Summer bloomed in June with the vibrancy and extravagance of local designer Miss Zaynini’s dresses, featured at a fashion show as part of at Dearborn’s annual Arab International Festival. It’s only fitting that, on a recent Sunday, as the season turns again, the Arab American National Museum presented the couture of La Maison Saouli. The event marked the European house’s first stateside fashion show.
Bernard Geenen, Belgian ambassador to the United States, advised clothing designer Karima Saouli to present the brand in Dearborn, and he even flew in from D.C. for the occasion.
"He told us that the most important Muslim American community lives in Dearborn, and the Arab American National Museum offers a very nice setting," says Gamila Dahry, a spokesperson for La Maison Souli.
Saouli comes from a family of tailors, and began making her own clothes in the early ’90s when options for Muslim women’s clothing in Europe were few and overpriced. The demand inspired her to create her own line. Her Belgium-based house La Maison Saouli (LMS) intends to make a statement for the young diasporic Muslim woman.
In true Islamic fashion-show style, each seat at the museum was adorned with a small gift; pearl prayer beads with different colored tassels, handmade by Malaysian women as part of Zakat Selangor, an association that helps poor women develop their talents into a job. Karima Saouli’s own experience turning her dream into a career inspires her support of such initiatives. Right before the models began walking, a small child busted his string of beads, sending the pearls careened across the floor. Museum staff, audience members and the Belgian ambassador hurriedly knelt to snatch beads from the runway.
Then, one by one, the models descended the staircase, scarves tucked into V-neck shirts, draped in tailored ponchos, wide-legged dress pants, and long-sleeved empire-waisted tunics in psychedelic throwback prints with sleeves that flared at the opening. The audience was filled with the most stylish young Muslim women I’ve ever seen, with perfect makeup and glittering headscarves. Trust me: New York and Los Angeles don’t have anything on Islamic women’s fashion in Dearborn.
In the lower gallery, after the show, well-dressed women leafed through racks of clothes and made purchases. Shoppers inquired about the availability of LMS line locally. Plans are in the works for a pilot store, perhaps in Deaborn, as well as distribution and franchising nationally. "This first experience is a full success for La Maison Saouli, and we will see after we’re back in Europe with our lawyer, the best way to start something in the U.S. Saouli is more than a brand or a business, it is first a concept, and we need to make sure to continue within the framework of this concept."