Traveling through Egypt one day, I passed by a tree that captivated me with its beauty, its leaves draped like fronds of precious pearls. It got me thinking of the legend of Shajar al-Durr, the 13th century Queen of Egypt. Her name, which means “tree of pearls,” was inspired by her love of that gem of the sea, with which she regularly adorned her outfits. Like all the women who have inspired my collections so far, Shajar al-Durr fought adversity to become only the second female monarch of Egypt after Cleopatra, nearly 1,300 years earlier. Purchased as a slave when she was young by As-Salih Ayyub before he became a sultan, she became his wife and played an influential role in advising him in battle, and eventually became Queen after his death, leading a country at war on the edge of collapse thanks to her iron will, legend has it.
Shajar al-Durr’s courage and insight in the face of adversity, as much as her legendary beauty and love of pearls, were therefore the starting points for this collection. The “tree of pearls” finds its way into the designs with leaf motifs made from pleated tulle and embroidered pearls scattered throughout. Flowing dresses for day and evening are adorned with pleats and ruffles in a peaceful palette of pistachio and lilac, black and white, and given a feisty, contemporary edge when contrasted with modern technical fabrics like transparent nylon and leather bomber jackets with graphic motifs, epitomizing the balance of strength and femininity that underpins my design philosophy. For the prints this season, I worked with a center for divorced women in Saudi Arabia, transforming their paintings into designs evocative of stability, peace and education and the importance of such themes for women everywhere.