Abaya - the traditional Emirates garment Featured

Mauzan revisits the traditional abaya with modern designs
by 05 August 2011

They move graciously with each gesture- elegant pieces of fabric which continuously fold and unfold making the feminine form at once visible yet hidden. Embellished with exquisite gems, French lace, and Swarovski crystals, these garments adorn those who wear them with sophistication and mystery. They are the abayas of Mauzan, an Emirati brand which has bestowed the traditional female Islamic dress with a new level of refinement and contemporary individuality.

A principle part of Arabic cultural and religious dress, many sources date the appearance of the abaya to pre-Islamic times in the third century AD. Traditionally a long black robe-like garment worn by women in the Arabian Peninsula and many parts of the Islamic world, today Arabic designers are giving the abaya a more contemporary and feminine look. Rafia Helal bin Drai’s brand Mauzan is renowned for its creations of elegant abayas made from fine fabric sourced from France, Italy and Switzerland. Graceful silhouettes and refined lines give form to her designs, establishing her line as one of the most renowned and unique abaya brands in the Middle East.

Rafia Helal Bin Drai was born and raised in the Emirate of Al Ain. Growing up, she exhibited a strong interest in art and fashion. Her close relationship to her father led him to become aware of his daughter’s creative talents, sending her abroad to study art and design. When she returned to the United Arab Emirates, Rafia completed bachelor degrees in economics and business administration.

Her heart nevertheless remained devoted to fashion, a passion which led her to develop the traditional abaya into an elegant, comfortable and beautiful garment to be worn by modern women with grace and style. She was inspired by the creativity and quality of international fashion brands, but wanted to remain faithful to the traditionalism of the Islamic dress. What began as a hobby designing abayas, soon attracted the attention of other Emirati women. Rafia opened her first boutique in the city of Al Ain in 1990 calling it Mauzan, which means ‘rare pearl’ in Arabic.

“My inspiration for designing the abaya is always the woman who wears it,” says Rafia. Her designs celebrate the abaya as a powerful expression of a woman’s individuality. Often times the Islamic dress is viewed as restrictive for women; Rafia’s designs maintain the abayas’s conservative nature as a robe, which is meant to cover while also exuding the femininity and charm of the wearer.

She is credited as the first fashion designer to introduce natural pure silk chiffon into her Haute Couture collection. Rafia has developed her own line of casual, prêt-a-porter and haute couture abayas as well as her own line of perfumes. Other lines include Mauzan Exclusive, haute couture and limited edition pieces, and Miss Mauzan which was developed as a casual line for younger clients.

The Mauzan abaya can be worn for any occasion. Pair the garment with accessories and transform a day look into stylish evening wear. The brand’s recently launched Ramadan Collection is a 72-piece range divided into sophisticated abayas for Ramadan and Eid. It is the first time a collection includes a pantsuit abaya which is made with wide-legged pants and a European-styled top with a sashayed leather belt.

Other highlights are abayas adorned with sparkling Swarovski crystals. Each garment is made with French lace hand- embroidered at a factory in France and then further embellished by artisans in the United Arab Emirates. The Eid Collection offer a more colourful and celebratory look such as an abaya made with peacock coloured blue and green sleeves.

The elegant abayas of Mauzan are rare garments. They celebrate being a woman while also exuding a strong character. Rafia’s expertise has created an art which brings together western influences within an Islamic traditional dress. Mauzan is a brand of exquisite refinement. It is a rare pearl in the desert.

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