Scarf trends last year got a little original: take an ordinary rectangle scarf and fold it into a triangle. Tie behind neck so that an inverted triangle points to your midriff. Very cool with a new twist on things, but also very annoying. It could take a few minutes to adjust the shape, keep it on straight for the rest of the day, and yet you and others would be tugging at your scarves to keep it stylishly right.
Enter Noor Al Hariri, a young Iraqi woman with a heavy dose of creativity. Born and raised in London, she studied business at university and wrote her dissertation in fashion. Upon graduation, she worked for five years with the AK brand that made quite a splash at London Fashion Week and subsequently took off, and she was taken under the designer’s wing: learning about fabrics, cuts, and design during the growth and establishment of the brand.
“Always at a young age, I’ve had a passion for creating and because I can’t draw, I never got into art school although now I can paint nicely. I took courses at London College of Fashion when I graduated. I had enough of London fashion, it gets a bit too much after a while, reflects Al Hariri.
Her move to Beirut was prompted by the job offer of a head stylist position for a Lebanese TV station and a year and a half was also enough for the young entrepreneur.
“Being in Beirut the Lebanese are so creative that you’re always inspired. In a certain way Lebanon is a lot more advanced than Europe, particularly in architecture and interiors.
Al Hariri’s scarves are ingenious. They are double sided, cut so that a triangle generously covers your chest and neck, and wrapped snuggly by winding the arms of the scarf around your neck. They rest by your sides, and pockets recently added are perfect for resting your hands in and slouching comfortably. The design has been patented in Europe, Asia and North America.
Although Al Hariri’s design intentions were to create a fashion line that provided pieces of a particular look, she stumbled on scarf designing by chance. The initial philosophy of her clothing line was “very simple, laid back, comfy, you can dress it up or dress it down, plain colors. That’s what I was aiming for because in the Middle East you can’t find [neutral basics] easily.
The scarves were a fluke. “One night, a friend asked me to make a creative scarf. Scarves are usually really boring, and everyone loves scarves; they’re a perfect accessory to finish off an outfit. I started by sampling a collection, I never wanted to be a scarf designer.
Al Hariri too was fed up with the triangle shaped trend that was essentially a hassle. “I was tired of the triangle shaped scarf. I thought why not make a scarf that’s already in a triangle. I sat all night cutting up and sewing a scarf. Through development, I added the pockets and I think personally they’re the most important things on a garment. I made 67 of them and put them up on Facebook and in a week, they were all gone. My collection was put aside and they’ve completely taken over.
“In that first week, I got press interest, and stockists interest. I went through a summer where I was selling and reselling them particularly to the Gulf. And they don’t need them there! she laughs. The first stores to pick up her scarves were Harvey Nichols Saudi Arabia and Harvey Nichols Dubai, respectively. And now her scarves are also carried in designer department stores in Lebanon, resting on the shelves next to Missoni accessories or on one of the many Middle Eastern online boutiques like Style-Treasure.com or Dia Diwan. “It’s very humbling, says Al Hariri.
“I know how competitive fashion is.but only because it’s a whole new concept, and something we trademarked as well.
There’s something very whimsical about them-almost childlike. “When I was younger I got a pink umbrella made for me at Disneyland with my name printed on it and my family started calling me “Noriella-and-her-pink-umbrella. And that same spirit of girly fun is wholly represented in the scarves.
Wholly produced in Lebanon, her New Concept scarves come in various materials and prints. Soft cottons, floral patterned silks, lace and even material in neon green and navy blue like that of basketball shorts. It’s casually chic or painfully cool; there’s something for everyone and for every occasion. Yet some styles can be considered unisex and could be carried off with panache by trendsetting men.
But it is Al Hariri who is the trendsetter herself. Talking to Daily News Egypt, it was quite obvious from the metallic blue skull accessorized belt worn around a studded silk black top that designing and styling is a natural gift to her.
“Now that I live in the Middle East, I am fascinated by the way people dress. They look like they are fashion stylists but they’re bankers, or lawyers.
Al Hariri explains the economics behind style trends in the Middle East.
“Now because the Middle East is becoming more stable, popular, touristic . people are becoming more loud through their fashion. They don’t need to be bland or subtle with their colors. Now in Beirut, girls are all in dresses. In England, when I wear a dress to dinner, I feel overdressed. In the Middle East, people are more in touch with their femininity.
There’s certainly something sensual about wrapping a scarf around your neck, walking around and not worrying about it slipping off.
Mine is white with black hearts, silver studs trim the pockets. I simply couldn’t help myself.
Stockists:www.style-treasure.com26 Shagaret El Dor Street, Zamalek. Tel: 010-1919-219