Timeless and elegant are the signature words you’ll find on Dina Melwani’s mood board. The fashion designer, who combines simplicity with a feel of luxury, always keeps the words happiness and empowerment in mind while she’s busy creating too. After starting her UAE-based brand in 2015, Melwani has ensured all her pieces are made from premium quality fabrics from places like Italy and Japan. Her latest collection, which is available at Atelier Des Artistes in Dubai, features some inspiration from India, the hand embroidery she loves using and leans towards the conservative palate she has come to embrace.
We talk to the designer about the collection, her fashion irks and the people in the news who have been influencing styles the most. We also discovered she’s a talented singer and would love to appear on “Project Runway!”
How did you develop your interest in fashion design?
I had an interest in fashion design since a young age. At 12 I started painting school, and within the first year I won several national and international painting contests. Later on, I was able to translate this love for creativity into what I am doing today. Creating something new every day gives me a tremendous amount of pleasure.
Further to this, when I shop, I enjoy looking for particular items that highlight my advantages and make me look elegant and classy. It was always my belief that clothing can determine one’s level of confidence. My interest for fashion developed further when I started designing for myself, creating garments that I wasn’t able to find in stores. Presently, when I design I always have my clients in mind. What would make them happy and empowered? There is a truly overwhelming satisfaction when a client is happy with our designs. This feeling is what created and maintains my interest in fashion design.
How has your personal history influenced your views on fashion?
In Cahul, a small town in Moldova, there were very few options on television during my childhood. The only channel that I enjoyed was an Indian programme translated in Russian showing old Bollywood movies. I ended up marrying an Indian man with a wonderful family, which welcomed me into their home and introduced me to their culture. Therefore, in my new collection, I took some inspiration from the Indian culture in terms of fabrics and embroidery. I love using hand embroidery in my garments as it gives garments a feel of luxury and uniqueness. My views on fashion after marrying my husband definitely changed. I have become more conservative in my choice of clothing. Therefore, the dresses I do now are more timeless, elegant and classic.
Everyone has to start somewhere. What was your first job?
I started my career in the property business as an agent. However, I was always attracted to fashion design, and I would always find myself sketching designs. Therefore, I enrolled myself in a summer course at Esmod University, which was followed later on by two other courses at the London College of Fashion.
So how important do you think it is for wanna-be fashion designers to attend fashion schools?
Although I am mostly self-taught, I do believe a degree in Fashion Design is very important to put the base of one’s career in this industry. In the past, I’ve taken short courses in fashion design, but these courses only encompass the very basics of drawing, creating mood boards and consequently creating collections. The inspiration has to firstly come from within. Initially, one has to have a vision, and then approach this vision from a business point of view. In my case, I’ve learned about the fashion design business by doing things myself and learning through mistakes. I’ve learned about fabrics by going to the market every day, visiting exhibitions and by meeting my international suppliers. I have also been able to learn more abut pattern making from my highly skilled cutter. I truly enjoy participating in pattern making and draping the fabric on the mannequin. It’s very important to love what you do.
It is possible to learn fashion design through experience and from people around you, however it takes a tremendous amount of time, hunger for knowledge and dedication to get to understand this business.
Why did you choose to launch your latest collection at Atelier Des Artistes?
Along with their own brand, Atelier des Artistes features wonderful designers such as Shady Zeineldine and Lilly Spina. It is an honour for me to be in this store along with them. I truly feel that Atelier Des Artistes provide a unique range of designs whereby anyone can find something that reflects their individual style and taste, so I am very happy to be there.
Tell us a bit about the collection.
The collection’s inspiration is deeply drawn from luxury and the high fashion culture. Our company’s goal is to maintain the highest level of quality for its products by utilising premium quality fabrics, whilst ensuring that flawless construction and tailoring techniques are always used. In this collection we used fabrics from Italy, Spain, France and Japan. As mentioned above, in my new collection, one can see some Indian influences here and there, and we do use a lot of hand embroidery as well.
How would you describe your personal style?
Classic is definitely the word. I always like to play it safe, and I do feel that it is important to have clothing that one can still wear years later. Clothing should be an investment and not something worn just during one season.
What parts of the job do you love and hate the most?
I absolutely love creating, meeting new people every day, going to stores, meeting clients and creating for them, dealing with suppliers, going to factories, dealing with stores outside the UAE etc. etc. There is nothing about my job that I don’t like. Perhaps keeping inventory is not my strongest point, therefore I hired someone to keep track of everything as we deal with many suppliers all over the world and it can be hard for me to keep track of everything.
Which current fashion trend makes no sense to you?
Anything to do with fur doesn't make sense to me. I feel that nowadays one has so many options in terms of winter clothing, which can be put together into a stylish outfit that looks expensive and classy. Therefore the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent animals is absolutely unnecessary. Fashion doesn't have to be cruel.
What hobbies do you have?
I do like to sing and I did have two songs that were successful in the past. I sang with a very famous Indian singer, Sukhbir. The songs were played in Europe as well as in India. However, singing requires travelling, and being a wife and a mother I had to prioritise.
Does it help inspire you?
Music always plays in my office and it definitely inspires me. It transports me to a happy place, and I create better with music.
Which celebrities do you think are having the most impact on fashion right now?
Kate Middleton, whatever she wears flies off the shelves. Even today fashion is impacted by the past. Fashion icons such as Grace Kelly, Jacqueline Kennedy and Katherine Hepburn are still inspiring many modern designers.
Who is your dream client?
I have a lot of clients who are the perfect representation of what I would assume a dream client is. A dream client is a person who clearly knows what she wants, who is not afraid to express her creativity and is just nice, friendly and polite. On many occasions I find that my clients are extremely talented themselves, and they inspire my future creations.
Would you consider going on a reality show, like “Project Runway?”
I would absolutely love to, however I am very bad with the stitching machine, and I feel it would take me forever to finish something. Nonetheless the idea of a reality show would be exciting for me.