The Case for Nasiba Hafiz’s Effervescent Designs

The Saudi designer opens up about her influences

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It’s practically impossible to talk about Saudi Arabia’s fashion scene without a mention of Nasiba Hafiz. The Jeddah-based designer is a longtime pillar in the Kingdom creative crowd, known for her daring printed kaftans and vibrantly patterned abayas. 

Born to the late Saudi publisher Hisham Hafiz and socialite Nasiba Tarabzouni, the designer was influenced by her parents’ eccentric taste. 

“Without her realising, my mother is the reason I wanted to be a fashion designer,” the Jeddah native told us. 

After graduating with a fashion photography and styling degree from the London School of Fashion, Hafiz launched her namesake brand in 2012, with her collections going on to be sold everywhere from Los Angeles to Dubai.

And her designs offer much more than what meets the eye. Hafiz is all about pushing forward a good cause. She previously enlisted female tailors from Nesma Embroidery, a non-profit centre training Saudi woman with special needs, to work on her Nesma Women collection.

Her latest collections, entitled ‘Biba by Nasiba’ and ‘Koi Collection’ see Hafiz venture out from her norms. The designer experimented with new silhouettes, diving deeper into cultural Asian references and exploring new techniques for her signature prints. 

We decided to catch up with the designer to chat about her latest creations, Saudi Arabia’s fashion scene, and the inspiration behind her work.

Tell us a bit about your stylistic inspirations?
Looking at old photos of my family. Whether it’s my grandparents on holidays, my mother when she was younger, my aunts having dinner, my old birthday parties, my siblings dressing up! The list is endless. The colours, aesthetic and even furniture in those photos inspire me a lot.

What got you into fashion in the first place?
[My mother] loved dressing up and had the most stylish wardrobe. I still have a lot of her clothes to this day. As a little girl, I would just hang out with her at her amazing dressing room in the home we grew up in. Unfortunately, the house has been sold, but I wish I could visit it again and just hang out there for a second.

Your Saudi heritage is obviously influential to your designs, is culture always an influence to you?
While my mom would get ready in her dressing room, she used to have Egyptian movies playing in the background, from Abdel Halim Hafez’s musicals to classics starring Shadia, Faten Hamama or Hind Rostom. These actresses inspired me so much at the beginning stages of my brand. I was and still influenced by 1950’s fashion and the femininity of it all. 

Saudi Arabia’s fashion scene is certainly growing, what do you imagine for the future of Saudi fashion holds?
The future of Saudi fashion certainly looks very promising. I love that we are taking eco-awareness more seriously now. The more we talk about how we can reduce the waste that the industry is producing, the better chance we have to succeed in doing so. Most of the young designers I know are very conscious about the environmental situation! Sustainable and vintage-based businesses are growing, and I think this is very positive for us. Education and awareness are where the future is! 

Can you tell us about your ‘Biba by Nasiba’ collection?
I researched the history of tie & dye and discovered that it goes back to India. I selected a specific colour palette and modern and 60s popular prints to form my favourite tie & dye on my best-selling products.

There’s a lot of Asian references in your Koi collection, do they hold particular meaning to you?
I visited Japan for the first time in 2017. It was the most inspiring and beautiful trip! I got the fabrics I used for Koi on that trip. I mentioned how I like things to flow for me, I tried so hard before to do this collection but it just didn’t happen. The time came now in 2020. I remember that I saw a lot of Koi fish on that trip and I started reading about them and how they like to swim against currents and are extremely strong! That made me relate to them and fall even more in love with them. I felt like 2020 is the year we all had to swim against so many obstacles and work through a lot of issues. For that reason, I chose to name this collection after the Koi fish.

Main image by @sl_mecca

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