Happy Thursday gorgeous folk and welcome to our latest Veilgirls instalment. This week we have fashion-turned-bridal-designer success story Sabina Ali of Sabina Motasem. A few weeks ago we met up for some breakfast and a chat – I was just fascinated by Sabina, her incredible energy and drive and her elegant, inspirational designs. Sabina is one of those powerful, creative minds that you know will be a success in any endeavour, her label, Sabina Motasem has become a firm favourite with brides and has been picked up by some of the UK’s most beautiful boutiques.
I was lucky enough to catch up with Sabina for a Veilgirls interview – please give her a warm welcome!
Image © Gary Lashmar
When did you first become interested in designing clothes and how did this interest develop?
I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy growing up and always loved fashion. I have been designing clothes since I was a little girl. I used to take apart all the clothes my mum would buy me and try to put it together again in a completely different way, used to drive my poor mum crazy. Having a mum who was very creative and handy with the sewing machine most definitely helped too and having a dad who ran his own businesses, I wanted to do the same thing. I went to college to explore all that was creative on a foundation course. I loved it all – from the photography, camera work, painting, drawing to the fashion and textiles. It was textiles and fashion that really grabbed my attention. This led me to studying knitwear at university before becoming a designer on the high street, giving me a great basis to build a design career on.
Belle, from the Sabina Motasem 2013 collection – all collection images © Oliver Prout Photography
Before you were a bridal designer, you had quite an eclectic mix of jobs – can you tell us more about your unique CV and how it led you to where you are now?
I love designing wedding dresses, but it didn’t always start out that way, I fell into it purely by accident and I’m so glad I did. After working on the high street, I knew one day I’d like to have my own fashion line, but until I knew what that business idea was, I knew needed to get experience in areas which would be useful for when the time came. So I decided to become a graphic designer in the media, PR, marketing, branding worlds to learn as much as I could including a stint working in publishing and as a stylist. Afterwards, I started being creative in fashion again designing cocktail dresses around six years ago and it was around then, a friend of mine complained she couldn’t find a beautifully simple, classy, elegant wedding dress, an alternative to the traditional frou frou dress. I designed a dress for her, as an extra special wedding gift. Five wedding gifts later, it suddenly occurred to me, there could be a potential business idea here and a gap in the market just as the credit crunch was taking hold. The idea for Sabina Motasem was born, and I spent years researching the idea, developing my style and finding the most talented people who could come together to help create Sabina Motasem. Not an easy task I can tell you, but I have a hugely talented team of seamstresses and pattern cutters who have been with us since day one. I am very lucky!
Cleo, from the Sabina Motasem 2013 collection
Where do you find inspiration for your designs and how do you incorporate vintage-inspired fashion?
I absolutely love the Gatsby inspired trends at the moment, all fine draping and slinkiness in gorgeous fabrics and embellishments is right up my street! A trend that will continue for some time. I have always been drawn to this era as well as the Edwardian time at the turn of the century including the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles. Each dress we have in the collection celebrates the style and beauty of an iconic woman from this time who have perhaps become forgotten in modern times. The Josephine dress for example, is inspired by the inspirational Josephine Baker, who was a huge star of the Folie Bergeres in Paris, who used to wear dresses just like the Josephine. Our new fully beaded silk Swarovski georgette dress Lily, is inspired by Lily Elsie who was a popular Edwardian actress and singer, and who used to wear lots of beaded dresses during the pre-war times. I also love how pleats and drapery can create simple, clean, architecturally modern lines and I like to fuse this with a hint of Edwardian, Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles. This is what a Sabina Motasem dress consists of.
The collection is one that will grow and grow, and eventually become a collection of well-loved best-selling dresses. We had a special intimate sneak preview of some of our new dresses with selected bridal industry folk at London’s Waldorf Hotel with Lina, Ava, Olivia and Lily dresses. Most of the dresses have various options to select optional designer details too. My brides are a great source of inspiration to me too. Everyone has their own level of sparkle and lace that suits their tastes and the collection has evolved to include designer details they can choose from, whether it’s a choice of different beaded waistbands, sleeves and colours.
Images © Cristina Rossi Photography
Coinciding with the cinema release, a Great Gatsby inspired bridal fashion show was held by Sabina Motasem and Kelly Spence at London’s Waldorf Hotel on the 19th May. The event was an opportunity for wedding bloggers, magazines & other wedding industry folk to have an exclusive sneak peek of Sabina Motasem’s elegant dresses and Kelly Spence’s exquisitely designed hair accessories and veils. The models were given a 20s look with a modern twist with hair styled beautifully by Johanna Irving of Lovehair and flawless make up by Ana Ospina. The historic Waldorf Hotel, dating back to 1908, became famous in the 1920’s for its orchestra and ballroom – making it the perfect venue to host a Gatsby inspired evening.
When you’re not at work, how do you spend most of your time?
Being passionate about what I do means that I have turned into a bit of a workaholic. It’s pretty hard to switch off when I need to. So I like running in parks, around anything green listening to my favourite music. I can also be found at little known music festivals, camping in the great outdoors, seeking out an untouched tropical paradise, watching a sci fi flick or something at the V&A, catching up with friends or seeing my sisters for an indulgent spa weekend – I’m always doing something… I love being active and learning something new too, recently I learnt how to snow board, but for someone who’s never been on a mountain before and a little bit too foolhardy, let alone ever being on ice skates or skateboards, it was pretty difficult after telling myself “how hard could this be?!” but I eventually managed to do it, am one not to shy away from a challenge. Next adventure might be white water rafting and kayaking I think.
Who are your biggest fashion (or bridal fashion) influences?
I love how Elsa Schiaperelli, Gabrielle Chanel’s biggest rival, pushed the boundaries of how fashion was perceived in the twenties and took surrealism of Salvador Dali’s paintings as inspiration to create beautifully crafted dresses which were like art forms. I’m also loving Dior and their soft A-line shapes, especially on Jennifer Lawrence, who seems to pull off understated glamour effortlessly. Natalie Portman has a simple, elegant style I adore. The way Keira Knightley recycled a short flirty Rodarte dress from a previous award ceremony at her intimate French wedding, showed a good dress will always be a great dress and makes her ultra-classy. She gets a million cool points for that! I also love Tilda Swinton for her quirky fashion forward edginess and Rose Byrne, a quirky, sharp dresser with a seventies vintage edge. I really enjoyed dressing Emmerdale’s Fiona Wade, who wanted to channel Hollywood glamour in this season’s nude colour version of our Colette dress, and Hollyoaks Lucy Dixon in a really striking canary yellow Isadora dress, another colour for 2013. The dresses topped all the best dressed lists in all the best glossies.
Red carpet images purchased from Getty Images
Who are your biggest business influences?
When you run your own business, it can get very lonely especially at the beginning and can be a great struggle. I’m really lucky to have mentors to help guide the growth of Sabina Motasem and they are there if I have any questions. Of course, my friends are a great influential factor too, if it wasn’t for Juliette’s wedding dress I designed as a gift all those years ago, I probably wouldn’t be designing wedding dresses now. And of course my dad, who showed me that having your own business could be a career option whilst growing up, something schools never tell you. There are lots of economic and social changes which continue to influence Sabina Motasem, from the style of dress and the increase of destination weddings and growing number of brides who prefer a simple, elegant dress. And of course my brides are always an ongoing strong influence on what dresses and styles we launch and what designer options we offer. The feedback we get, always goes into how we develop new collections all the time.
Yvette, from the 2013 Sabina Motasem collection
Can you describe a Sabina Motasem bride?
The Sabina Motasem bride is the kind of bride who was probably a bit of tomboy growing up, probably never thought she’d get married (and never planned the day as a youngster either), knows she doesn’t want a traditional dress and would prefer an intimate gathering with special friends and family to a big glamorous wedding. She’s most likely a creative maverick, with a social conscience to go for a dress made in the UK and likes to make up her own rules rather than follow others. She’s been to a festival or two, loves music and going to gigs. She’s more demure than girlie, sociable, incredibly independent, and a lot of fun.
A Sabina Motasem bride, Justine, on her wedding day! Images © Rebecca Wedding Photography
Can you describe your designs in five words?
Luxuriously understated, elegantly modern and simple.
What words of advice do you have for a soon-to-be bride?
I think a wedding should reflect the personality of the couple. The bridal look is like a “vamped up version of herself”, which is how one of my brides described the process of finding the right dress, which I think is a great way to explain it. The soon-to-be bride should do what she wants to do and break all the rules if she wants to. Brides should plan time to style her wedding dress, as finding the right jewellery, accessories, hair styles and underwear can take a while. We like to give our brides offcuts from their dress if they would like them, for free. They make pretty silk flowers, decorations for the bouquet or make little bags for the rings. It helps us to reduce our wastage and be kinder to the environment too. We’ve also found the right underwear to go with a Sabina Motasem dress, which can be tricky if you’re looking for something that doesn’t show bra straps, is supportive and seam-free. We’ve collated all our favourites on two pinterest boards: seamless underwear and backless bras and on our blog.
The beautiful Gabrielle dress
What words of advice do you have for someone starting out in the wedding industry?
Keep getting feedback from your brides and tweaking the formula, keep doing it and getting more feedback and you’ll know when the formula is right as you’ll have so many orders. Things will move pretty fast. Keep listening to your customers and what they want, be prepared to work weekends and evenings and focus on delivering the best quality for the best price with unbeatable customer service and you can’t possibly go wrong!
If you were to get married in one of your own gowns, which one would you choose and why?
Ooohh… I’m not sure, it keeps changing every time I add a brand new style. I’d probably go for the Lily dress with a completely unique beaded design…(this week!)