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Wear your Bodyamr

Designer Amr Ali might dress rock stars and celebrity models such as Madonna, Prince Harry and Claudia Schiffer, but he makes sure he infuses his clothes with references to his Arab heritage.

  • By Jyoti Kalsi, Gulf News Report
  • Published: 00:00 November 22, 2006
  • Tabloid

  • Image Credit: Regi Varghese/Gulf News
  • Designer Amr Ali.
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He is based in London and his designs are worn by rock stars and celebrity models such as Claudia Schiffer. But Amr Ali is an Arab at heart and very much connected to his roots.

He is proud to be the first Omani to make a place for himself in the international fashion arena.

Amr's label Bodyamr retails at Harrods in London as well as at prestigious boutiques in New York, Paris and Geneva. And now his collections are available in Dubai exclusively at Harvey Nichols at the Mall of the Emirates.

"Arabs form an important part of the clientele of famous fashion brands and I believe it is time for an Arab designer from the Gulf to offer a luxury brand to cater to them and to show the West a flavour of the Arab world. Westerners have a certain perception of us and I wanted to break that mould and show them what we are capable of," said Amr, during a recent visit to Dubai for a showing of his spring/summer 2007 collection at Harvey Nichols.

International perspective

Amr's father is from Oman and his mother is Iranian. His formative years were spent in New York, Switzerland and London, where his father was posted as the Omani ambassador. But despite growing up abroad, he has a deep appreciation of his culture and heritage.

"My parents ensured that I was exposed to art, poetry, literature and folklore from this region from childhood. But my first experience of the Middle East came at 17, when we moved back to Oman. Living there for a few years and interacting with my extended family helped me to further understand and imbibe Arab culture," he said.

Although he qualified as an interior designer, Amr has always been interested in fashion design. "My love for fashion was inspired by my mother, who is always elegantly dressed," Amr said.

Supporters

While interning as an interior designer with Nicky Haslam in London, Amr began designing customised T-shirts for his friends as a hobby.

"Haslam introduced me to Jerry Hall, Kate Moss and others from the fashion world, which opened many doors for me.

"Seeing the popularity of my designs, Haslam encouraged me to launch my own fashion label. I was looking for a name for my label when singer Annie Lennox suggested Bodyamr. I loved the witty take on my name and the brand was born," he recalls.

Orientalist

Amr's creations reflect his eclectic upbringing. The dresses, gowns and trouser suits he designs are glamorous and western in look, but have a distinct Middle Eastern feel with long sleeves and soft, fluid drapes.

"My signature style is orientalist but at the same time it is modern, understated and with minimal embellishment.

"My designs are for people like me — Arabs who live in both parts of the world; but they also appeal to westerners. The woman who wears Bodyamr is strong, confident, individualistic and feminine, as I believe modern Arab women are," said Amr.

Art and fashion

His spring/ summer 07 collection pays tribute to well-known Iranian artist Mahmoud Farshchian.

"I have always loved Farshchian's work. As a child, my mother would read me Persian poems and inside those books were Farshchian's paintings. His colourful paintings of flora, fauna and beautiful women would transport me into a world of fantasy and I wanted to recreate that world through my clothes.

"I am fortunate that he has given me permission to use one of his paintings on my dresses and I am glad to be able to introduce the work of an old master to a younger and wider audience through my garments," said Amr.

His future plans include expanding Bodyamr into perfumes, jewellery and interior design, and opening a stand-alone store in this region.

"But before I come here, I want to establish myself in Paris, because that is the most challenging market in the world," said Amr.

He also wants to help in promoting Oman by organising fashion events featuring designers from the region for the international press. "Oman is unique in the Middle East and I would love to take on my father's role and be a cultural ambassador for my country," he said.

The journey to success

Bodyamr was launched in 2002. Madonna and Justin Timberlake were among the celebrities spotted wearing pieces from Amr's first collection of Swarovski crystal studded vintage T-shirts.

Following this, Amr designed T-shirts for several music videos by various rock stars and he was commissioned to design T-shirts for VIP guests at the MOBO awards. Among his most popular designs was the "Harry for King" T-shirt, owned by none other than Prince Harry.

Amr then moved on to designing glamorous dresses and evening gowns for women.

Along with business partner Drew Muntz, he launched his first pret-a-porter collection at London Fashion Week last year and was hailed by Vogue and Harper's Bazaar as the hottest new label in London.

A dress from his second collection was chosen by the British Fashion Council to be the image on the posters for London Fashion Week.

Spring-summer 2007

The collection, created by Amr Ali for his label Bodyamr, is called "The Fifth Day of Creation" and features Mahmoud Farshchian's painting of the same name.

The colourful painting of fish and birds cascading from the heavens appears on an exclusive line of gowns, dresses, trouser suits and kaftans, and as a flourish of colour on collars, belts, scarves, panels, trims and lining.

"I chose this painting because it is an explosion of life and the colours are perfect for summer," says the designer.

"People in the West have a rather harsh view of Iran, and it is important to introduce an artist who sees life as beautiful," said Amr.

The collection also includes gowns, halter dresses, trouser suits, kaftans, corsets, shorts and skirts in jersey silks, chiffons, satins and jacquards in a palette of black, royal purple, deep emerald and gold.

Harvey Nichols, in Mall of the Emirates, Dubai, is currently accepting orders from the catalogue.

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