Aspiring designer takes fashion world by storm

Harper’s Bazaar Illustrator of the Year Walaa Ad combines architecture with fashion

  • Walaa at her studio in Al Ain. Walaa is currently working on her own high-end fashion collection which, once cImage Credit: Atiq-Ur-Rehman/Gulf News
  • Image Credit: Atiq-Ur-Rehman/Gulf News
Gulf News

Dubai: It all started with a blog post.

Twenty-four year old Walaa Ad, an avid fashion blogger and architecture graduate from the American University of Sharjah, was encouraging her followers to participate in the Harper’s Bazaar Illustrator of the Year award, an annual competition held by the world-famous fashion magazine as part of its World of Fashion event.

Then a friend encouraged her to submit an application herself.

Two months later, Ad was named the winner in the prestigious competition, but that was just the beginning for this Palestinian fashionista, who is blending fashion with architecture to make her unique vision a reality.

It was that vision that pushed Ad above some very qualified and talented candidates, many of them professionals. Applicants to the competition were asked to sketch an illustration inspired by a dress from a fashion collection. Her entry drew from a dress by Giambattista Valli, who is known for his exaggerated, over-the-tops designs, but whose current line was very simple.

So instead of going with what was in front of her, Ad reinterpreted the look.

“I took a simple dress and made it exaggerated,” she says.

Drawing on her background in architecture, Ad combined sketching with ink, colour and different materials and textures and used light and shadows to give the drawing a life of its own.

“I see [fashion illustration] as more of a 3D object,” she explains. “It has a certain life to it.”

The competition was judged by acclaimed British fashion illustrator David Downton, who gave the shortlisted contestants a master-class in fashion illustration and selected the winner.

“He told me that he knew [my sketch] was the winning sketch because it was different,” says Ad.

Today, Ad is working on her own high-end fashion collection, which she plans to sell — either through high-end stores or online through the blog that started it all — once the collection is completed.

“I want to put it in the market and see how people will react to whatever I create,” Ad says, adding that while she’s open to making changes based on market feedback, “I wouldn’t change it because the market requires me to change it. I’ll just do it because it’s my own style.”

Ad continues to draw on her background in architecture in her work and says that she will always remain loyal to the industry.

“I think architecture is like the whole package. It’s what gave me these tools to view things differently,” she says, pointing to Tom Ford, who was also an architect before turning to fashion and whom Ad says she has a special affinity for.

“I love [Tom Ford] because he speaks a language that I understand,” she says. “When you go inside his shop, you would understand that this guy understands space, understands division, and then you look at the object and the object is not only an object. Like the bag…it has an experience, you can fold it in a different way, you can open it.”

Smartly ambitious, Ad hopes to create an internationally-recognised name for herself, holding that “when you want to dream just dream big.”

She’s juggling those dreams and plans with her work at Design Group, an Abu Dhabi-based architecture company. It’s a busy life for Ad, but as she herself says, “I like it that way.”

Go to for more pictures of Ad and her unique looks.

Photo Gallery