We each develop our own unique routes to style, but Nada Alawi adopted what could perhaps be called the route less typical. From an early career in the Texan oil and gas industry, she returned to Bahrain to establish a business centred on an inspired fusion of art and fashion accessories. It’s quite a story, and one that is routed in the region’s natural flair for style.
Of course, a background in oil and gas does not at all preclude an appreciation of style. Style has always been an integral part of Nada Alawi’s life – as has art. A collaboration with an artist friend – renowned Bahraini artist Abbas Almosawi – led to more than she’d anticipated.
“I started to paint to cleanse my soul,” she explained. “I had just arrived at a time of my life when I wanted to do something different. I needed to express myself on a different platform”.
“His work is incredibly beautiful. Although I’ve been working with him for many years now, his work never fails to amaze and surprise me”.
It was never Nada’s plan to be a professional artist, it was simply part of a journey. Whilst involving herself she become ever more aware of the region’s rich depth of art. “I noticed that, despite the fact that we’re creating great art here, it’s not always accessible. Most of what we see here is Western art”. It was this thought that provided the trigger for what would become the super-stylish Annada label.
Co-founding the company with her sister Noor Alawi, together they’ve now partnered with twenty artists and created a luxury lifestyle brand of unique scarves and other female accessories – dressing many of the region’s style-aware women along the way.
It is incidental to Nada that she’s seen as a Bahraini endorsing local, regional and now international artists and fusing their works with luxury fabrics. Whilst it may be incidental to her, we see her as an important flag-waver for the Gulf – and for its style profile across the globe.
“I’m a proud Bahraini, and remain very true to my roots, but I see us taking at Annada a very global approach”.
When it comes to Nada’s style, a large amount was absorbed and developed during her time living in the United States. “I learned most about myself and my style during my twenties, I think this is what your twenties are for!”
She learned an appreciation for beautiful fabrics – an appreciation that continues to serve her well through her work at Annada. She values fit, and she values simplicity. “After these are all in order – then I like to accessorise,” she enthused.
“I had an obsession with Hermès many years ago, and art was something I felt needed to be shared. Linking these two passions was the inspiration behind establishing Annada” she recalls.
The company has received numerous awards – including being named amongst the fastest growing in Dubai but, more importantly for Nada, she has built a loyal and growing following amongst the region’s style-aware. As the company has grown, so has the region’s take on style. There’s little doubt that the Gulf is now one of the world’s leading on-trend regions. We’re great adopters of style, and becoming increasingly important creators of style too.
Nada feels, “I do think we’re developing our own style in the region now. Our local and traditional clothing remains at the heart of our region’s style, but we’re seeing people doing increasingly interesting things around it. We’re seeing nicer fits and more beautiful fabrics being used”. And this, again perhaps incidentally, creates a very positive image for the region as these clothes are worn internationally.
Now there’s a whole generation of fashion designers, people who have studied – both at home and abroad – and who are applying what they’ve learned and highlighting just how creative and stylish the region is. “It makes me very proud to see what my colleagues are doing” Nada reflects.
Indeed, at her own brand they’ve created a whole new and exciting take on the traditional abaya. This piece is generating wide interest – locally as well as from within Europe. In her hands it has become a garment that transcends civilisations and has become a key piece for any woman of style.
She is referred to by those around her as ‘Coco’. A loving reference to the famous Parisian couturier. Whilst she hesitates to pitch herself at quite the same level, she’s nonetheless flattered by the comparison. It is, indeed, a fair comparison. As Mme. Chanel was instrumental in creating a uniquely continental and enduring elegant style, perhaps we’ll look back in years to come and see that Nada Alawi and Annada did the same.
For sure, the region is ready. It is standing with great style confidence, and looking for an icon through which to channel its own sartorial signature.
As Annada has continued to evolve, it has done so at every step hand-in-hand with the changing style vibes of its native Bahrain and the region. That the region should be led by a woman of style such as Nada Alawi, who is equally as commerically switched-on – then we know the future of style is in safe hands.