Dina Khalife

In an industry where most designers work with ready-made fabrics, Dina Khalife chooses to painstakingly illustrate her ideas and develop patterns making her exquisite scarves and ready-to-wear uniquely her own. Alia Fawaz spoke to the talented Madrid-based designer whose products, known for their whimsical designs and lively prints, have garnered a cult-like following across the Middle East and beyond.  

Talk us through the Dina Khalife product range. Tell us about the different products you create.
The collection is a carefully edited selection of key wardrobe pieces, including dresses, sweetly tailored separates with matching prints and tops with playful details. Complementing the apparel collection are matching accessories including printed scarves with delicately hand rolled edges and limited edition handmade necklaces echoing the motifs from the prints. 

We love the originality of your prints and use vivid colours. Talk us through the process of making your unique pieces.
The brand is characterised by colourful prints with a strong attention to details. The collection starts with a theme. It is usually related to my personal life: a holiday, affection for an object, an exhibition, etc. The next step is developing the scarves inspired by the theme. The prints are developed from the drawings of the scarves. I study the drawings and see what could be developed into patterns and apply them on clothes.

What took you to Spain and how long have you been based there?
My passion is hand drawing unique prints and turning them into colourful clothes and accessories. After a trip to Spain in 2007, I decided relocate to Madrid, a city I fell in love with. In 2010, I graduated from IED Madrid with a master’s in Textile Design and Surfaces. Later, I worked for Spanish fashion house Bimba & Lola as an accessory designer. I decided to start my label in 2011.

So what was the most valuable lesson during your time with Bimba & Lola as an accessory designer?
I learned how to develop a collection with a theme that goes through the clothes, accessories, bags and shoes departments. It was very important for me because I learned about the creative and the business parts involved when creating a brand. 

Madrid has a vibrant contemporary art scene. How much do the art, architecture and culture of Spain influence your style?
The idea behind the brand is to portray beauty and magic in ordinary things. I’m inspired by everyday encounters: the books I’m reading, nature, interactions with people, travels, museums and food. I am lucky and thankful to live in a country with so much inspiration as Spain.

So what was the most valuable lesson during your time with Bimba & Lola as an accessory designer?
I learned how to develop a collection with a theme that goes throughout the clothes, accessories, bags and shoes departments. It was very important for me because I learned about the creative and the business parts involved when creating a brand. 

Do you manufacture your products in Spain too?
The collection is entirely produced in Europe. The fabrics are printed in Como, Italy, an area traditionally known for its textiles and the finest printing techniques. The sewing is done in an atelier in Madrid. Having the collection produced in Europe in small runs by local artisans makes the quality of each product exclusive and unique.

What are the biggest challenges and advantages of being a global brand based in southern Europe?
The market is Europe is more saturated, which makes it more difficult to enter when you are an independent designer. It’s more oriented towards big brands. However, the advantage of being located in Europe is the ability to reach professional suppliers and have them deliver supreme quality products.

Where is your biggest market today?
My biggest market is in Dubai.

What kind of customer do you have in mind when you design your collection?
My collection targets women looking for unique outfits that make them stand out in the crowd. These women appreciate delicate details and stylish clothes. They come from all over the world.    

Who are your favourite designers?
Dries Van Noten is a true inspiration for the use of colours, pattern mixing, gorgeous fabrics and accessories. I admire the subtle avant-garde designs of Stella McCartney, the elegance of DELPOZO and the handwork and patterns in Tsumori Chisato’s work.

What is your advice to aspiring designers in the Middle East?
My advice is to believe in what you are doing and put all your heart into it. The result will be unique. Passion is reflected in work and it reaches people.

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