Shatha Al-Dabbass was born in 1983 in Amman, Jordan. Shatha has come a long way from sketching on napkins! She grew up with two sisters, a brother, and both parents who all supported her every decision in life. Her talent started at the age of ten: she began doodling the dresses she pictured in her head, the ones she always wanted to wear. One would think she went on to study fashion when she grew up; but on the contrary, she studied Banking and Finance at Al Ahliya University in Jordan. During the time of putting together her portfolio, Al Dabbass got an opportunity to work for Tayer Group in Dubai, as the stylist for Bloomingdales. Unfortunately, she was unable to take the job due to prior commitments. She returned to Jordan and started working for U Magazine as a jewelry and online fashion editor. Her qualifications: being resourceful, familiar with fashion magazines, designers, fashions shows, and having a unique style of her own, all exceeded the requirements for this job.
- Shatha, when did you start your fashion line?
Last year, in early 2011
- How did you come up with the idea?
For the past six years, I had been designing for myself, my family, and my friends. My designs were turning heads at huge events. Locally, and internationally, people started to notice my work.
Determined, I contacted designers in hopes to get advice on how to move forward. The feedback was phenomenal. A French designer reviewed my collections and noticed the edge in the styles, textures and colors. He immediately invited me to Paris Fashion Week, hoping to introduce me to the right people, and for me to experience the true spirit of the fashion realm. Unfortunately, my unfinished portfolio made me pause the process of visiting PFW.
A famous Lebanese designer fell in love with my designs and persuaded me to pursue my talent. He was shocked to find out I had not studied design, and that my talent came from within.
Months after, I met with Patricia Field; she was amazed by my work, she told me, “these are the clothes of today, and you need to start to put yourself out there”! Field was impressed by my attention to detail.
After finally completing my portfolio, a high-end Syrian designer offered me a job. Though this was a step into the fashion world, I turned down the offer knowing that if I was going to make it in the industry – I would have to define myself by myself.
- How have you improved the business through the years, what have you learned?
In the fashion industry, your deadline is always yesterday, so you have to work day and night. Even if some designs are not to people’s taste no one would ever criticize them if they are the best quality- It’s all about the finishing! I believe in my designs, you have to believe in what you do. Otherwise, how can you expect other people to believe in it?
Being a designer is all about giving everything you have: your charm, your money, your relationships, to make something fantastic. You have to be very generous!
- As an entrepreneur what obstacles did you come across?
As an artist and the creative behind the brand, I had to do things on my own, in terms of designing, positioning the brand, working on the marketing material as well the PR and sales. Building this brand that’s my own vision – no one can do it better than me -especially at the beginning. But recently, I have been working on putting together a team that speaks the same language. I believe there’s no great success without a team and that’s what I’m focusing on. There is a lot of competition in the fashion industry; it’s competitive by nature- you need to be prepared to use your abilities to give yourself an edge over others.
I think the main obstacle was being able to put my vision into practice; as I had no formal education or training in fashion design. My dislike of repetition is also a problem, but perhaps it is also a blessing, as I keep challenging myself to create something new, edgy and timeless.
And finally, the greatest obstacle that I’ve faced is being based in a city where the market sticks to the known famous international designers, rather than looking for something new and different.
- How do you sell your designs?
Through buyers for local and regional boutiques and by word of mouth, it’s amazing how much word spreads fast when you’ve got a great quality product at a sensible price point.
- What are the next plans?
Because my designs are all timeless, you will see classically elegant pieces but with new modern twist. You just have to wait and see.
- Tell us more about you?
I have always had a passion for fashion. In my early high school days, I began designing my own clothes, using my natural style and intuition. My designs have an emotional power and raw edge, they are feminine and romantic. I am a woman designing for women. I know how they feel in a beautiful dress. There’s a careful marriage between the design and the material- it captures the spirit of a fun, feminine lady. Femininity is my key component, as it defines glamour. That’s my design mantra. I create pieces I’d love to wear. I’m my own muse!