UAE-Based Ethical Luxury Brand Abadia Is Reimagining Fashion For The Contemporary Woman The label is steeped in the culture and heritage of the Middle East, and Abadia particularly stands out from its peers in the region with its commitment to making use of local artisans -who are mostly women.
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In 2013, Shahd AlShehail was a Global Fellow with Acumen, a non-profit focused on changing the way the world tackles poverty, and as part of her fellowship with the entity, she traveled to India to work with one of its investee companies for a year. "That same year, Rana Plaza, a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed, killing over 1,100 people," AlShehail recalls. "It was a rude awakening- here I was leaving everything behind to do my part in alleviating poverty and bringing dignity to people, where something like the shirt on my back could be causing poverty or death somewhere else in the world. It didn't make sense. It felt hypocritical. From there, I started researching the fashion industry deeply, learning about the realities of fashion supply chains, and how broken the system is. I knew there had to be a better way, a way that we could create, while respecting people and the environment."
It's thus with this ethos and drive that AlShehail became the co-founder and CEO of Abadia, a UAE-based ethical luxury brand that's made for women "whose fashion choices echo their personal values and lifestyles." The label is steeped in the culture and heritage of the Middle East, and Abadia particularly stands out from its peers in the region with its commitment to making use of local artisans -who are mostly women- to contribute to the crafting of their ready-to-wear pieces. "Luxury, to us, is not only impeccable products and great raw material, it also stands for strong ethical values, and a huge appreciation for craftsmanship and a commitment to supporting artisans," AlShehail says. "We consider our impact at every stage of our design process, and we make choices with humanity and the environment in mind. We are not perfect, but we are committed to improving with every collection, creating timeless clothing that connects with our customers."
It is thus to Abadia's credit that it has certainly managed to make a name for itself on both the regional and global fashion scene- the label was, for instance, famously worn by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, the wife of Jordan's King Abdullah II, in 2018, and it was also featured as part of the Paris Fashion Week that same year. The popularity Abadia has seen (and continues to see) is especially heartening when considering the fact that it is a brand that's going against the grain in terms of how much of the fashion industry typically operates. "Starting an independent label in today's oversaturated fashion industry is a huge challenge," AlShehail says. "But if we didn't feel like we were adding something unique and of value, we wouldn't exist. That value became clear during the COVID-19 pandemic, when our customers continued to engage with and buy our products, because they believed in their timeless appeal and quality."
As for the road ahead, AlShehail wants the Abadia brand to continue to grow and excel on the path that it's already on. "We have a unique and authentic approach to luxury, and we believe that sets us apart," she says. "We are inspired by our culture, heritage, and the incredible craftsmanship that you can find across the region. And through this, we want to change the narrative, and open up the world to the real human story." And while Abadia's success in the region has been a great start, AlShehail has her eyes set on global recognition. "We'd like to put fashion and craftsmanship from the Arabian Peninsula on the global map," she declares. "We believe we have a unique point of view that can be appealing to women across the world."
Eureka! Shahd AlShehail on how to make an idea a great one
Ideate and recognize take the leap "Start, and let the work teach you. Ideas grow and develop as they are shared and practiced."
Don't be afraid to fail "Failure is an inevitable part of the human experience; it allows us to learn and grow."
Always stay true to your ethos "Your values should be embedded in your day-to-day operations. Our heritage and culture are what makes us unique and helps shape who we are."
Don't forget the importance of storytelling "People are looking for services and businesses that they can feel connected to in a very disconnected world. Your community, no matter how small, will always be there for you, if it feels like it knows you."
Abadia is one of the companies included in the 2023 edition of our annual 10 Great Ideas feature, which, as an ode to the UAE Innovation Month, celebrates individuals and innovations that impress with their ingenuity. Check out the full list of 10 Great Ideas in our print issue here.