Women in the UAE and across the world are clamouring to own a wedding dress designed by Emirati designer Ahmad Al Reyaysa, who will showcase his famous wedding dresses for the first time at the 2009 Bride Show in Abu Dhabi.

Even though the 32-year-old started practising five years ago, he soon came to be known as the King of Wedding Dresses and will present 13 wedding dresses and haute couture evening-gowns at the bridal show.

Al Reyaysa faced challenges at the beginning of his career: "I had all sorts of negative comments thrown at me when I first started.

"In spite of being pulled down and accused, I never gave up on my dream and kept working hard to become the UAE's first Emirati male designer," he says.

Al Reyaysa has always preferred to wear western clothes. "I never wore the Kandoura (Emirati male dress) and my family encouraged me to be myself since birth. I also had a talent in drawing and my three sisters helped me to understand women better.

"I frequently advised them on what to wear, how to wear it, and on what colours best suited them. I became more and more interested in the idea of designing a classy dress.

Dream became a reality

"I used to tag along with my sisters when they went shopping or visited the tailors," he says.

His dream became a reality six years ago, when he accompanied his sisters to a Lebanese fashion designer's outlet. "Her name is Jumana, she's 51 and is currently my partner at Dar Sara [his bridal label]. I consider her my second mother.

"It's thanks to her that I've come this far. When we first entered her outlet, I noticed a dress that needed to be re-designed. I pointed out the faults in the dress and she immediately asked me to correct them."

At that stage, Al Reyaysa didn't know how to sew. "She taught me how to sew, the rest came naturally. I worked day and night to learn how to design fabrics and it didn't take long to pick up the talent. It was a hidden gift that Jumana helped me explore," he enthuses.

"I spent endless nights learning the profession, till I felt I was ready to have my own bridal line; and now, contrary to how it was at the beginning, I am blessed with respect and encouragement from everyone around me.

"Wherever I go and travel to, people recognise me and treat me well," he adds.

When designing dresses, Al Reyaysa tries turn women into princesses. "I like to highlight femininity. I visualise what the dress looks like while a woman walks, talks and turns. My ultimate goal while designing a dress is to turn a lady into a beauty queen."

His clientele includes UAE royalty and celebrities from across the world. When asked to name some of the celebrities he has designed bridal dresses for, he says: "I don't design dresses to show them off on others, I design them to put my own Emirati mark in the world of fashion on them. Providing this information will only highlight the celebrity's name and not my own efforts."

Even though Al Reyaysa has participated in four fashion exhibitions in Dubai and one in Al Ain, the biggest event of his illustrious career is slated for the end of this year.

"Apart from the 2009 bridal shows in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, I intend to have my own show in Dubai by the end of the year. I was asked to showcase my designs in Europe, but I rejected the idea. I want people across the world to witness my biggest fashion show in my own country first. The minute that happens, I will be free to take part in various international designs worldwide."

Al Reyaysa invests over Dh2 million per year on purchasing crystals to add to the beauty and elegance of his designs. His wedding dresses cost

between Dh50,000 and Dh1 million. "I will probably display my Dh1 million for the first time at the 2009 Bride Show in Dubai," he says.

Top quality

He likes to purchase lace and fabrics from Italy and France, both well known for the quality of their materials. "Emiratis like to drive big cars and dress well. We are well-known for our quality in lifestyle and that is what I show in my designs, too.

"Even though my designs are simple, classic and elegant, I add extra fabric to them with an Emirati blend. Other designers always tell me that my dresses have a different theme and finishing to theirs."

The ambitious designer is also among four other judges during the 2009 bridal show in Abu Dhabi where 10 randomly selected designers have been short listed to display their own bridal designs in front of the panel. The winner will receive Dh3000 worth of crystals from Swarovski and prize money.

When Al Reyaysa was asked what he puts into consideration when judging a design, he said: "The cut of the dress has to be unique and the designer must visualise how it would look when worn.

"They should keep up with the required look they want to accomplish. It should suit the occasion that it is designed for. The finishing of the dress and the layout of the crystals are very important — where and how they are carefully placed is what differentiates one design from the other."

The Emirati designers' dream has only just started. His plans to excel in his profession go way beyond a bridal show.

"My upcoming plan is to open a fashion design industry in the UAE and attract Emiratis and young people from all over the world to learn the true art of design.

"I want to be part of teaching younger generations what it takes to be the king of wedding dresses," Al Reyaysa concludes.