Written by: Sanam Islam

Tonight, Barbie will be seen as she has never been seen before strutting down the runway wearing golden harem pants, a sparkly pink jalabiya (traditional Arab dress for women) and kaftans in a range of bright colours.

To celebrate the much-loved and world-famous Mattel doll’s 50th birthday, the region’s top fashion designers have created 32 life-size Barbie outfits , ranging from flowing gowns and ethnic wear to pant suits.

The designs will be showcased on the ramp in the grand finale of the five-day fashion week.

“The designers have been given complete freedom to create the outfits,” said Marc Robinson, co-founder and Director of Dubai Fashion Week. “We felt it was best not to restrict them and instead let their creativity run wild.”

Dubai is following in the footsteps of the Barbie fashion shows held at New York Fashion Week in the US and Lakme Fashion Week in India earlier this year. While the US designs were Western in style, the Lakme creations featured Indian cuts and motifs. So it comes as no surprise that the Dubai collection has a distinct Middle Eastern flavour.

Indian fashion designer Ekta Singh, known for blending contemporary and traditional styles, seems to have taken inspiration from belly dancers. Her outfit for Barbie consists of sequinned gold harem pants with a fitted brassiere-style top. “I imagined Barbie hosting a belly dancing party on the sand dunes with Shakira and her Arab friends. That’s how she celebrates her 50th birthday,” Singh said.

Middle eastern flavour

Shaikha Amal Al Maktoum and Raghda Taryam, designers behind luxury couture brand Kanzi, have been inspired by fairytales evident not just in their Spring/Summer 2010 collection, but also in their Barbie design a princess-style, pink jalabiya adorned with Swarovski crystals. “We wanted something in pink that had a modern look and yet reflected our culture,” Shaikha Amal said.

Hatem Al Akeel, known for his Toby brand, has also mixed tradition with modernity in his designs for Barbie. His first creation combines a traditional, collared thobe (robe for Arab men) with a voluminous pink dress. “I have blended the East and the West. It’s a mix of the feminine with masculinity,” Al Akeel said. His second design a silky white kaftan with Barbie lips and motifs embroidered on the front also combines the East and West.

However, Pakistani HSY brand’s Hassan Sheheryar Yasin’s creation is an inspiration of the ’70s disco-era style. His outfit features a large, flared white pant suit with a ruffled shirt that incorporates South Asian block printing and motifs. “You can be modern and Western with a South Asian look and still look current,” Yasin said.

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