A chat with Mahdiya Farook of the Qatari ethnic fashion brand Hauteside Couture
he image that comes to mind when someone says ‘international fashion brand’ is almost invariably Western, both in terms of origin and in style of clothing. However, the East is vast, as are its different types and interpretations of fashion.
The modest and ethnic fashion circuit has recently seen a new star join its ranks out of Qatar. Hauteside Couture is the brainchild of two friends, Mahdiya Farook (Hauteside Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer) and Saman Jamshid (Hauteside Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer).
Sri Lankan Mahdiya and Pakistani Saman, who have both gone on to build their own individual careers in Qatar, formed Hauteside to reflect a woman’s love for high-end fashion that also captures her need to celebrate her identity, individuality, and heritage. Following the brand’s launch in September, The Sunday Morning Brunch chatted with Mahdiya on what it’s like building a brand in the Qatari market and how she sees Hauteside fitting in not just in the Qatari fashion space but regionally.
The Hauteside story
“Fashion in Qatar is still evolving and there’s a gap and lack of choice regarding clothing for the modest, modern, and trendy woman,” Mahdiya said of what inspired Hauteside’s initial concept, noting: “Certain styles tend to be very repetitive, with a lack of uniqueness. There’s also the high cost for a consumer with a medium-high budget. That’s where our label comes in.”
Hauteside balances ethnic fashion, modest fashion, and innovative styling to create a fashion proposition that can appeal to women all over the world, especially those with South Asian roots, mixing Pakistani textiles and embellishments with a discerning sense of style, and above all, the drive to make a difference as a brand.
Hauteside sources sustainable high-end fabric from around the world, with the addition of accessories and other add-ons sourced through a variety of supply chains. Each item of clothing is handmade and hand-dyed. They are also made into separates so that customers have the freedom to select separate pieces from the range and mix and match them with other separates they have in their wardrobe, making these pieces more versatile and prolonging their life and use.
Hauteside also focuses on supporting women, small communities, and businesses. “Everything is curated with the view of sustainability,” Mahdiya explained. “We’re not only concerned about profits, but about supporting underprivileged women and producing clothing that has a positive impact on the environment as well.”
What goes into creating a non-seasonal conscious collection?
It was important to both Mahdiya and Saman that Hautseide’s collection celebrate the women they are made for – from their ethnic roots to their courage and desire to make a difference, and part of their vision is to spread across Asia and work with small communities and businesses across Asia to produce clothing that reflect each of these identities in a modern, contemporary way. Hauteside aims to grow into a label that will be manufactured primarily by homegrown small businesses in different countries – each with a strong hook and quality that will continue to serve the brand’s purpose, with Mahdiya and Saman uniting these different identities under a common design vision.
Hauteside’s first collection, made in Pakistan, celebrates the Pakistani design and craft identity, and the next step for Hauteside is working with Sri Lankan craftswomen to create a Hautseise collection that celebrates Sri Lankan crafts and supports and uplifts Sri Lankan women.
With the brand having just launched, Mahidya explained that their biggest challenge so far had been getting their sizing sorted, with the first collection catering primarily to medium and petite women. “We’ve since realised that real women come in very diverse sizes, and our second collection, which will be out just in time for Qatar’s wedding season, will cater to all women.”
Building an international brand out of Qatar
One of the more unusual things about Hauteside is that it is based out of Qatar, a country not quite thought of as a fashion hub; a reputation that, Mahdiya explained, Qatar itself was very aware of and was actively working to change. “Qatar wants to be the best in everything and one goal they’re working towards is becoming a Middle Eastern fashion destination. They’ve invested into lots of incubation programmes, events, and initiatives that support designers, not just Qatari designers specifically, but any designer working out of Qatar.”
Hauteside aligns with this vision of building international brands out of Qatar that can establish Qatar as a fashion destination while also looking outward to making a global impact. Speaking of Hauteside’s future, Mahdiya said: “Qatar has limited resources in terms of where we want Hauteside. That is why our design solutions, including that of diversifying our manufacturing and designing, will expand across the globe. My husband Shafraz has been my biggest pillar of strength and has played a large role in bringing this brand to life.” The next step is working on a Sri Lankan collection and taking Hauteside to different markets including the UK and Dubai.
Hauteside is now available for purchase at WH, Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 7. For more information visit its Instagram page @Hauteside_official