Meet our newest DHOC Showcase Designer, Rania Tabbah. Rania’s design style is a global one that is inspired by a diverse blend of different cultures. Her creations are a striking example of east meeting west in the global world of fashion. With twenty years of professional experience in high fashion and ready-to-wear designs, her work has been showcased in fashion shows around the world, and has adorned celebrities at the Oscars.
Q: What first drew you to the fashion industry?
A: My passion for elegant colors, textures and having a vivid imagination. The story began in Riyadh I opened a boutique full of clothes and cosmetics in the same manner as a mini department store. I was importing ready made goods from Italy, France, Japan and the USA you name it my aim was to cover as many bases as possible. In a year’s time I hired 3 seamstresses to do alterations for my clients and everyday I was hands on with them analyzing and observing how they worked and I loved it I kept spending time with my staff perfecting the craft learning and consuming as much knowledge as possible.
One day it dawned on me, I said if I give you a sketch can you develop my vision of being a fashionista and make it a reality? The answer was yes of course. With this idea embedded within my mind’s eye every time I attended a fashion trade show or fashion show my aspirations grew more tenacious and I said to myself I can do the same and more. Indeed, my confidence escalated overwhelmingly having a degree in art propelled me to take on my challenges of creating and producing fashionable pieces that people would grow to eventually love and appreciate globally. I knew all about colors, textures and I could sketch exceptionally well. Through hindsight I recall wearing a dress I sketched to work and everyone would notice how I stood out asking me if what I wore was for sale. It was at this point I realized I was on to something. To say the least it was a very proud moment to have my peers inquiring about my work. At this point I realized I was on to something, aha!
However, at first I was a bit hesitant but I mustered up the gall and said yes it is for sell. Thereafter, my team and I would take the measurements and in 3 days I produced the dress and sold it. The lady I sold the dress to went out to spread the word. It was a pleasurable outcome to know that I was in business and Rania Tabbah Boutique started to pick up traction. More clients would come asking for the same thing, this procedure of supply and demand went on for a long time. I started to create different styles which paralleled dressing for the occasion. My mental clock was turning; I would say okay Rania if you go to a party what would you like to wear? Ideas came to mind I started searching for the right fabric, embellishing it and making it more exciting ensuring the right craftsman would use their skills to make the creations exactly how I envisioned it. I took the finished products to my shop and people embraced them in admiration, that’s how it started. Surprisingly, my customers was more drawn to my creations than those I imported from abroad and my focus at that time was just doing casual clothes only.
On one occasion a beautiful young girl came to me with a picture of a wedding dress and asked me can you do this? The dress was high fashion with amazing beading and style, very intricate. I stood frozen I was very unsure of my capabilities to make such an astonishing work of art. Again, my inner voice said yes I can… It was not actually me who said yes its just came out. She was happy to know that I could oblige her. I snapped out of this trance like state in disbelief that I agreed to take on the task at hand. Trust me, I wanted to say no but now I had to live up to my word. To get out of the promise I made, I gave her an outrageous price and I was sure she couldn’t afford it. Oh my was I wrong! She paid me half up front as if money was not an object. I was in over my head, forced to show and prove.
It was fear or flight and I’m not afraid to say I was timid so I kept the money in the bank I didn’t touch it, all I could think of was giving her the money back if things went wrong. The reputation I worked so hard to establish thus far was on the line. I had to regain my composure, “wooooooosah.” I went home and I contemplated immensely on the picture to every detail and said Rania you can do it, yes you can do it, why not? I scurried to find skilled people like beading specialist, pattern makers and cutters once I assembled a skillful group of qualified workers we flushed out a few ideas and got to work. It was very intense we put in a great deal of overtime our synergy was intact enabling our team of professionals to duplicate this fabulous dress bringing it to life exactly how it looked on the picture.
Ten days later she came for fitting the staff and I were flabbergasted of the results, she looked awesome. The wedding dress accommodated her curves as if it was painted on her body perfectly. As a team we couldn’t believe it seeing all of our hard work unfold so eloquently designed was like a breath of fresh air and certainly a sigh of relief. Unknowingly, the best was yet to come. Furthermore, she paid the balance in full and I delivered the exact replica as requested and finally I slept well after 3 weeks of worry. The weekend passed and on Monday I took the day off to rest, which was greatly needed. In contrast, I contacted my store manager and to my surprise I was informed taking a day off was not an option my colleague said there was more than 25 people waiting in the shop with an array of pictures requesting custom made dresses. This lady had 600 people in her wedding and she was like walking billboards of my artistic vision. The feeling was humbling and I was completely blown away, wow! The story goes on… Initially I only had 3 seamstresses when I started and after 4 months that number skyrocketed to 24. As a result, we now have in Riyadh approximately 98 people doing bridal and evening ware for many happy brides.
After 2 years my collection was exhibiting at a showroom in Manhattan selling boutiques and department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales and Bergdorf Goodman. I was blessed to grace articles in the New York Times including several other high fashion magazines. My gowns were worn with Harry Winston jewelry modeled on the red carpet of the world renowned Oscars’ with actresses like Elizabeth Maestroantonio; in fact, I was on the best designer list on Oscar night.
Specializing in couture, high fashion was the forte’ of my team in Riyadh and Dubai; but for manufactured ready to wear garments it was done in the USA and also in the Far-east. In lieu of these great opportunities to display my talents I was studying fashion design 101 in FIT, New York, Europe, and the Middle and Far-east. I wanted to be sure I know everything to present cutting edge designs on an astronomical caliber with names of a very innovative fashion world.
Q: Can you describe the personality behind your designs? What makes them unique and different?
A: I design with an event in mind or a place of elegance structuring a theme for the dress. It has to be light, happy, young, aesthetic and made like a jewel. I give so much attention to detail the finishing touches is very significant in my garments. I choose the best fabrics available. I embellish my design with the finest stones and beads strategically woven to perfection. I feel I am creating art and not just a garment. I touch and feel the fabrics and sometime they tell me what to do with them. My patterns are always hand draped on a mannequin first and then it’s transferred to a working pattern… There’s so much interaction between me and my designs during the creative process we just become one.
Q: What has been the biggest struggle for you in building your fashion career?
A: I’m convinced when you’re so engulfed, so in love with your craft the struggles are like milestones conquered by repetition. The most difficult part is to satisfy the taste of different cultures and maintaining my touch and originality, lol. I hope that answered your question.
Q: Where do you find inspiration for your designs? Who or what has had the biggest influence on you as a designer?
A: My originality comes from within, architectural details inspires me, life inspires me I always have a wellspring of ideas, which is a blessing from God. For example, I’ll be creating wall art then I’ll jump and I’ll create a piece of furniture or I’ll create a jogging suit or a wedding dress. It’s all there for me ready to come out. Fabrics and notions inspire the design in me. Also, sometimes I create something putting together fabrics that I hand dye or embroider or hand paint just to execute my idea in a particular sketch.
Q: Tell us a little about your design process. How do you approach creating a new line or fashion piece?
A: Oftentimes, I visualize an event I create designs to suite that theme. I put together sketches and choose the color schemes and begin draping my mannequins using canvas and other soft fabrics attempting to make my line drawing into 3d molded form. Voila, a dress is created. The intriguing part is having a living model try it on for size to ensure all is well afterwards we cut, embellish, and sew. Another fitting on my special model this is like the final installment required. At this point, the collection is done ready for marketing and sales people to look at it.
Q: What advice would you give to other designers who are looking to break into the industry?
A: Always design from your heart never get influenced by anyone. Designing is an art and not merchandising no cookie cutters just because it’s safer. Dare to be different follow through on your own vision and simply be original, be the trendsetter and not a trend follower.
Q: Anything else you would like to talk about or share, please feel free to add your own questions!
A: Yes, I would like to mention that I’ve partnered with Terrance L. Shaw, CEO of VIP Exclusive Fashion. Together, we will bring our creativity reality. We both look forward to working with VIP Exclusive Model’s to showcase designs from the RT Collection.
You can stay up to date on Rania and her designs at the links below.