Reem and Hind Beljafla are the sisters behind one of the UAE’s most prolific abaya fashion labels, DAS Collection, which is renowned for creating unique and fashion forward updates to this traditional dress, whilst still honoring its heritage and conservatism. DAS Collection empowers women through allowing them more freedom in the way they dress and the duo are now recognized not only as highly creative designers, but also as accomplished business women within the UAE. We just had to interview the fashion savvy sisters to learn more about the secrets behind their overwhelming success.
Where does the initial inspiration for your designs come from?
REEM: I get inspired by so many different things; a colour, a texture, a structure in the environment around me. But mainly my inspirations come from my travels around the world. Seeing and experiencing many different places and cultures always makes my creativity flow.
What do you feel sets DAS apart from other high profile Abaya designers at the moment?
REEM: When we started we were really the first to push the boundaries of the traditional abaya and bring it up to date with global fashion trends, so I think people will always remember us as being the original designers in this style revolution of the abaya. We continue to always find new angles and put a new twist on the abaya, so we are constantly innovating.
HIND: Also our signature cut is something we are famous for; it’s a very elegant style that we make every season in a variety of lengths, colours and fabrics, and it flatters all body shapes. I think the signature cut is a big selling point and sets us apart from others.
You’ve met some of the fashion world’s biggest designers; do you find you draw inspiration from any the designers you’ve met in particular?
REEM: It’s always inspiring to meet successful and creative designers; I live and breathe fashion and I admire all the big designers’ stories of how they’ve got to where they are today. It’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet and speak with them.
HIND: Whenever we meet a famous designer it always inspires me to work harder and push DAS to that level. All the big designers we’ve met have put so much time and effort into making their labels what they are; that is definitely a source of inspiration for me.
Are there any designers you have met so far which resonate as being particularly memorable?
HIND: For me it’s definitely Diane Von Furstenburg. I’ll never forget meeting her and often say that I wish she could be my adopted fashion mother! I love her story and how she made such a huge success of her brand. She is a role model for all women, with great morals and drive, and her designs are so flattering.
You have recently featured in Emirates latest advertising campaign, how did it feel to represent your country in this way and to be part of something so iconic?
HIND: It was such a proud moment for me to be approached by Emirates, since it is the biggest and most successful company from my country. I’m a huge fan of travelling anyway and I always fly Emirates – I think it’s the best airline in the world – so it was an honour and a perfect fit.
REEM: It’s fantastic for DAS to be associated with such an iconic and globally recognised brand as Emirates. The advert is being shown on TV all over the world; we’ve had messages from the USA, Australia, Africa, Europe… The reach has been huge.
Yours was the first Abaya collection to be stocked in Harrods, do you feel a strong connection to London and your customers there?
HIND: We’ve always had a strong affinity to London, spending most of our summers there since childhood and both Reem and I studied in the UK. London and Harrods is a big part of our lives and we are really happy to be able to cater to the customer base in London. Although Harrods is hugely popular with Arab customers, we also sell many pieces to western clients through Harrods, so it opens us up to a very wide client base.
What are your aspirations for the future of your company?
REEM: We believe that DAS will keep growing to become a globally recognised fashion house. We hope to increase our stockists worldwide, adding to our list of Harrods, Harvey Nichols, SAKS Fifth Avenue and so on, and we intend to keep showing at the big international fashion weeks.
HIND: We have huge ambitions for DAS and people often forget that our business is only 3 years old, so we have a long way still to go on our journey. The biggest designers have taken years to become established, so we intend to reach that level in future with a lot of careful planning and expansion.
What advice would you give to other women hoping to start businesses in the UAE?
-REEM: I would advise any woman in the UAE who has a passion or a talent to pursue that and work hard towards reaching their goal. Having something unique to bring to the market is very important, so I would always advise being innovative and offering something different than what has been done before.
HIND: Starting a business is a huge commitment, in terms of time, energy and finance. It is vital to stay committed and not give up during the tough times – getting started is not easy and there will be ups and downs, but with hard work and dedication it will all be worth it.
WORDS: SUZIE SMITH
ILLUSTRATION: TULIP HAZBAR