Giving women a majestic glow: an interview with Deana Shaaban

Marwa Raaffat, Saturday 4 Dec 2010

Unlike other designers in Cairo, Deana Shaaban has avoided handing designs over to her atelier team and decided to sew the garments herself.

Deana Shaaban fashion show
Deana Shaaban fashion show (Photo: Karim Mansour)

Apparently the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Deana Shaaban inherited her passion and love of fashion from her mother. As a child whenever they used to travel anywhere in the world, her mother would take her to markets and stores,  searching for unique materials and great fabric.  “She was always making cute things and getting us to try them on,”   says Shaaban about her lovely mum.

“We have a closet full of fabric from years and years of travelling with my family.  One day I took a piece of fabric out and  started cutting  and making a dress from it. Of course, it didn’t resemble anything that could be worn (laughing), but truly I was amazed by the idea of having a rectangular piece of fabric, designing and making something beautiful.  It’s the most incredible thing and that was the beginning,”  she explains.

Shaaban was born in 1985 in Bayonne, New Jersey in the US and grew up Saudi Arabia.  She received her degree from the American University in Cairo (AUC) in Business Administration, majoring in marketing. She then went on to gain certificates in fashion design from the Istituto Di Moda, in Cairo.

In her last year at the AUC Shaaban attended a class in sketching with Youmna Sorour,  the AUC's only fashion-design instructor. She followed up her interest with classes at the Fashion Design Centre (FDC) and the Institute Technique de la Mode. She  began making evening dresses, first for her sister and  her friends and then people came to her and  became clients. After a one-year programme in the London branch of the Instituto Marangoni, she is currently based in Cairo.

The vision and concept of  Shaaban's elegant evening wear and bridal gowns are inspired by  Arabian, Indian, Grecian and  Victorian influences which defines all her collections.  Her wedding dresses are made to order and her casual wear collection is out twice a year, spring/summer and autumn/winter.

No design is ever repeated because they are created with the belief that not all clothes suit every woman.  Each woman is unique in her own way,. “The pieces  should give her a majestic glow and she is transformed,”  says Shaaban .

She collects fabrics from around the world and puts them together for her creative designs. Her spring/summer line of tops may be based on simple cotton jersey t-shirts but with the insertion of materials such as Indian silk and satin.  According to Shaaban, the pants are loose and playful, the skirts full and swirly and lots of colours make it  fun to wear.

Surprisingly, Shaaban sews all her own designs. Yes! Literally. Unlike any other designer I've interviewed in Cairo, she has avoided handing designs over to her atelier team and has decided to sew the garments herself. "I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep it up though," Shaaban admits, "but I'm sure I'd like to sew something in every collection. It makes me very happy to be that involved in my designs. This time around I realised I was in over my head with the amount of sewing an entire collection requires".

Her fashion show for the autumn/winter 2011 collection  was held in a beautiful  garden in Maadi last month and was a great success.  Her 70-piece collection included ten evening gowns and three wedding dresses. “I've mixed some of this season’s trends with a Victorian/Renaissance feel,” she says.   Shabaan believes that the fashion of this era accentuates a woman’s beauty and makes her "glow." 

From this season’s new trends, Shaaban chose the vest and the colour is gold. “I love using gold in small amounts. It's classy and chic when used properly,” she says.

Her autumn collection is all about clean and simple cuts. "The princess cut was my favourite this season but I played around and mixed many fabrics and colours,” she adds.

Shaaban used fabric from Egypt, India, Indonesia and Italy -- linens, cotton, satin and polyester and for the evening collection, silk, chiffon, organza, tulle and lace. “In some designs, I used three types of fabric from three different countries,” she says. 

The fashion show was a  hit with a full house , showcasing  Shaaban's latest creations to  the trendy fashonistas of Cairo

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