Waqaas Ahmed, the creative genius behind Aywa London, and winner of the Haute Arabia Modest Fashion awards 2015, is the hottest new name on the modest fashion scene.
The Award, sponsored by Bahraini designer, Shaima Al Monsoori, was a cash prize of £3000 and £1000 for charity. Read about the event here. We stumbled across Waqaas through Instagram, having fallen in love with his unique designs. His first collection was so eye-catching; an explosion of colours carefully combined with the traditionally black abaya. Yet they still managed to remain elegant and sophisticated, just how an abaya should be. Ironically, we purchased Aywa abayas for the Haute Arabia fashion show, only discovering days beforehand that Waqaas was even showcasing. After his win, we managed to meet briefly with Waqaas, squeezing in between the melee of people clamouring over this rising star. Although in utter shock at winning such a prestigious award, he was as pleasant and gracious as he appeared to be during our online interactions. Not only did his designs woo guests at the fashion show, but his sincere and humble aura made him a truly deserving winner.
The second collection showcased at the Haute Arabia fashion show, Love in Tangier, was magnificent. Effortlessly chic, and completely unique. Waqaas prides himself on creating luxury, and quality one-off pieces which are never replicated. In the world of fashion, where there is always a steady stream of imitators ready to replicate; this is a fresh and welcome philosophy that we can definitely appreciate. Aywa London’s Love in Tangier was inspired by Waqaas’s visit to the northern Moroccan city. Nicknamed the gateway to Africa, Tangier has long attracted creative souls since its geographical position encourages a myriad of international visitors. Thriving with culture and tradition, Tangier boasts an energetic art scene and has a proud heritage of established Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities living in harmony. For Waqaas, this was the perfect place to channel inspiration and his ability to draw on everyday life around him is superb…
“Think of the narrow dusty streets in a a canvas of chalky whites and camel golds, contrasted with splashes of colour on the windows and doors. The light sheet of dirt, which can be wiped clean easily, but it’s kind of beautiful to look at and adds to the character. Think of the old man sitting outside his doorstep, just causally watching time go by. And the view of Mediterranean Sea together with the old Medina.”
This striking image that Waqaas describes, the vivid scenes of Moroccan Tangier, has been artistically injected into his latest collection by just the right amount. Whilst not too-overbearing, the Love in Tangier collection has clear Afro-Arab tones, a beautiful marriage of the essence of Moroccan Berber-Arab culture with the Gulf abaya. Dusty whites, yellows and blue prints, flowing abayas, and embroidered jackets are the main features of the new collection.
This level of innovation is a brilliant new addition to the modest fashion scene and we look forward to buying from the new collection.
The Love in Tangier collection by Aywa London, available Monday 9th March.
Shop the new collection on www.aywa.co.uk
Styling: Imogen Le Roux
60 SECONDS WITH… Waqaas Ahmed
You recently won the Modest Fashion Awards hosted by Haute Arabia, and sponsored by Monsoori, beating many other huge names in modest fashion that night. Describe the emotions that ran through you at that moment?
I was speechless! At first I was lost for words because it meant so much to me that the vision and drive that I have for Aywa was understood by the audience. It was a very happy moment for me and also an emotional one.
You have a very serene aura, both online and in person. What does your daily schedule look like?
There is constantly a lot going on in my mind and in my life. My personality allows me to balance work and personal activities.
Your zodiac sign is…
Biggest pet peeve?
Laziness, lack of self control and drive, ignorance.
Tell us about your fashion journey and how Aywa London came to be?
I grew up around the sewing machine and have been making things since the age of 12. I guess I inherited the skill from my mother. My family have always supported me to follow the education and career path that I was passionate about. As a creative and artistic person, I didn’t want to rely on studying a degree in fashion design, however I wanted to learn how to be able to handcraft garments to a high standard. This led me to enrol in the London College of Fashion to study production tailoring. It was there I discovered the endless opportunities within the fashion industry. I then went on to graduate with a degree in Fashion Buying and Merchandising, which allowed me to realise my ability to connect art with the business side of fashion.
After graduating from LCF, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I am a risk-taker but didn’t have life skills, so I left home to begin my career in Dubai, where I discovered the luxury abaya! I returned to the UK to then work for leading Fashion Brands Burberry, Dolce&Gabbana, YSL and Gucci within different sectors of the business. Whilst working, I started making ‘alternative’ abayas for my sisters and friends, who wore my pieces to weddings, events, Eid etc. People started asking where these abayas came from and were fascinated that they were made by the brother! Aywa begins its journey!
Describe your own personal style and your favourite designers.
I like to think I dress understated, but my friends disagree. Usually, I would be drawn towards products that have a cultural heritage or a story attached to it, which makes my style very varied and… Waqaas! I love Dolce & Gabbana!
Primark, yay or nay?
Who or what inspires your designs?
I am inspired by my love of culture, history, art, fashion, food
If you weren’t in fashion, where would you be?
I would probably be exploring the world as a free soul, understanding the world!
What is your go-to, last minute outfit that you can throw on and still look good in?
White t-shirt, black jeans, trench coat, and trainers.
Comfort or style?
Ideal future collaboration?
I would love to collaborate with a leading charity organisation.
What’s next for Aywa London?
We are launching our own hashtag #aywagirl in shaa Allah
Describe an Aywa girl…
An Aywa girl brings her personality into her dressing. She understands both, fashion and style. She dresses modestly or is thinking about doing so, but may not necessarily want to go straight to the black abaya. Aywa girls understand quality and appreciate art and design. She can be graceful, elegant, fun or quirky, but does not compromise her modesty.
What makes you smile?
Little and simple acts of kindness.
Featured image provided by @wwags