The mesmerising tunes of jazz embraces women as they walk into her studio. Welcomed by coffee aroma, eloquent tulle gowns, and proud silk drapes – stepping into the world of Deana Shaaban is as smooth as sailing through a charming, yet calm ocean. Over the duration of 10 years, she has managed to remain at the focal point of a growing and continuously shifting industry. Between haute couture, bridal and prêt-à-porter– it is safe to claim that the designer has tried it all. However, it all led to a forced hiatus.
Away from the demanding business and biased feedback of clients, Shaaban preferred to step out of the ring of fire, reassess her motives, and then dive back in. After what seemed like a few seasons too many, the designer finally came back with a collection as light as clouds, as optimistic as teenagers, and as determined as womanhood.
“It has been a very long journey and I believe that when it comes to art, if you do one thing obsessively for too long you end up getting burnt out. At some point, I came to realise that I have given my all to my art; and I ended up losing myself completely,” recounted the designer, adding, “I had been obsessed with a million different things within that world and how to make it work to the extent that I forgot why I was doing this to begin with.”
With a firm conviction to stop worrying about money and focus on creating art for the sake of it, Shaaban found herself retracing her earliest steps into the industry. “I started taking a lot of courses again,” said the designer, who began restricting her time at the studio to mere creation; not for clients or certain collections. “I slowly found my way back onto the right track and why I decided to pursue this journey almost 10 years ago,” shared the designer with a wide grin.
Her newest haute couture collection is an expression of that spectacular moment when a woman becomes whole. “I do not believe people truly fathom the power of their clothing; the majority still think that fashion is a mindless activity,” said the designer. However, encouraged by firm belief, Shaaban aimed to prove it to be a powerful method of expression. “This collection says I am who I am, no apologies and no compromises. Therefore, this was the most effortless collection I have ever worked on just because I let it be,” shared the designer.
Over the course of 18 months, Shaaban dedicated herself to address every woman, because each one needed her attention and support. Whether women who are lost, to those who have finally found themselves, those who are comfortable with their bodies, to those who are not; “I feel that in this collection, you will find something for everyone at every stage in their lives,” summarised the designer.
In parallel, the collection also gives equal attention to girls who are just about to become women. Based on personal experience, the designer already identifies this phase as quite challenging. “Even though it often goes unnoticed, it plays a huge part in shaping women’s personalities,” said the designer, who also catered to women who are older and about to redefine who they are.
Inspired by emotions and feelings, this collection manifests the designer’s personal notes on womanhood and what it takes to stand up for what you aspire for. Synonymous with intricacy and well-thought details, some of the dresses consumed four months in execution. The designer depended on silk, tulle, and organza as well as French and Italian lace to bring her dreamt-up deigns into reality. On the other hand, she used different kinds of beading and even incorporated fresh-water pearls to bring out her ideas loud and clear.
“Collections are often risky because clients prefer bespoke pieces that were designed specifically for them; however, I did it for me. I needed to design and create art without having to worry about external factors,” Shaaban said, proudly adding, “it actually worked out and exceeded my expectations, I have already sold 85% of the collection.”
According to Shaaban, being able to be herself and express her thoughts freely eventually helped her attract the right clientele and even celebrities, and women who appreciate the same principles and do not seek to force their own perspectives. “Mona Hala found me through a friend and contacted me while she was abroad for a dress to wear to the Cairo Film Festival. She gave me a wide range for innovation. She flew in two days before the festival, came to my studio and put on the dress before she stared at me and announced that it was exactly what she was looking for,” recounted the designer.
Known for being a woman who knows exactly what she wants in every aspect of her life, working with her was both refreshing and reassuring for the designer. In the meantime, another inspiring woman found her way to the calm studio. While planning for an upcoming premiere event, actress Injy Abou Zeid contacted Shaaban for a dress. With zero intentions to interfere with Shaaban’s design process, the end result was satisfying for both parties.
“I have been fighting for a decade to reach out to celebrities and design things for women that I could never truly connect with. However, when I finally focused on myself, I ended up meeting just the right people,” explained the designer happily. Furthermore, actress Tara Emad is also someone who slowly but surely became a muse and a true close friend of Shaaban.
As much as the designer has matured into a focused and determined artist, the industry has also taken a few turns on its way to development. As the designer best describes it, one of the greatest changes that has taken place is the courage people have garnered to just design. With the number of local designers on the rise, it is safe to assume that previous social restrains and cultural stigmas have started to dissolve in the face of creative freedom.
“In our roots as Egyptians we are artists and craftsmen; that is who we are and what pharaohs were most brilliant at. Nevertheless, somewhere down the line someone told us that we need to solely be doctors and engineers,” said Shaaban. According to the designer, her early steps were threatened by the fact that fashion and design were not valid options at the time. “There were only a handful of designers and it was a huge leap of faith; I had no support system,” said Shaaban at a time when design was becoming a popular and valid choice that is often supported by parents and society.
As for her future plans after finding the right route, Shaaban is encouraged to take international sprints. Following her constant desire to associate her work with women who inspire her and play positive roles in their societies, she has been busy reaching out to a number of international celebrities in search for collaboration opportunities. “I was absolutely astonished to receive positive and encouraging feedback from several of my biggest idols. I want to take this slowly and smoothly in order not to collapse back,” concluded the designer on the verge of greater accomplishments.