Founded in 2015, ready-to-wear label 1309 merges seasonal trends with exquisite craftsmanship informed by its Qatari roots. Renowned for her signature prints created in collaboration with local Arab artists, founder and creative director Ghada Al Subaey is on a mission to encourage sustainable practices when it comes to producing fashion. Sharing an insight into the label and her upcoming involvement with Carine Roitfeld and Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani’s Qatar Fashion United by CR Runway spectacle - a huge fashion show that took place at the Fifa 2022 World Cup in Doha - Al Subaey was set to have her biggest moment yet, and the world was watching.
Tell us about the driving force behind launching your own company and how you got started.
I started exploring how I personally like to dress at the age of 15. I found myself buying fabrics and taking them to the tailor to create styles that weren’t available in Qatar at the time. My love for fashion continued in college, where I would mainly wear clothes that I created myself. That was when I began designing for my friends and family. I was designing and running everything from home.
What about the story behind the name, 1309?
13/09 is my mother’s birthday. I dedicated the brand name to her as that’s where I got my fashion sense from. When I was younger, I used to watch her stitch and cut.
What was your vision then?
I wanted to change the stigma around abayas. I want abayas to become as respected globally as kimonos, and to see everyone around the world wearing them—not necessarily to cover the body, but instead as a fashion statement. I want abaya brands not to be seen as “less than”. Every designer has made a kimono, and it seems like something that is fashionable and celebrated. I would love for my ideas and inspiration to create change. Whether it is about applying sustainable approaches in our work or utilising environmentally friendly packaging, I want the brand to continue to make a positive impact towards the community that we have built for women. I would like to expand globally and represent the Arab world in a global fashion space.
Please tell us about your commitment to sustainability?
1309 is leading by example in the region when it comes to sustainability by using sustainable, natural and vegan fabrics, as well as biodegradable packaging. We also recycle scrap fabric and turn it into furniture. We rely on human skills and avoid the use of machinery as much as possible.
What else sets you apart from similar brands in the region?
We represent luxury that is sustainable and also honours our planet and women’s wellness in every way. I also took the initiative to create and develop the “1309 Community” for the women of Qatar.
What is the best part about your job?
The best part of my job is being able to see my designs come to life, from an idea to a final ready-to-wear piece that goes through our in-house production process.
And your biggest highlight?
The highlight with the brand has to be dressing powerful and successful influential women, both here and internationally.
What inspires your designs?
My designs are inspired by my heritage and the environment around me, mixed with a celestial cosmic aspect.
What advice do you have for up-and-coming designers or those that want to break into the fashion industry in the Middle East?
I advise them to follow their passion and not to give up. I know how the fashion industry can be difficult and the lack of guidance and mentorship can be very challenging, that is one of the main reasons why I created The Cutting Studio, where we offer guidance and mentorship. Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa believed in my vision for TCS, and chose the project to come to life at M7 in Msheireb. It is to be the epicentre for design, innovation and entrepreneurship in Qatar. The studio offers industrial facilities to produce collections, but more importantly is a movement to make the process and the complete lifecycle of fashion more visible and accessible to people in Qatar. Our mission is to provide designers with a step-by-step guide and bespoke service to create a truly “made in Qatar” product.
You’re taking part in the upcoming Qatar Fashion United by CR Runway, taking place at the Fifa 2022 World Cup. Can you tell us a little about that?
I was approached to be in the couture segment and to create a dress that carries the DNA of my brand. I have been working closely with Sheikha Al Mayassa Al Thani and Carine Roitfeld. I will be designing a couture dress for the very first time. I’m designing it and producing it very carefully with a lot of attention to detail. The dress is very personal to me and inspired by my great-great grandmother and her life journey.