“Ever since I was young, I used clothing as a reflection of my personality and interests,” says Najla Al-Eida.
For, Al-Eida, who graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Art in Fashion Design this year, studying design was a natural progression of this childhood inclination towards creativity. After studying design at VCUarts Qatar, though, she says the four-year program did more than channel her creativity; it gave her the courage to celebrate and interpret her culture through her own eyes.
“Throughout my life I have lived in a paradox of my own, as an introvert it was hard for me to express my ideas to my surrounding,” she explains. “I kept my bold thoughts regarding culture, identity etc., to myself. However, as I started experimenting with ideas and techniques in the fashion major, I challenged the existing norms. After all, as a designer, it’s part of my job to offer different pathways for individuals to express themselves and not get stuck in a niche market.”
Najla says that she’s reached a chapter in her life when she’s developed ways to express herself in an “unapologetic manner”.
“I feel like my collection screams ‘This is me, and these are my thoughts’,” says the Class of 2022 graduate. “My collection ‘Confessions of a Local’, offers a platform for expression under the uniform of the ‘thobe’ and the ‘abaya’. I used the essence of my culture to create an altered khaleeji anti-form.
“The collection focuses heavily on the concept on upcycling, especially to preserve the essence of the traditional clothing seen throughout the collection. I can’t – and don’t want to – limit my outlook in life to one concept. I’d rather keep it evolving and open for experimentation.”
The young designer says that to get to the point where she could confidently express herself through her designs, she first needed to gain a thorough understanding of what fashion design was all about. A process which, according to her, taught her a lot, including letting go of a few notions that she had about fashion design prior to joining VCUarts Qatar.
“Thanks to VCUarts Qatar, I have a well-rounded knowledge of what fashion design is,” she says. “However, whatever notions I had about the glitz and glamour associated with fashion quickly faded on the very first day. I saw, firsthand, the effort and collaboration that goes into ideation, material selection, all the way to tailoring and the final finished collection. But it’s that knowledge that made me realize how the development of each design, of each collection, is a new start that gives me yet another chance to show the world who I am. That, for me, is empowering.”
Designs by Najla Al-Eida. Photograph by Baiba Jakubaite