Growing up being inspired by her mother’s luxury closet full of Chanel, Versace and Yves Saint Laurent suits, and collecting images from magazines from her bedroom in Jeddah, Arwa Al Banawi made the realization that there was something about fashion that she truly loved. Living within Saudi Arabia at the time, the young womenswear designer had no fashion design school to indulge her interests and took to studying textiles and books from which she began to understand the skill of draping.
When the London College of Fashion opened its doors for students in Dubai, Arwa took the opportunity to enroll herself in the fashion courses that would eventually lead her to launching her own brand in 2015, under her own name. Now, in 2019, Arwa Al Banawi operates out of Dubai’s infamous Design District and is a known label amongst fashion insiders. Merging Saudi cultural and traditional sensibilities via print with powerful tailoring, Al Banawi makes it clear that Saudi Arabia holds a strong narrative in each of her collections.
Entitled The Saudi Dream, Arwa Al Banawi’s latest collection is in collaboration with Pepsi, and Saudi artist and photographer, Ali Chaban and features Saudi model, Shahad Salman who poses with Chaban’s carpet creations that were custom made for the retro inspired shoot.
On her collaboration with Pepsi in which she features the iconic logo as it was in the 50s right through to its brand development throughout the decades until the 80s, Arwa explained to Vogue Arabia, “I explained to Pepsi that my inspiration is Saudi youth street culture, its authenticity, creativity, humble streets, and people. I can’t recall one Friday without ordering from a street food place called Al Beit – and you had to have Pepsi. And there were those Friday lunches at your grandmother’s house, with fried fish from the market, rice, lamb, and, again, Pepsi.”
The Saudi Dream collection also boasts vintage inspired prints, alongside the Pepsi logo – in both English and Arabic, in fabrics that reminded her of the types she would come across in the souks of her hometown, “Every fabric has a purpose. I keep reminding myself to open my senses and eyes to new things, cultures, and technologies. It’s the only way to keep evolving in a creative industry.”
This collection is a real trip down memory lane with on trend 90s cuts layered with Saudi inspired oversized pieces, and not to mention the unique tailoring that Al Banawi is known for, as collarless oversized blazers, box pleated trousers are styled effortlessly with pieces that embody an athleisure take on the traditional Saudi thobe in the form of t-shirts and sweatpants, and for a modest touch, the collection’s hoodies come in the shape of an abaya which leaves no use for an actual hijab.
Speaking about the practicality of The Saudi Dream collection, Al Banawi states, “It’s all about how the Saudi woman can wear those pieces to work under her abaya or after work at a dinner and feel and look both modern and practical.”