While doing my research on Sotra, a Saudi Arabian fashion brand featured in Dubai’s Fashion Week recently, I came across the word “thobe” or “thawb”. The standard Arabic word for “garment”, it usually refers to an ankle-length, long-sleeved tunic/robe. While Jeddah-based Sotra was originally started as a tunic-only brand, its uses of traditional designs with modern touches has created a new kind of thobe-chic.
As The New York Times pointed out in an article last June, Ramadan provides an opportunity-rich season for consumerism potentially rivalling that of Christmas that has so far gone largely untapped by western markets. However, Sotra gained its success by targeting Ramadan consumers by not only having the usual seasoned lines for spring/summer and fall/winter, but also “pre-Ramadan” and “Ramadan” collections. Sotra pieces often exhibit contrasts, whether it’s matte against shine, dark against light, traditional against modern, masculine against feminine, middle-eastern against western against eastern. Hoping to speak to a younger, more urban and upscale crowd with modern cuts and flirty fabrics and patterns, creators Nouf Hakeem and Mariam Bin Mahfouz have gained recognition for catering to women other designers are desperate to appeal to.
And so I award Sotra’s ready-to-wear line for the fall and winter of 2016 with The Taste Maven Stamp of Approval.