Sunday June 16th, 2024
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This Palestinian Designer Found Her Muse in Disney’s Mickey Mouse

Founded in 2020, eponymous Qatar-based label Dana Riad is putting a ‘warriorress’ twist on a familiar friendly face.

Ziyad El-Helbawy

This Palestinian Designer Found Her Muse in Disney’s Mickey Mouse

“Growing up with four brothers and being the only girl, I wanted to stand out and represent myself..”

Upon conversing with any creative in the field of fashion; you will most likely find out minutes in that they may find their muse in nature perhaps, or maybe inspiration finds them in the form of ancient tales and folklore, it could also be a particular fascination, one so inherently personal to them, it’s their guiding light. Such is the case with Qatar-based Palestinian designer Dana Riad, whose own creative catalyst is none other than a cartoon character we’re all more than familiar with; Mickey Mouse.

From a young age, Dana Riad displayed a precocious creativity and visionary spirit. At just six years old, her favourite muse was the Disney symbol, though Riad saw the cartoon character not simply as entertainment. "I couldn't quite connect with Mickey Mouse's iconic red shorts and wanted to give it that avant-garde twist," Qatar-based Palestinian Designer Dana Riad shares in an exclusive interview with SceneStyled. She began sketching Mickey in experimental outfits like gowns and oversized bow ties. For Riad, Mickey represented the power of imagination; to blend contrasting styles in surprising yet captivating ways.

“The character's shape and personality were so captivating that I felt compelled to dress it up my own way. My version of Mickey wasn't just a cartoon character; he was a fashion icon making waves at Fashion Week. This is not just a part of my personal style; it's at the core of my brand and who I am today.” Riad shares.

This early introduction to fashion fuelled Riad's passion throughout her childhood. After completing double bachelor degrees in fashion and interior design from Virginia Commonwealth University, where she earned the prestigious Golden Needle Award, Riad was ready to share her vision with the world. Why fashion? Well, aside from a love for Mickey, Riad wanted to bring some drama to the family…

“I come from a family of doctors, so I decided to step out of that mold and bring a bit of drama into the mix - it’s just who I am,” Riad jokes.

In 2020, she launched her eponymous label Dana Riadm, and while her muse may be a fictional character, her sartorial aesthetic is anything but cartoonish.

Each piece bears the name of a historic warrior woman, instilling qualities of power and might. Yet Riad also draws inspiration from more abstract concepts, as with her ‘Tala'lu’ collection which explores the interplay of light and shadow. Behind every creation is Riad's fascination with empowered femininity. As the designer puts it:

“My fascination with the concept of the female warrior has always been a driving force. I aimed to breathe life into this muse within the modern context – envisioning a contemporary, strong, edgy yet distinctly feminine warrior…” Riad shares with SceneStyled, “A Dana Riad woman celebrates her empowering journey, embodying her audacious spirit and leaving a trail of awe wherever she goes.”

This vision is realised throughout all of Dana Riad’s pieces. Fierce asymmetrical lines, daring cuts, and shimmering fabrics in mostly monochromatic hues paying tribute to her childhood, muse meet swarovski crystal appliques, shining metal-like ‘armour’ bodices, and motifs resembling the edge of a sword of a ‘warrioress.’ This almost alchemical fusion results in stunning pieces and ensembles that exude power.

Envisioning these monochromatic designs, Riad reveals that “Inspiration often strikes as I drift to sleep; I'll suddenly sit up, jot down my thoughts and hastily sketch my ideas. I've learned not to fret too much about the occasional design block – something that happens quite frequently. I wait for it to pass, and that's when the best ideas usually come to the surface.” This patience is evident in her growing brand, which she nurtures…"daily like a tree.”

Riad was also amongst the very first within the region to embrace nascent technologies, earlier launching her inaugural NFT fashion collection, titled ‘The Dalka…’

“NFTs, with their focus on building communities, resonated deeply with me. With the launch of The Dalka, a fashion NFT project featuring galactic female warriors adorned in avant-garde fashion, became one of the pioneering NFT projects in the Gulf region and I became the first female founder of an NFT project in Qatar. The Dalka is a tribute to art, design and the uncharted territories of exploration. It underscores the digital frontier as the future of fashion.”

Among Riad's proudest accomplishments is her signature DR backless cape. It originated from her personal style of draping scarves, which others began to associate with her distinctive flair. "I introduced ties to ensure stability while maintaining the drama," she explains. The silhouette occurs across her collections and proves consistently popular. For Riad, seeing others adopt and appreciate this look continues to validate her unique vision.

As her label continues to evolve, Riad remains devoted to sharing new tales of empowerment. Her journey proves that imagination, courage and dedication can transform childhood dreams into realities that inspire others (and makes them look absolutely spectacular.)

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