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Noha Raouf, the creator behind her namesake luxury womenswear label, is a lover of meticulosity, clean cuts, unique constructions, and unusual textiles. Exerting sophistication over each piece, the Egyptian-born, Dallas based designer sees wearability and comfort just as essential to her work. Meant to be worn more than once are Raouf’s oversized coats, paper bag slacks, detachable faux furs, tulle slip and copper lamé separates.
How would you describe your artistic background or journey? When did you know that you wanted to be a designer?
I’ve always wanted to be a fashion designer—I know it might sound cliché, but it’s the truth. I used to sketch clothes as a child, before I was even skilled enough to draw the human body. I also was very influenced by my grandmother, who was my first fashion mentor and the one who taught me how to hand sew. I was first introduced to the art of dressmaking when I was five years old, visiting dressmakers and fabric stores with her. That’s when I developed a fascination with textiles. I began collecting swatches and used them to create clothes for my Barbie. Going forward, I started to redesign most of my clothes in high school because I always wanted to be different and unique.
I wasn’t able to study fashion design after finishing high school in Egypt because there weren’t fashion schools back then. It was very hard for me to study abroad, as I was very young and my father did not feel comfortable sending me away at the age of 17. I’m his only child, so it was not even negotiable. Then, I decided to study mass communication with a concentration in advertising and public relations. I worked in that field for several years, but I always felt that I’m out of place. It wasn’t what I wanted to do; although I was very successful at my job and I always broke the records. I later got married and moved to the U.S. with my husband. It was then when I finally decided to give up my corporate job and sign up for design and art classes. Moving to the States was not the reason behind me becoming a fashion designer, but the force behind me finally pursuing my dream of becoming a designer.
Walk us through your graduate collection, what was the inspiration behind it?
The Urban Lush AW18 collection draws inspiration from the vibrant streets of London and its great architecture. My mood board was all about boxy shapes, asymmetrical tiles and old brick stones. I was going for an over-the-top look in all my designs. The collection stimulates the idea of revolution and feminism, with textures, repetition and order as the focal points. I wanted each piece of my collection to have a dual-purpose not just career-wear, casualwear or eveningwear. It’s very important for me to design pieces that can be worn more than once or twice.
In what ways does Urban Lush differ from your previous work?
I remember thinking of practicality when I started designing my grad collection, which is something I never used to think of when I was designing during my school years. Most of my designs were avant-garde, and I never imposed any restrictions on my creativity. However, that was not the case when I started working on the Urban Lush collection. It’s all about the idea of “wearable”—people want unique designs but not too crazy to wear. Wearable and comfortable should be the key elements of any brand.
What’s been the biggest challenge in establishing yourself as an emerging designer?
Capital is the biggest challenge for most emerging designers. It’s still the biggest bottleneck to getting a line off the ground. Of course, with a growing number of prizes becoming available to young designers today, emerging labels have more access to funding than ever before. However, there are a lot of requirements that limit your chances of application. For instance, you have to be up and running for two years before you can apply for the LVMH Prize or VOGUE Fashion Fund. You also have to have several stockists. What I’m trying to do now is to start on a very tight budget, then approach independent designer boutiques and showrooms. I guess the key to growing the business is being persistent and patient.
What do you consider Noha Raouf’s design philosophy?
My main goal as a designer is to help women move freely and enhance their style without changing the way they talk, walk, or behave. I want women to explore their true self through clothes. Moreover, I’m very keen to be part of every woman’s daily dressing ritual. As a huge supporter of sustainability, Noha Raouf aims to change the way people care for their clothes and fight the continuous acceleration of fast fashion. We are not concerned with short fashion cycles or quick trends; instead we are focused on building long-term relationships with our wearers. The brand is dedicated to empower women of all ages and to help change the wrong perceptions of women in today’s society.
The Noha Raouf woman is someone who loves art, music, and travel. She is not afraid to try new things, and she is willing to always add a timeless piece to her wardrobe. She is a rebel, a trendsetter, and an explorer. She cares for the environment and routes for sustainability and workplace ethics. In other words; fast fashion is not something that she is interested in.