Dima Ayad has become one of the region’s success stories, but her unique perspecitve on design gives her a globally-relevant edge.
What is the style statement you represent described as,‘the celebration of the female form’… can you elaborate a bit more on this – how you came up with it and why it defines your fashion?
It stemmed from the ideology that fashion has a stigma – where it only suits a certain body type. I wanted to combat that barrier and make sure that women of all shapes and sizes are welcome into my world of fashion, in the hope that many designers out there follow suit. Naturally not all things appeal to all people; but the objective is to ensure that any woman – whatever shape or size, will find something that can suit her in brand, Dima Ayad.
Tell us a bit about your story… the beginnings and how you got to where you are today…
My story; more like my love story. A story that consumes me on a daily basis – it’s pleasure and pain day in day out!
It all began a few years ago when the wedding season took place and I needed gowns for so many occasions with a similar crowd in most of the events. I went shopping and didn’t really find anything moderately priced that I liked, so I decided to make my own dresses. They looked different and when I wore them, everyone asked me where I had bought them from. I then started making pieces for family and friends. I bravely attempted designing my first collection – and immediately fell in love.
What was it like working at the Atlantis – you have had some diverse experience in your career so far? How did it contribute to your brand?
I’ve been working in hotels for almost 15 years and it truly has been a joyride because the essence of the job is really about understanding people, their behaviour and in turn ensuring we appeal to them. Similarly, knowing your client and what she wants to wear and how she wants to feel wearing a Dima Ayad is at the pinnacle of it all. There’s so much cross-pollination between both my worlds.
Being a native of Dubai, can you tell us what it was like growing up here; did you face any challenges and how did the region support you in your journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
Growing up here taught me what community-living means and how to support one another.
I grew up believing that dreams do come true. Dubai kept promising us bigger, better, bolder, a hub for innovation – surely enough, it all happened and then some! I’m sure if I lived elsewhere, there is no way I would’ve had the courage to become a designer. I felt more respected and appreciated as a woman as I feel in Dubai. It’s actually crazy when I hear about equal pay and woman’s rights because I’ve always been given opportunity for growth, and my opinion heard since a young age. Dubai has most definitely set the bar on treating women as equals.
The region is receptive to up-and-coming talent to a degree, but the largest aid has been the media support throughout the years – exposing us, creating award platforms, and really boosting the image of regional talent. I sincerely have them to thank for how far some of us have come because they’ve had our back from the beginning!
You have dared to reflect a lot of simplicity and singular colours in your designs in a region where flamboyance has ruled the fashion industry for a long time… tell us about your relationship with colour and your ideas about it.
I love this question so much. If you take away a few layers, the simple ‘us’ shines the brightest. We are a community that has become very worldly, we work hard, we play harder, we go from our offices to events day in day out and our clothes are a reflection of how comfortable we are in our own skin. Our wardrobes should be versatile and timeless; the era of wearing an item once is long gone. I love colours very much, but appreciate them separately. I think of the timelessness of my mother’s Chanel tweed jackets or her CC bag from the 80s – still wearable today. I live by that philosophy that the Dima Ayad woman stands the test of time.
Who is your style icon in the fashion world? Which global designer has been a source of inspiration for you?
It started off with Rabih Kayrouz I have to say. His simple eloquent way of making dresses and separates always took my breath away. I then fell in love with the soul of Lanvin under Alber Elbaz – everything had meaning and purpose. The artistic expression of fashion is so much an expression of who we are as individuals. Those two are everything.
Style Icon, not one in specific but who comes to mind is Sarah Jessica Parker and Julia Roberts.
In our contemporaries and peers, we sometimes learn the most. Whom would you call your favourites?
We most certainly do learn from the people around us. In the fashion landscape, Firras Al Wahabi has taught me to think in a different way, be cohesive, and be true to who I am as a designer. He’s my second pair of eyes through thick and thin.
My team in Atlantis who never cease to amaze me with their random experiences and the millennial way of thinking – they’re one of the most exciting parts of my day.
Last but not least my mentor, Serge Zaalof who has been instrumental in my hospitality career and has witnessed my life since 2004. He’s taught me to be fearless and to never, ever give up.
Most successful people boast of a mentor or teacher that developed them; do you have one you can give credit to for your success?
Serge – thank you for allowing me to think differently, to be brave, and to not be afraid to fail – you have paved the way for my success.
Dynamics of UAE and its demographics have changed rapidly in the past years with several fluctuations – how has it impacted business and how are you learning to sustain your brand?
Of course every brand has its’ consistent followers, they’re everything to me! The market fluctuations bring varied audiences to the city, which goes back to the ethos of the brand – to think global, and appeal to women as a whole that aids in all fluctuations.
Ashley Graham has been making waves as a top-trending plus-size model – we are slowly breaking the ‘skinny image’ barrier, this must be helping your ‘fashion fits all’ take on design.
She was one of those women who really has made major headway and we are trying to have some sort of association with her – where women of a size 0 and a size 12/14 can wear the exact same dress and look incredible regardless of shape or size.
To continue on the above a bit – there have been talks of introducing plus size models in Victoria’s Secrets; what do you think?
I think it’s genius and I think Victoria’s Secret should definitely increase their size range if they want to appeal to everyone. If the models are merely a stunt for inclusion, then that defeats the purpose when customers want to buy their lingerie.
If there was one social cause you’d like to support and endorse in the coming times as a business woman, what would it be?
An ability to help build confidence in women and believing in oneself – it’s masked on a daily basis and is actually self-destructive if not salvaged.
What does a normal ‘Dima Ayad’ day look like?
Up at 6 off to the gym (3-days a week ritual) check on all my fashion emails, respond to social media enquiries. Head to my office, start the day with a team catch up. I develop an idea a day – however small or insignificant, there’s always one. After a long day of meetings plans, and projects I head to the factory to check up on production and/or sampling. I then make time to see friends and family a few nights a week, and we begin again the next day!
Your favourite color?
Dima: a coffee / tea / juice person?
Coffee and green juice.
What motto do you go by in life? What is your Spiritual inspiration?
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.
Your favorite fashion magazine?
What clothes make you most comfortable?
Track pants and a T-shirt. I love figure-hugging clothes. My Wolford Fatal dress is one of my wardrobe staples.
You have regularly been part of the Fashion Forward Dubai; tell us about your experience of it.
Fashion Forward is a platform for us regional talent to showcase what we do to an audience. Genuinely for me, the experience each time makes me feel like a designer. I actually feel it. You forget sometimes, having a day job, and being caught up with the day to day operation of the brand, but when you see your designs on a runway or in a presentation, somehow it legitimises it all.
Your advice for the young aspiring fashion designers of Dubai.
Know why you’re doing it, know why you’re different, listen to your customers, have a deeper understanding of what it takes before you start. Most of all, be true to who you are. Consistency is king.