📘 E-Issue 05 ––VCE Fall 2022
  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in VCE
  3. Pop(Corn): UAE National Pavilion
  4. Rapport: Venice
  5. Zeitgeist of our Time: Füsun Onur for the Turkish Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale
  6. GAD’s Top Picks: National Pavilions
  7. Strangers to the Museum Wall: Kehinde Wiley’s Venice Exhibition Speaks of Violence and Portraiture
  8. Questioning Everyday Life: Alluvium by Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian at OGR Torino in Venice

📒 E-Issue 04 ––IST Spring 2022
  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in IST
  3. Pop(Corn): Refik Anadol
  4. Rapport: Istanbul
  5. Independent Spaces in Istanbul: Sarp Özer on Operating AVTO

E-04++ Spring/Summer 2022
Creating an Artist Books Library in Istanbul: Aslı Özdoyuran on BAS
How Pearl Lam Built Her Gallery Between China and Europe
What’s On in the UAE: Our Top Summer Picks
DXB Art Jameel Joins The World Weather Network in a Groundbreaking Response to Global Climate Crisis
DXB “Geometry is Everywhere”: An Interview and Walking Tour of Order of Magnitude, Jitish Kallat’s Solo Exhibition at Dubai’s Ishara Art Foundation
“We Are Witnessing History”: Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian On Their Retrospective Exhibition at NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery
 Istanbul’s 5533 Presents Nazlı Khoshkhabar’s “Around and Round”
HK Startbahn Presents “Made in Japan 3.0: Defining a New Phy-gital Reality”, an NFT Pop-Up at K11 Art Mall
DXB Dubai's Postmodern Architecture: Constructing the Future with 3dr Models
📘 E-Issue 03 –– TYO Fall 2021
  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in TYO
  3. Pop(Corn): Nimyu
  4. Ahmad The Japanese: Bady Dalloul on Japan and Belonging
  5. Rapport: Tokyo 
  6. Alexandre Taalba Redefines Virtuality at The 5th Floor
  7. Imagining Distant Ecologies in Hypersonic Tokyo: A Review of “Floating Between the Tropical and Glacial Zones”
  8. Ruba Al-Sweel Curates “Garden of e-arthly Delights” at SUMAC Space
  9. Salwa Mikdadi Reflects on the Opening of NYU Abu Dhabi’s Arab Center for the Study of Art

E-03++ Fall/Winter 2021-22
Art Dubai Digital, An Alternative Art World?
Must-See Exhibitions in Dubai - Art Week Edition 2022
Prepare The Ingredients and Let The Rest Flow: Miramar and Zaid’s “Pure Data” Premieres at Satellite for Quoz Arts Fest 2022
 Akira Takayama on McDonald’s Radio University, Heterotopia, and Wagner Project
AUH Woman as a Noun, and a Practice: “As We Gaze Upon Her” at Warehouse421
AAN The Labor of Art and the Art of Labor: Christopher Benton on His First Exhibition in Al Ain
IST “Once Upon a Time Inconceivable”: A Review and a Conversation
RUH Misk Art Institute’s Annual Flagship Exhibition Explores the Universality of Identity
RUH HH Prince Fahad Al Saud Discusses Saudi Arabia’s Artistic Renaissance
Engage101 Presents “Connected, Collected” at Sotheby’s Dubai

📕 E-Issue 02
NYC Spring 2021
  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in NYC
  3. Pop(Corn): Zeid Jaouni
  4. You Can Take The Girl Out Of The City 
  5. Rapport: NYC
  6. Kindergarten Records Discuss The Future of Electronic Music
  7. Sole DXB Brings NY Hip-Hop To Abu Dhabi
  8. Wei Han Finds ‘Home’ In New York
  9. Vikram Divecha: Encounters and Negotiations

E-02++ Spring/Summer 2021
DXB “After The Beep”: A Review and Some Reflections
OSA Rintaro Fuse Curates “Silent Category” at Creative Center Osaka
AUH “Total Landscaping”at Warehouse 421
TYO “Mimicry of Hollows” Opens at The 5th Floor
TYO Startbahn, Japan’s Leading Art Blockchain Company, Builds a New Art Infrastructure for the Digital Age
DXB There Is A You In The Cloud You Can’t Delete: A Review of “Age of You” at Jameel Arts Centre
BAH Mihrab: Mysticism, Devotion, and Geo-Identity
LDN Fulfilment Services Ltd. Questions Techno-Capitalism on Billboards in London
DXB Ana Escobar: Objects Revisited
TYO BIEN Opens Two Solo Exhibitions in Island Japan and Parcel
CTU/AUH/YYZ Sabrina Zhao: Between Abu Dhabi, Sichuan, and Toronto
RUH Noor Riyadh Shines Light on Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Art Strategy
DXB A Riot Towards Landscapes
DXB A ‘Menu Poem’ and All That Follows
DXB Alserkal Art Week Top Picks 
DXB Permeability and Regional Nodes: Sohrab Hura on Curating Growing Like a Tree at Ishara Art Foundation
AUH Re-viewing Contrasts: Hyphenated Spaces at Warehouse421
DXB There’s a Hurricane at the Foundry

📙 E-Issue 01 –– AUH/DXB Summer 2020 
  1. Editor’s Note 
  2. What’s On in the UAE
  3. Pop(Corn): Hashel Al Lamki
  4. Tailoring in Abu Dhabi
  5. Rapport: Dubai 
  6. Michael Rakowitz From the Diaspora

E-01++ Fall/Winter 2020-21
GRV MIA Anywhere Hosts First Virtual Exhibition of Female Chechen Artists    
DXB Sa Tahanan Collective Redefines Home for Filipino Artists
SHJ Sharjah Art Foundation Jets Ahead on the Flying Saucer
AUH SEAF Cohort 7 at Warehouse 421 
DXB 101 Strikes Again with Second Sale at Alserkal Avenue
DXB Spotlight on Dubai Design Week 2020
DXB Melehi’s Waves Complicate Waving Goodbye
DXB Kanye Says Listen to the Kids: Youth Takeover at Jameel Arts Centre
DAM Investigating the Catalogues of the National Museum of Damascus
AUH Ogamdo: Crossing a Cultural Highway between Korea and the UAE
TYO James Jarvis Presents Latest Collages at 3110NZ
DXB Do You See Me How I See You?
DXB Thaely Kicks Off Sustainable Sneakers
AUH BAIT 15 Welcomes New Member Zuhoor Al Sayegh
MIA a_part Gives Artists 36 Hours to React

UAE Tawahadna Introduces MENA Artists to a Global Community
LHR/CAI Alaa Hindia’s Jewelry Revives Egyptian Nostalgia
DXB Taaboogah Infuses Comedy Into Khaleeji Menswear
DXB Meet Tamila Kochkarova Behind ‘No Boys Allowed’
DXB Alserkal Arts Foundation Presents Mohamed Melehi
AUH/DXB 101 Pioneers Ethical and Curious Art Collecting
AUH Sarah Almehairi Initiates Conversations
DXB Augustine Paredes Taking Up Space
LHR/MCT Hanan Sultan Rhymes Frankincense with Minimalism
BEY GAD Map: Arts & Culture Relief for Beirut

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🗃️ Archive Year 2018 
    NYC Shirin Neshat In Conversation with Sophie Arni and Ev Zverev
    PAR Hottest Spices: Michèle Lamy
    BER Slavs and Tatars: “Pulling a Thread to Undo The Sweater”
   AUH Abu Dhabi Is The New Calabasas

🎙️ GAD Talk Series –– Season 1 2020
   1. What is GAD? 2015 to Now

    2. Where is GAD? An Open Coversation on Migration as Art Practitioners

    3. When the Youth Takes Over: Reflecting on the 2020 Jameel Arts Centre Youth Takeover
   4. Young Curators in Tokyo: The Making of The 5th Floor
    5. How To Create Digital Networks in The Art World?

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4. Tailoring in Abu Dhabi

By Sophie Arni

Published on August 1, 2020

        Between Pre-Fall, Fall/Winter, Spring/Summer, Cruise, and countless other seasonal variations, the luxury ready-to-wear industry has been functioning under a “more is more” mantra for this past decade. More fashion shows, more followers, more it-bags, more store openings, and more pop-up activations have allowed conglomerates such as LVMH or Kering to increase their sales quantities while retaining or increasing their profit margins. Fast-fashion giants such as Zara, H&M, Topshop, Urban Outfitters have also contributed to the sentiment that clothes are part of a collective rush to consumerism and instant gratification.

1. AUH cropped abaya. Designer: Sophie Arni for GAD x abu dhabi F/W 2017. Styled and produced in Abu Dhabi, UAE

COVID-19 seems to have put a break to this frenzy. At the top, Gucci has declared it would change its current production cycle. Other luxury giants might follow. While retail might come out stronger after the pandemic — taking other shapes and forms and highlighting “experiential” elements — production cycles for both luxury ready-to-wear and fast fashion might resurge with different schedules and supply chain priorities.

Twenty-first century global circulation has permitted many brands and designers to produce garments cheaply and quickly, but it has also diminished the experience of face-to-face engagement traditionally associated with the textile industry. Tainted by stories of overworked laborers, crowded factories, and pollution, the fashion supply chain has lost much of the magic of its precious craftsmanship.

However, some recent developments have highlighted a surge towards more sustainability and personal connection. First, with vintage fashion. Resell websites have skyrocketed over the past few years, up to the point that buying “pre-loved” is the new way to shop for luxury handbags. These initiatives highlight a desire for sustainability and conscious shopping. Knowing that we can resell our clothes or bags once we get tired of them helps process a decision to buy a piece that will survive throughout years, if not decades. Recent Tik Tok and Youtube videos have also propelled “DIY fashion” to Gen Z teenagers, evoking an appetite for a genuine personal connection to clothes. Cutting, sewing, replacing a button, or a broken zipper may have become rare skills for our new generation, but that is perhaps about to change.

2. GAD x abu dhabi F/W 2017 campaign. Creative Direction: Sophie Arni. Photo: Ev Zverev.

Another way to gain back the precious connection to our garments is to produce our own clothes. This was my personal journey in Abu Dhabi, about three years ago. Tired of saggy sleeves, short pants hem, and other odd fittings synonymous with fast-fashion purchases, I decided to start buying fabrics and work with local tailors to produce a capsule collection. Creating ready-to-wear pieces in the exact color, fabric, and shape I wanted was empowering. Amazed at how affordable the process was, I kept going back to the tailors month after month. I would like to share some tips and tricks I learned along the way. Hopefully, I will inspire our readers in and outside the United Arab Emirates to start thinking of tailoring as the new sustainable fashion alternative (once pandemic restrictions are lifted of course).

Jumping from a fashion consumer to producer was eye-opening on many levels.

Jumping from a fashion consumer to producer was eye-opening on many levels. First, I realized the complexities of a garment: how easy it is to make t-shirts compared to a suit jacket for example. It seems obvious, but it is not until I saw the process of constructing pockets and shoulders that I understood the value of straight stitching. Second, I learned about how a particular fabric would age, wash, and shrink by seeing reluctant tailors react to my requests. Linen, for example, is a tricky fabric: it creases easily and is not so flexible. Creating a pair of oversized linen pants seems like a good idea until you receive the garment back.

Abu Dhabi was a perfect city to start this tailoring experience journey. The United Arab Emirates has a long history of textile trade with India and the rest of Asia. The local fashion of abaya and kundura favor long cloak silhouettes, and tailors make up an important part of the local fashion economy. In Abu Dhabi, tailor studios and fabric shops are concentrated around Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre, the oldest mall in the city. Fabric shops range in their history and quality. Some have been there for decades, others come and go as business flourishes or shrinks. 

Abu Dhabi’s fabric shops have nothing to envy to the ones in New York City’s Garment District. They propose an incredible selection of cotton, silks, velvets, silk blends, cashmere, linen, and high-quality rayon and polyester. While fabric such as denim may be more difficult to source, materials for flowy silhouettes are plentiful. Most fabrics come from South Korea and Japan, which are considered to be excellent quality and appreciated by local clientele. Embroidery is another asset of Abu Dhabi’s tailoring scene. Many skillful embroiderers from neighboring India have set up shop in the Madinat Zayed area and, for a just price, will make your wildest embroidery wishes come to life with Swarovski crystals, faux pearls, and other gems. Below is my step-by-step guide to produce a silk t-shirt in the UAE’s capital. 

1. Pick your fabric

My top 3 fabric shops in Abu Dhabi, in no particular order, are:

  • Malik & Shaheed Store: this corner shop is a staple of the neighborhood. It is famous for providing tailors with the necessary tools and accessories needed to produce their pieces. Elastic bands, ribbons of all kinds, pins, needles, buttons, Swarovski crystals counted by the dozens, and zippers are just some of the gems you can find in this shop. I would go there if I needed something extra holding up my shirt, perhaps buttons, or an embroidered pocket sleeve. They also have a second floor dedicated to a small selection of fabrics.

  • Al Omara Textiles: right next to Malik & Shaheed, opposite Madinat Zayed back entrance. This is one of the biggest fabric shops in the neighborhood. Prices are acceptable, and you can always haggle prices down if you buy more than one fabric. They have two entire floors of pure silks, silk blends, cotton, linens, see-through mesh, stretchy velvets, jacquards, and corduroy. The list goes on. Color selection is also impressive. I found the perfect brown taupe pure silk for about 20 dirhams a meter (about 5 US dollars). You will need approximately 2 meters of fabric for a t-shirt.

  • Al Omara Textiles inside Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre: on the ground floor of Madinat Zayed mall, opposite Co-op supermarket and across from the Etisalat counter. A good friend of mine introduced me to this shop in 2016, and I was happy to revisit it in March 2020 right before the coronavirus lockdown. At the time, the shop was still open and operating. This is a small shop inside the Madinat Zayed mall but don’t let its size fool you. The selection is pretty extensive for the space they have. They also have a secret ceiling trap, which I was always curious about, leading to a hidden stock of fabric. The advantage of shopping in a smaller space is the customer attention you receive. Someone will take care of you, from start to finish, and guide you through your purchases. I cannot praise Al Omara’s shopkeepers enough. They will recommend specific fabrics with color books and swatches and will cut the material for you. They will also always discount the final price depending on the quantity of fabric you buy. If you are running short on time or it’s your first time shopping for fabrics, I would go there over the larger Al Omara Textiles.

3. Al Omara Textiles inside Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre, Abu Dhabi, 2020. 

2. Decide on your preferred silhouette

I would recommend a couple of preparations before going to see a tailor. First, I would think of a concrete silhouette idea. In this case, it would be a simple t-shirt. You need to know how you want it to fit: tight or loose, cropped or long. How do you want the collar to look? It is often easy to dismiss these details when buying ready-to-wear pieces, but asking them is key in the tailoring process. Second tip would be to bring your favorite t-shirt to the tailor. This is an almost fool-proof way to be satisfied with the final result. Handing over your existing garment to the tailor alongside the cut fabric will give tailors the exact dimensions to work with, and will make cutting patterns easier for them.

3. Go to the tailor

Once you have your 2 meters or so of fabric — in this case, pure silk to make a simple t-shirt — with your master garment, head over to the tailor’s studio. Since a t-shirt is an easy garment with no extra frills, I paid about 30 dirhams [6 US dollars] to have it made and it took about a week to finish.

There are plenty of tailors both inside and outside the vicinity of Madinat Zayed mall, and you can ask the fabric shopkeepers directly for their recommendations in the neighborhood. I personally worked with two tailors before settling on my preferred tailor, who unfortunately closed his shop a few years after I left Abu Dhabi.  

From my experience, the ideal situation is finding a tailor who is kind and enthusiastic about his craft, but most importantly someone with experience who can showcase their previous designs. It is always a good idea to check the tailor’s previous work for the quality of stitching on the garment. Look at the studio as well. You want to find a clean, well-presented space that also has good working conditions.

Another tip is to trust the tailor’s specialty. Particular tailors are skilled in making menswear pants, jackets and suits (rare in Abu Dhabi). Others might be very skilled with abaya and kaftans (most tailors in Abu Dhabi). Trust their specialty and do not ask them to go beyond their usual skillset. Or do, but at your own risk. Usually, the finished garment will end up halfway between a client’s wishes and the tailor’s expertise. 

There is always an element of risk and luck associated with tailoring. Trust me, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. But think of the upside. Getting a pure-silk, hand-made piece that you have designed to your preferred measurements and color palette, for the modest price of 10 US dollars, is a total steal. Three years later, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve worn my silk taupe shirt. Sure, the collar is a little off. It was copied off a men’s XL cotton t-shirt. But that quirkiness adds charm to the piece. After many washes, the fabric quality still stands the test of time, and I will probably keep this piece for the rest of my life.

Unless otherwise stated, photos were taken by the author of this article.