UAE-based designer Yeya on making a gown for JLo

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Fashion designer Yasmine Yeya just clocked in the 13th year of her couture career and is feeling on top of the world. We imagine any designer would if Hollywood superstar Jennifer Lopez chooses them over the several designers at her disposal. 

Recent pictures of the actress-singer in a majestic mustard coloured gown went viral, and naturally caught our attention. The diva was seen in Yasmine’s gown at the movie premiere of Hustlers at TIFF recently. 

Originally heading into the field of architecture, Yeya feels it was her fate to be a fashion designer. Couture was something that she always knew how to do since she was a little girl and as she got older it became an effortless form of self-expression.

Yeya built her empire with haute couture fashion house Maison Yeya in Dubai, on the building blocks of passion for beauty, fabrics and individuality.  

Now one of the top couturiers from our region Yasmine spoke to City Times about her collections, her fashion ethos and what inspires her. 

Did you know Jennifer Lopez would choose that gown? How did the whole thing come about? 
Yes of course! Having JLo pick one of Maison Yeya’s creations for her movie premiere is a milestone, which I am very grateful for. 

In the past couple of years, we have been contacted by a number of LA-based celebrity stylists who have shown interest in our work. This collection, which is the second one I designed from Dubai, had caught the attention of JLo’s stylists. They had contacted us a few weeks ago to send them the collection for her fitting. Then I wake up that day to see her pictured in my dress. I was happy and felt that all the hard work had paid off.

Social media seems to be going gaga over the gown. What made you choose that particular shade? 
This collection was inspired by the juxtaposition of light and dark called Chiaroscuro. I choose different colours that represent the different states of light reflected. This colour represented the fiery sun and its shine. I am fascinated by philosophy and the notion of light and dark has so many deeper meanings in theosophy. 

You have a very eclectic style, from trendy and bold, to elegant. Some of your pieces are outright fun! What inspires you to create such a vast range? 
Being a woman I always experiment with expressing my different sides. I also change and develop with time; I have very different and complex layers so with every collection I try to express how I feel at that certain point in time. The effect of the things around me, the people I know and the experiences I live directly and indirectly inspire what I create. And then comes the female figure: beautiful and fragile with under estimated strength. An infinite source of inspiration.

How would you define your fashion identity/ethos?
Life is a journey of exploration that an artist has to benefit from to evolve. My fashion identity is a continuously evolving form of self-expression. It is the story of how I see the world.

Nowadays even if you are a renowned designer, there is a general perception that unless a celebrity is pictured in your design, you haven’t made it. What are your thoughts on this?
The truth is the more successful a designer, the more he or she will attract the eyes of celebrities. But this definitely doesn’t mean that there aren’t some very creative designers out there that haven’t reached the celebrity scene but eventually they will, because celebrities are constantly on the lookout for new talents that will make them look different.

Are there any particular designers or idols you look up to? 
I respect all of the brands even if I don’t agree artistically or creatively with some – starting from Coco Chanel to how Gucci got revamped and how Elie Saab turned his atelier into an international trademark. All very inspiring.

What do you think of the fashion industry today? Is there anything you’d like to change about the fashion scene or see going forward?
Arts like fashion cannot be controlled or changed. It is the voice of the people. They choose to express who they are and this cannot be manipulated or adjusted to what we think.

I don’t approve of most of it as unfortunately we are living in times where hedonism and androgyny is emerging.

You have twin daughters. Are they little fashionistas? Do you often dress them or do they insist on dressing themselves and following in mom’s footsteps? 
Actually my twins have nothing to do with fashion! They are interested in gaming, mixed martial arts and animals.

In today’s fashion industry we see most size zero models and people of influence harbouring such ideals. How do you convey to your kids the importance of having a positive body image?
If you want to draw a black line, and dramatise its blackness, you will draw it on white paper. That’s exactly why models are thin, because they allow designers to make big statements of composition and design. The most beautiful women are curvaceous but the design that suits them is actually a dress with no volume! Very little room for creativity. In my house, we eat very clean and healthy and we are always active. A healthy person is not overweight. I promote health not body image.

What do you think of Dubai as a fashion hub?
Dubai is a vibrant place that is very fast paced and what makes it unique is that it became the true representation of how the West meets the East. It is very challenging for emerging brands to survive on a business level due to a lot of reasons; however, it can help the designers who have already started to establish themselves to connect them faster to a wider audience internationally.