Interview: Nadine Mezher
With her glossy locks, perfect bone structure and petite frame you would be forgiven for thinking Nadine Mezher is a jet-setting supermodel. However, she’s not. As well as being a mother, wife, successful business woman, and University lecturer (she teaches at Dubai’s Esmod), the Lebanon born entrepreneur is also a passionate Haute Couture designer who’s slowly revolutionising the face of fashion.
Not your average fashion player, in the summer of 2011, Nadine launched her own social label nawá, a new and first-of-its-kind concept in the region, where all net proceeds from sales go directly to charity.
While fascinated by fabrics and catwalks, when a young girl, fashion wasn’t a path Nadine initially ventured down. Instead she studied Business Administration and Marketing at the American University of Beirut. Yet, fashion was never far from her mind, and after graduating from Uni she followed her dream. Travelling the world’s fashion capitals, studying design in both Florence and Paris, eventually graduating from Esmod Paris in Fashion Design and Pattern Making.
The experience was rich and fascinating: I was swept away by the energy that moves around the fashion industry in Europe. I got to meet some incredible people: Donna Karen, Roberto Cavalli, Karl Lagerfeld, Renzo Rosso… all of which I had the chance to work with in a series of dream like events,” she says, explaining how her career took off in Paris, working in renowned fashion houses.
Ultimately, however, Nadine decided to move back to her hometown Beirut, where she took up work as a manager in top local fashion stores. “I learned a lot in a short time,” she reveals, adamant she had no regrets leaving Paris. “I had the chance to manage one of the top couture houses in Lebanon, and the process allowed me to know all about the business side of fashion. My business degree and my fashion degree combined, I had a different perspective to what before was pure art for me.”
In 2006, Nadine finally hit the jackpot, opening her own eponymous couture house where she dressed everyone, from royalties to celebrities. She even became a star herself staring on TV reality show, Mission Fashion as the tutor of participating wannabe designers. She became a permanent jury member next to Mr Fashion himself, Elie Saab ,who was sponsoring the show. “I was picked by Mr Saab to come on this show and be in charge of the designers, guide them and teach them.”
Having made her mark in Lebanon, in 2008, she moved to Dubai with her husband. The vibrant city became her new place of inspiration. “I love being here! Dubai has everything: it is very cosmopolitan but at the same time a very relaxed city. A great place to raise a family: we have two beautiful little boys, I recently gave brith to the second. I see them growing up here, in a mixture of cultures and backgrounds. The desert became a new source of inspiration for me!”
It was in the UAE that nawá was born. She says, “The idea behind the label is to design, manufacture, and sell high-end luxury fashion products and accessories inspired by the culture and spirit of different communities around the world. All net profits from the sales are channelled back into these communities in order to develop their skills, enabling them to generate income, and create sustainable improvement in their lives…in small steps, we can make a difference.”
Adding, enthusiastically, “The name nawá comes from the Arabic word for seed and symbolises the spirit of continuous and abundant giving that starts with a simple act. Our first product to launch is called the Tree of Life – a luxurious handbag with beautiful embroidery and colours.”
The bag channels the idea of all creations being connected together in harmony. Her pieces are all hand-crafted by small groups of artisans that apply techniques passed from generation to generation – “I love buying something and knowing that there is a story to tell behind it. When things are hand-made you feel it, you feel the people behind them.”
The finished products are small beautiful pieces of art. “They are a combination of handmade, hand embroidered, hand crochet pieces mixed with top quality craftsmanship,” she explains. “The finishing is also top of the line: all little accessories are gold plated including the logo.”
With all this attention to detail nawá has caught the eye of Dubai’s sartorially savvy crowd. The first stock produced was sold out instantly. “Customers in the UAE welcomed this initiative with big open arms,” she reveals. “They’re always looking for new ideas in the fashion world, and when they know it is all for charity, it motivates them even more.”
Adding, “I want to give my customer an object of art, to keep and pass around. When I work on the design, I like to keep a piece of the past in it: the bags come out having a vintage feel with a very modern twist and urban glamour.” Nadine is currently working on new designs for nawá to be launched very soon.
Nadine Mezher Top 5 places
It’s just the right place to go when you want some quiet time to work and focus. I love the big open art space, and it’s five minutes away from my house.
The Walk, JBR
I enjoy the relaxed beach feel, the humming of people going back and forth and most of all, the mixture of faces and styles for inspiration.
For its architecture, art galleries, and buzzing professional feel. You also find two of my favourite restaurants: Zuma and La petite maison, amazing food, and atmosphere.
Madinat theatre, Madinat Jumeirah
I love the cosy feel of a clustered theatre place. It just makes you travel in mind to different places.
XVA hotel and Café, Bastakiya
The boutique hotel is beautifully designed and it’s right in the heart of Bastakiya, a change from modern Dubai. The café is a nice refuge away from the craziness!