between the factory production line and the New York based brands producing embroidery in India for their collections, that I saw both the good and the bad side of production and the ethics involved. When I returned to Dubai to set up my own label. It was important that I establish a company built on the solid foundations of integrity, principles, corporate and social responsibility and ethical practices in production. Slowly we are doing what we can to become an ethical brand, only working with responsibly sourced fabrics and working with local artisans. I am also so proud of our recent swimwear collection created from swimwear made from recycled plastic bottles in collaboration with Houndsditch. 

Did you always want to be a fashion designer?
My mother and grandfather were both painters so I was always surrounded by art. It was my mission to make it to art school one day. I eventually got accepted into Central Saint Martins in London where I graduated in my BA in Fashion Design with Marketing. This time really shaped me as a designer and taught me that determination is everything. I came from a very normal background so when Bedouin begun I had a shoe string budget to work with and put every penny that I earned back into the business for years. The fashion world can be intimidating but if you remain determined you can beat that.

Why did you choose the name Bedouin for your brand?
The woman who wears Bedouin is independent, a modern nomad, strong, and free-spirited. She values tradition but appreciates the modern world, travel and discovery. All of that along with my Egyptian heritage, the name Bedouin seemed to be the perfect fit.

How has the Arab world or Arab aesthetics influenced your relationship with fashion?
Being half Egyptian and half English has influenced me more than anything ever has. I have grown up with incredible contrast, witnessed admirable compromise between my parents and encountered many prejudices. This contrast has encouraged me to find my own path somewhere in the middle and to find a harmony. It has made me into a woman that appreciates culture and diversity and I try to carry that through my life. This also plays a huge part in my design process as I love to create items that reference the Middle East in some way, whether it be something as creating a longer more modest length or using fabrics that resemble traditional Bedouin style weaving. For SS18, Bedouin released dresses that from a far were incredibly fresh looking monochrome pieces but up close you see that they are rooted in tradition.

It was important that I establish a company built on the solid foundations of integrity, principles, corporate and social responsibility and ethical practices in production.

Do you have any Arab muses?
I love the style of Dana Hourani, she is cool, effortless and powerful! Dana has an androgynous look which is exactly how I imagine the Bedouin woman to be.

Having lived between Dubai and London most of your life, what are the differences you’ve noticed in how the Middle East views fashion compared to the West?
Of course we can’t deny that style in the Middle East is far more glamorous in general and women tend to dress to impress a lot more than in the West. In the UK, for example women tend to be slightly more understated wearing casual clothes a lot more but I believe this comes down to lifestyle and convenience. To be honest though I have noticed a lot of cross overs recently and it’s amazing to see women from across the globe learning from each other.

Do you think fashion is a way to help create a bridge between different cultures?
Art in general is a medium for expression and can be appreciated by anyone from any culture. I do think that you can share a message through fashion even if it’s a very subtle one. Diversity and acceptance of other beliefs and cultures is so important and therefore should be celebrated in any way possible. I prefer not to make Bedouin a political brand however I try to encourage a positive spirit and a diverse world. I am so proud to showcase Bedouin around the world particularly in London.

Tell us about the collection you’re working on for London Fashion Week in February.
It is still top secret! But I can tell you that I have been inspired by identity. For AW18 I am looking at myself and the contrast surrounding me. It has been a whirlwind of a year for me and in some ways it has changed me so I have been focusing on that quite a lot. You can expect more simple plain fabrics on detailed dresses, traditional woven fabrics on tailoring and an unexpected colour palette.

What would you say is the most stressful part about putting a collection together?
I usually have a lot of ideas and somehow every single season it is impossible to narrow them down. It is important to create items that make up a full collection but also items that people want! I tend to have so many ideas that it doesn’t really look like a collection at first so unfortunately a lot of great pieces don’t make the final line up.

What inspires you? Trends? Politics? Stories? People? And what is your process of turning that initial inspiration into something wearable for a large number of people.
I am always inspired by contrast, culture and women. Sometimes that shows through more than others but it is always the starting point. For SS18 I was inspired by a collection of photos of Margaux Hemingway in 1970’s Havana. She looks lost in thought yet powerful. The theme usually trickles through every aspect of the collection whether it be colour palette, silhouette and mood. However, sometimes a theme doesn’t directly translate into a garment so it is important to have other influences. I look at a lot of vintage fashion and often adapt existing ideas into something more fresh for the modern woman.

Bedouin's SS18 collection

Maán Jalal is a writer, writing stuff while reading other stuff other writers wrote. Novelist. Journalist. Bibliophile. Gryffindor. His patronus is a hawk. “Leete Latobarita Uruth Ariaroth Bal Netoreel.”

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