Sakina Shbib on how her fashion fuses Arabic techniques with French femininity

As the first Franco-Saudi designer to graduate from the revered Chambre Nationale de la Haute Couture in Paris, Sakina Shbib has spent the last decade bridging elements of both cultures for her collections.

He prides himself on mixing Western and Middle Eastern identities and likes to “celebrate the coming together” of them. In addition, she divides her time between the French capital, where she is based in her Sakina Paris atlier, and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with the goal of capturing the spirit of both for her growing number of fashion fans.

“My style combines French femininity with bright, cheerful colors and a love of handmade embroidery, which is so highly regarded in Arab culture,” she says. The National.

Shbib’s aptitude for fashion was sparked at a very young age by his mother, who became his “lifetime inspiration”.

“She was a dressmaker and I grew up watching her creativity and hard work,” she says.

As a young student, Shbib began taking drawing classes and developed a strong appreciation for creativity. “I loved that moment of contemplation when I watched my mother draw a pattern with a pen or use sewing needles to finish her clients’ dresses,” he says.

Furthermore, it was the “peace and beauty” she found in a fashion atelier that astounded her.

On her 15th birthday, Shbib’s mother gave her a Singer sewing machine, and by the age of 18, she had taught herself to make a dress.

“People always told me my wardrobe was beautiful and asked me where my dresses came from. I thought people’s reactions were the best gratification and this was the moment I started thinking seriously about a career in fashion.” He says.

Today, Shbib designs, manufactures and sells his pieces in his Parisian workshop. Her dresses are for women “who want to be elegant and who value quality” and she describes her style as “classic, but with a touch of color”.

The Sakina Paris woman is “active, successful and stylish without being intimidating or old-fashioned,” she says. Shbib aims to create contemporary pieces to wear in 2022, though she hopes they will stand the test of time and remain stylish as the decades roll by.

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She says her “entrepreneurial inspiration” comes from her Saudi husband, who has taught her to “dream big, but take small risks” along the way.

Shbib also admires the fashion designers of his generation, such as Amina Muaddi or Jeanne Damas. “I love how they built their brands with a strong artistic vision that became not just fashion items, but an entire lifestyle for girls who can relate to them.”

And he also learned from the biggest names in international fashion, such as Chanel, Givenchy and Alexandre Vauthier after graduating from the Chambre Nationale de la Haute in 2012.

“I immediately began to develop my technique in the Chanel atelier, first as an embroiderer within haute couture collections and art trades,” she adds.

Sakina Paris haute couture collections.  Photo: Marleen Serne

After a few years, he also worked in quality management, saying: “I have learned the rigor of haute couture and the specifics of the requirements of an elite clientele.”

She joined Alexandre Vauthier in 2015 and spent a year as a sewing assistant, after which she joined Givenchy as a pattern designer for the ready-to-wear collections.

Shbib launched his brand in 2017, at the age of 28, when he “felt strong enough to take on the challenge” and opened a small atelier in the 8th arrondissement of Paris with a small team of three assistants and a relationship manager. public.

“What I’ve learned working for large fashion companies is that success requires a large team of different technical experts and each department depends on each of the talents that make up a large chain through strong management,” says Shbib, who now he is 33 years old.

However, the most important element of any high-end garment is the finish, she says. “This is the first thing I learned working in the French maisons de couture, hence the choice to have, for example, French seams on my dresses, instead of mere overlocking, or to have a hand-sewn blind hem on my coats” .

These details strongly reflect French savoir faire, but its Saudi influences manifest in “a strong expression of beauty with a more sophisticated approach.” “French style is elegance with a certain amount of minimalism,” she says.

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He exclusively designs dresses and defines his signature piece as a tailored garment that “maintains beautiful well-finished construction lines.”

“I don’t promote pants, for example, simply because the symbol of femininity is very dear to my heart,” she adds. “I love it when a dress can highlight certain elements of beauty, such as an accentuated waist or a slit on one leg that reveals the fluidity of walking. It doesn’t matter if the dress remains classic or tastefully seductive, as long as it’s feminine.” . especially.

“I want women to feel strong and empowered. A dress is like armor. It protects you, but it’s also a style element that gives you confidence.”

Sakina Shbib divides her time between Paris and Jeddah.  Photo: Yen Losset

In her latest collection, she uses specific materials and style references that echo French folklore, such as Dentelle de Calais-Caudry, which is lace made only in the north of France, while Vichy patterns celebrate the culture brasserie and the polka. points “will take you back to the summer of the south of France”.

“However, my color palettes are inspired by my Middle Eastern heritage,” she adds. “In particular, I love wearing reds, oranges and pinks. My signature on a haute couture dress is handmade embroidery and crystals – this is a style element that is appreciated by Arab women.”

Looking back on his career, Shbib says his journey took a slightly different route than he had initially envisioned. “She was a bit naive about what it meant to be an entrepreneur,” she says.

“I thought I would spend days and days in my workshop drawing, prototyping garments and sourcing materials from the fabric market. But instead I became a small business owner whose interests lie mainly in management, recruiting, staff training, work organization and logistics, accounting, budgeting and meetings to the point where expressing your creativity is challenged by other obligations.”

She says she wouldn’t “change the role for anything else in the world”, however, as seeing her artistic vision come to life is extremely rewarding.

“What is also a fundamental element of a fashion career is the relationship with the client,” she says. “You have to know what women like, what they want and don’t want to wear.”

When she started, Shbib remembers thinking that all women had the same body type and lifestyle.

“My first collection was mostly super glam dresses with the same construction,” she says. “I based my creativity on my ideal woman instead of real women.”

When I worked for the couture houses, the prototype size was 36 and the models on the runway had exactly the same body structure. “As I matured more in my vision, I discovered that most women have some insecurities,” she says. “Most of them don’t like their hips and legs, or they tend to prefer stretchy fabrics for comfort.”

She realized that “good designers” have to think about these practicalities before presenting a collection, while offering a variety of dresses that relate to different lifestyles and body types. She also wanted to master this art without changing her artistic identity.

“With the prominence of social media as a means of communication, it’s also very helpful to get feedback from customers and gather information about what women like best,” she says.

While her business remains in Paris and her dresses are available to buy online, she hopes to one day expand to the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia. “I think the country will be booming with new talent in the next five years,” she says.

In particular, Shbib cites the government’s new plans for the fashion sector as an opportunity. “It will mean that the young Saudi generation can learn the creativity, artistic inspirations and a host of techniques of the fashion industry without having to move to Paris.

“I think girls of my generation want to be financially independent, successful in business but still beautiful, confident and outspoken,” she adds. “We live in a generation where self-expression through social media is more important than ever.”

Updated: August 26, 2022, 3:21 am