The unlikely worlds of Leila Al-Marashi
Many people in the UAE know Leila Al Marashi as the artist behind a standout collection of prints of Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Mona Lisa and even Beyoncé being retrofitted in Khaleeji styles that include henna art, ornate jewelery, and even the Emirati borqa, a decorative and semi-religious piece of facial metal that gives women a striking bird-like appearance to the uninitiated.
That these pop icons have been treated with flourishes of electric berry lipstick, on top of that, is not to say however, that Al Marashi has necessarily applied the Andy Warhol treatment on these subjects.
See, Al Marashi is also the Founder of Sugar Vintage, a Dubai-based fashion label known for playfully bringing together an unlikely swirl of cultures, eras, and fashion ideas into a collection of kitschy and eclectic pret-a-porter wear.
Juxtaposing these concepts is only slightly more surreal than what you would already see playing out in the real world, or at least here in the UAE where you can never really take for granted the intermingling of truly disparate cultural elements.
Thus, Leila Al Marashi, has planted herself fully within the interfacing world of the idea and the real, in a space some license as “Fash Art”.
Leila Al Marashi is a successful entrepreneur by several measurable standards. From her last trade show in Paris alone, she netted a 6 digit profit (in Emirati dirhams), or, in other words, the fruits of a mere 3 months of production! The Sugar Vintage label currently ships out to 12 countries, in cities like Paris and Hong Kong thanks to a fantastic reception of her work at these trade shows.
It is interesting to see how Al Marashi balances several complexities inherent to her business all the while handling her day job in PR. So much so, that I felt guilty having interviewed her, as if maybe I was keeping her away from measuring a dress or shipping a box to Istanbul.
While some interviewers focused on the regional reception of her work, I, on the other hand remain fascinated by how she is able or willing to hold a day job.
“In this business, there is oftentimes a lot of up front capital required for the production of a new line of clothing, and oftentimes merchants won’t write checks for many months. I’ve even heard of merchants to avoid because they simply don’t pay. I’m not the type of person to go to my mother or father asking for money,” explains Al Marashi.
Fair enough. So, out of all the unlikely worlds to blend together, perhaps the most amazing trick yet is the ability to mix a day job with a very complex business that consistently produces items desired around the planet.