CIIN’s Exclusive Interview With Jordanian Fashion Designer Reema Dahbour
Fashion designer Reema Dahbour has found her success in the most unlikely of places, the Palestinian cross-stitch. The embroidery of the Palestinian people is particularly heavy in history and memories of their homeland. Reema Dahbour has taken this stitch and catapulted it into the future, something that few have been able to do with authenticity and pride.
Starting her career in the world of suiting Reema Dahbour has over the years created a niche for herself. A brand synonymous with quality and sophistication, Reema locally challenged the difficult world of suiting, in a category of fashion where cut and fabric are everything. Reema painstakingly sourced talented pattern-cutters and international fabric vendors that could support her eponymous label. When she did detour to the world of customised and ready-to-wear occasion wear, she had done the hard work, her network ready to support her next big thing. Always tasteful and self-assured, today Reema Dahbour is a prominent name in the world of modern evening wear. Her designs bring joy and happiness to people; worn mostly on special occasions such as Katb Al Kitab and weddings, the Palestinian embroidery becomes part of a person’s journey, the stitches themselves telling the tale. Perhaps the word that I associate most with Reema is ‘disciplined’, not the sexiest of words I must admit, it is however the secret sauce of success. Disciplined as in consistent, disciplined as in focused, disciplined as in forward-thinking and strategic.. If success is at the heart of your business then disciplined is as sexy as it gets… Speaking of discipline, I usually weave conversations I have with subjects into my piece. Reema’s answers were so spot-on, I didn’t feel I could add anything to them, so here is our conversation as is, enjoy!
So How Did You Transition From Purely Suiting Which Is Primarily Ready-To-Wear, To A More Customized Bridal Business Model?
After years of having very close relationships with my clients, getting to know them on a deeper level, and understanding their lifestyle I realized that it was easy to transition into different parts and areas of their life. I use clothing as a medium to express the beauty of the inspiring women who I come across. I found it important to give women confidence on their important days, from the conference room to their engagement or their wedding day. The core of my brand revolves around the Arab woman who dresses for herself and expresses her culture through her clothing, I find it crucial that my brand feels different than any other western brand a woman would wear, it needs to be a conversation starter. To add, I also acknowledged the need to expand into designs that were more customizable and involved more handwork and details.
How Did This Transition Take Place?
It was an organic transition where I felt like My designs fit with my clients’ different aspects of life, I really understood how women express themselves through their style. I also realized the need to expand into designs that were more personalized and incorporated more handwork and details. I understood this when I saw that most designers in Jordan were imitating well established brands at a competitive price point and I wanted my brand to be more than that. I found my passion after years of being a designer in creating garments with motifs that represent the origin of couture work from our region. I was also able to work closely with local artisans and learn about the history of the different crafts that I tell to my clients once each piece is purchased.
Please Tell Us More About The Embroidery Work Itself. Is It Handmade? Is There A CSR Element Behind It? And Is It According To City, Or Is Just Inspired By..
Yes, it’s all handmade by locals. With each purchase, there’s a chain of people who benefit from this garment. All our embroidery workers are women who are paid fairly and make a livelihood out of working with us, including the ones who create the beadwork on the garments. Also it’s worth mentioning that our goal is to keep the cross stitch work alive and saving it from being lost to digital embroidery showing the younger generation that this craft is worth learning, holding onto, and passing it down From generation to generation.
How Would You Describe Your Brands Target Audience, And Or Niche Today?
Modern women who are mindful about their purchases and want to represent their heritage through their clothing. Our garments are more than a price you pay for a dress, the value of these garments are priceless where each piece takes months and months of work , research about the origins of the client and colors and motifs included as well as beading with thousands of the most luxurious crystals on each gown. The women who wear these garments are not only Arab but are citizens from all over the world. Our garments are for women who appreciate well made, valuable clothes with a wonderful story.
Where Are Your Customers Primarily From, Which Markets?
Our clients are Mostly Arab women that are living abroad, my Arab American clients love to wear traditional inspired garments on their celebrations. Our second largest market is the UAE. I’ve recently had clients from the Netherlands and Venezuela as well. I was pleased to know how many women loved wearing such valuable garments outside our region.
Do You Still Do Suiting?
Yes but after COVID and the new way of working we are redefining suiting for the modern workplace so stay tuned!
How Has Covid Affected Your Business Model, And Your Customer’s Choices?
COVID has changed the way we think about every aspect of our business and supply chain. It has also changed the way our clients place their orders. They have become more comfortable with our online ordering system and virtual fittings which is helping our brand to reach new markets and satisfy clients no matter where they are in the world.
How Does Social Media Play Into Your Business?
I started my business on social media and so thankful to the audience that has been following me. It has helped me to learn more about my potential client and have them get to know me more and who the people behind the brand more. It has also helped me communicate my ideas regarding making my brand a more sustainable and ethical brand which will hopefully influence people’s decisions in their next purchases and supporting a local brand.
What Advice Do You Have For Young Designers That Are Just Getting Started?
- Make sure which aspect of fashion you really love, not each person whose passionate about fashion should be a designer, there are so many different aspects of fashion one can specialize in that designers really need the support of.
- Don’t quit your day job and make sure you get proper training or mentorship before jumping all in. I personally didn’t have the opportunity to learn from other designers mistakes since only a handful of designers were active in Jordan back then but gaining knowledge from other designers experiences can be a great asset for your future career.
- Find your niche, the fashion world is crowded more than ever so find out what it is that you want to create and how you will make a sustainable change to the world around you with your designs.