The Warrior Princess of Ashi Studio

The Middle East boasts many haute couture clients, but it also produces some of top couture design talent too.

Saudi designer Mohammed Ashi of Ashi Studio presented a breathtaking Spring/Summer 2016 collection of exceptionally crafted cocktail dresses and evening gowns that had all the hallmarks of his signature style: graceful architectural constructions and intricately detailed embellishments.

The Beirut-based designer, who interned with Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy and worked for Elie Saab for two and a half years, set up his own label in 2007. Since then, his elegant designs have been worn by A-listers like Eva Longoria and Natalie Portman, regularly placing them on best-dressed lists. Most recently, Lady Gaga wore one of his white creations as Countess Elizabeth in the cult TV series, American Horror Story.

Speaking to Blouin Lifestyle, Ashi says he shies away from bright colors, preferring cream and off whites with tone on tone embroideries to showcase his atelier’s savoir-faire and sharp tailoring. “My work is very sculptural, I drape more than I sketch. I like to accentuate certain part of the body, pushing up here and there to create an element of surprise. By playing with the structure I can create the illusion of something new that grabs attention,” he explains.

For this latest collection, the designer dreamed up a sad romantic story of a princess awaiting her prince and transforming into a warrior princess to be closer to her lover, before eventually killing herself after learning he would never return from war. “This translated into what you see here,” he says while pointing to exaggerated tulip shaped skirts that encloses the body, bolero jackets with rich brocades that look to offer protection, thick intricate embroideries of lions that he first saw on a shield in a museum in Sweden. Floral garlands bloom amongst layers of fabric, wrapped around and shielding the body. “I consider myself more of an artist than a couturier,” the designer muses.

Citing his love for the unusual architectural designs of Zaha Hadid, Ashi gives ruffles structuring, as if sculpting them like waves, incorporating tulles and feathers to great effect.

With a mix of Victorian and baroque fashions and a twist of modernity, the collection was strongly corseted, yet appears extremely light and airy thanks to the use of barely there tulles that just disguise the boning that supports the silhouette. Needlework with metal thread intricately covered some of the surfaces while others had micro-pearls with raffia, or tiny laser-cut suede sequins — though the designer confesses, “I don’t like to use sequins,” adding he feels they can distract from the design.

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