Modesty, Elegance and subtleness with a French elegance are what comes to mind when one gets to see an Arabesque abaya designed by Judith Duriez. Judith’s designs are inspired by past elegance and her brilliant and unmatchable imagination offering women all around the world abaya designs a way to distinguish themselves in a unique manner. Haute Arabia got to interview the French designer who found her dream in designing abayas; Moreover her designs are truly ones that can be considered an epitome of abaya haute couture in its truest sense. Haute Arabia has found her fashion sense worth featuring in many of their fans favourite- ‘Look of the Day features’. Discover the story of Judith’s success and how it all began- the dream and the realization of the dream in the form of Arabesque Sheilas & Abayas.
Khansa (HA): Hi Judith! Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Judith (Arabesque): I come from Paris, where I studied at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, a prestigious school for fashion design. Among my fellow design graduates was Stephane Roland! Then, for almost 10 years, I perfected my skills whilst working side by side with master craftsmen for some of the most renowned French Haute Couture houses in Paris.
In 1993, my husband and I, Gonzague, sharing the same passion for new cultural experiences, moved to the UAE. We were instantly seduced by the exceptional richness of the Middle Eastern heritage which provided a fertile ground for creativity; a year later, “Arabesque Haute Couture was born”.
Khansa (HA): When did your career in the fashion industry begin? Have there been designers in your family? Who or what inspired you to become a professional fashion designer?
Judith (Arabesque): I was brought up in an environment of a true love for art; connoisseurs and patrons of arts and fashion my parents passed their passion on to me, and I was introduced to the science of colors and sketches at an early age. This is why I naturally decided to become a designer.
I started my career working with eminent French designers such as Chanel and Christian Lacroix.
Khansa (HA): Wow, so you had an apprenticeship with Chanel, How did the role come to you? What was your experience there?
Judith (Arabesque):I graduated top of the class from Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, so my hard work paid off and I was offered an apprenticeship at Chanel! I worked in the “atelier” not far from Karl Lagerfield, where I learnt (among other things) to make the Chanel signature tailored jacket. It was a very enriching experience; the years spent in those prestigious fashion houses gave me a solid technical knowledge of the French Haute Couture ‘savoir faire” that I perfected through years of experience and hard work. It really influenced my career as today Arabesque designs are famous for their “French touch”, and achieved the higher grade of quality as per French Haute Couture standards.
Khansa (HA): I am sure that must have been a real enriching experience, How did you move into the field of designing abayas?
Judith (Arabesque):When I first came to the UAE with my husband, back in the 90s, I started as a High Fashion company working exclusively with VIPs. Although I was specialized in evening and party gowns, I was asked by my customers to design matching abayas to wear with their dresses. They were delighted with the result: my haute-couture experience and techniques helped me to deliver impeccably fitted and trendy abayas. So the idea came naturally to launch Arabesque Sheilas & Abayas; an innovative brand based on an unique concept bringing together quality and creativity. I was filled with excitement to explore this new area and to apply my Haute Couture experience to the traditional world of sheilas and abayas. It was a huge challenge, but I think it was a very successful experiment as today Arabesque is seen as a main trendsetter in abayas.
Khansa (HA): Tell us a bit about your collection. What master pieces have you created so far? Which one is the most dearest to you?
Judith (Arabesque):Arabesque collection is all about structured lines and textures. One of the highlights of this season is the application of premium quality leather on abayas, it’s is very avant-guarde and never seen before in the world of abayas. The color palette is very rich; midnight blues, plum, chalkboard matt black or metallic silver and peplum bronze…
Intricate woven leather panels and delicate signature embroideries beautifully enhance the new shapes; Tiara and Athena, our customers love it!
Once again, I incorporated the latest trends into abayas, mixing catwalk’s inspiration and Parisian chic.
My “masterpieces” are definitely the wedding abayas I create for so many Royalties and VIPs, exceptional and unique designs made with the rarest laces from Paris, mixed and matched and embellished with the most delicate hand-embroideries.
Traditional French lace is for me like a heritage of French Haute Couture, at the same time it is the Arabesque signature. In addition to that, a special readymade wedding collection, suitable for all budgets, is now available in both our boutiques.
Khansa (HA):What inspires your collection designs? How do new designs take form in your mind?
Judith (Arabesque):My biggest influence is Paris, where I travel to as often as possible. I like to relax at a terasse and watch people passing by, or have a stroll in the streets, to feel the ambiance and the unique French atmosphere! Beside, influence and inspiration is everywhere, from Art Fairs and European Fashion Shows to exhibitions, where I get the feel for the new trends, color combinations, fabrics, shapes and textures which influence my creations and brings sophistication to my collections.
Each Arabesque design is the result of a long creative process; first I will create a “mood board” for the collection, the colors of the season, the shapes…Then I will visit my suppliers in Paris, the same are supplying the workshops of very famous and prestigious French Haute Couture brands. We will work together in creating and manufacturing the best fabrics and most exclusive laces suitable for Arabesque designs.
Khansa (HA): How has your cultural history and arts inspired your designs?
Judith (Arabesque):Arabesque delicate designs are a unique blend of two distinct cultural experiences, mixing the inimitable French Couture spirit, with the rich Middle-Eastern fashion heritage. Also, I was born and raised in an environment of arts, travels and culture. My husband and I collect art (local and international), we visit art fairs as often as we can, it’s a lifestyle! It really infuses the way I see the world, I absorb it and translate it into fashion.
Khansa (HA): Does your personal experiences reflect in anyway in your designs?
Judith (Arabesque):I see the fashion designer experience as translating my feelings and my vision into an abaya. I like to think that I create designs to make woman feel free and beautiful, at ease with their environment and their culture. It is also my personnal taste and experience that reflect in my designs. I believe in hard work to deliver the highest quality of abayas, this together with innovation and customer care are the best ways to preserve the reputation of Arabesque.
Khansa (HA): Who has been your favourite celebrity to design for?
Judith (Arabesque):I haven’t designed for celebrities as such, I design for trendy ladies in the GCC countries that are looking for a perfect fitting and finishing along with innovative designs. This includes also many Royalties and VIPs, entrepreneurs and many inspiring ladies from all over the Gulf region.
Khansa (HA):What has been the highlight of your career to date?
Judith (Arabesque):There’s been so many! One I will always cherish for the rest of my life was when I had the privilege to visit Coco Chanel’s private apartment Rue Cambon, it was a magical experience!
Even today, I feel proud and thankful for designing abayas for such elegant ladies, visiting my customers in palaces, and most of all, seeing my abayas being worn and loved by so many is the absolute best feeling in the world!
Khansa (HA):They say that life’s painful experiences brings out the best in artists. Is that true for fashion designers as well?
Judith (Arabesque):I wouldn’t speak of painful experiences, but for me, as a designer, it’s the pressure of time that helps me bring the best of me. There are many collections that have to be ready in time every year. On top of that, I create new designs every months, so my customer will always find something new in the boutiques.
Khansa (HA): Tell us how your experiences have defined your identity?
Judith (Arabesque):At the age of 10 I was involved with fashion and from that time on, I perfected my skills, sharpened my style, and refined my technique. That is why as per today Arabesque is a recognizable, chic and popular brand of abayas.
Khansa (HA): What is your message to people who are interested in learning this art, including young persons, in the Middle East in general and the UAE in particular?
Judith (Arabesque):I think that my best advice to a young designer would be to spend some years studying technique in a good fashion school and to train with haute couture or ready to wear worskhops, so as to get a strong background and sharpen their skills. To achieve the ultimate and perfect design, you need to understand the technique and master it, so your creativity will be empowered.
Khansa (HA):Tell us the top 5 wishes from your To do List
- Travel to Angkor Wat, for an inspiring and revitalizing experience
- Have a stroll at Ile Saint Louis in Paris, and dine with my husband at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon
- Spend time cooperating in humanitarian project, and go on a humanitarian mission.
- Spend a relaxing week end with my family at Six Senses, Zighy Bay, Oman
- Find time for a long walk on the beach, with my dogs and contemplate the calming sunset at the turquoise Arabian sea…
Khansa (HA): Merci beaocoup Judith.On behalf of Haute Arabia, I wish you the very best!