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VCUarts Qatar Highlights Health and Sustainability at Heya

January 30, 2022
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Dr. Khaled Saoud

Research-led breakthroughs aimed at building sustainable fashion in Qatar

Faculty members and alumni from VCUarts Qatar were part of the Heya Arabian Fashion Exhibition that took place in the second week of December, at Doha Exhibition & Convention Centre (DECC) in West Bay.

Dr. Khaled Saoud, Sonali Raman, Elizabeth Yang Ju, Lauren Morell, Noor Aburish and Rabab Abdulla from VCUarts Qatar were the participants at the 18th edition of this much-awaited annual event. Two premium booths with collections created by both faculty and alumni were also part of the exhibition.

On the opening night, which was attended by special guests and the public, Dr Saoud, Professor, Physics, Liberal Arts & Sciences, was the keynote speaker. He spoke on ‘The Role of Nanotechnology in Future Textiles and High Fashion’, focusing on nanotechnology’s role in enabling ‘absorption of Vitamin D through fabrics promoting health and wellbeing’.

According to Dr. Saoud, nanotechnology can help in introducing new properties in fabrics to enhance comfort, solve health problems, improve maintenance and durability, and boost environmental-friendliness.

“Nanotechnology enables the designing of next-generation textiles with multifunctional properties such as ultra-violet (UV) protection, anti-odor, antimicrobial, antistatic, breathability, durability, improved softness, better tear strength, water/spill repellency, and wrinkle resistance,” Dr. Saoud explained.

“At Heya, I presented a case study and displayed a prototype of a ‘vitamin D-friendly Preamble Abaya’ that helps prevent vitamin D deficiency. The study involved designing an abaya that absorbs the sun’s UVB rays to improve the synthesis of vitamin D by the skin while blocking the sun’s harmful UVC rays in extreme summer climates.  This is achieved by applying special silver nano-coating finishes on fabrics.”

Sonali Raman, Adjunct Professor, Fashion Design, led a panel discussion on the need for circular fashion in the fashion industry. On the panel was Lebanese born designer Roni Helou, a conscious ready-to-wear designer based between Doha and Beirut. Helou won the first Fashion Trust Arabia award in the ‘Ready-to-Wear’ category, and has since been invited by Sheikha Mayassa to set up his atelier in Doha. He is a champion of sustainability and animal rights.

Raman explained what circular fashion is, and highlighted the significance of imparting an awareness of the same to designers, especially at the university level.

“A circular fashion industry is defined as a regenerative system in which garments are circulated for as long as their maximum value is retained, and then returned safely to the biosphere when they are no longer of use,” she said. “Although recycling is considered to be an important component of sustainability, circularity takes things much further by bringing the concept of reducing waste to the beginning of the design process. The goal must be to evolve the apparel industry to a future where every material is used and reused safely, where ecosystems are protected and where people are provided with dignified work. 

“As educators who are a part of VCUarts Qatar, it is important for us to make our students aware and channel their creativity in the right direction towards building a circular fashion industry in Qatar. We need to encourage them to design with longevity, biodegradability and recyclability in mind. At the same time, we need to educate the consumers as well so that they can engage in a circular economic model by reusing, repairing and recycling the clothes they consume. Along with our students and alumni we need to take this message forward to both the creative community and consumers in Qatar.”

Additionally, Raman, and Ju, and alumni Morell, Aburish and Abdallah, had their respective labels showcased at two booths at the event.

Photographs by Markus Elblaus.