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Label to watch: Poupée Couture

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When you talk about Arab-inspired fashion, images of black abayas and white kanduras topped off with a houndstooth shemagh immediately come to mind. Traditional dresses may be partially representative of the style scene here, but they do not by any means tell the whole story.

What the regional industry has always craved for is inspiration, not domination. Fashion customers want details – not the entire traditional Arab outfit – incorporated into wearable conventional pieces to make everyday ensembles stand out from the crowd. And it looks like our calls have been answered, at least in the accessories department.

Take Beirut-based label Poupée Couture for an example. The designers behind the brand have managed to craft modern pieces, in the form of costume belts and clutches, and injected them with what we could almost call a commentary on Arab society. It reflects the brand’s opinion on what goes on behind the smiles, the glitz and the glamour of Middle Eastern living – consider it a revival of intelligent fashion, if there ever was such a thing.

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We spoke to Roula Ghalayini, the brains behind the label, to learn more about her design philosophy and how her brand has evolved from infancy to its nearly four-year history.

Why do you think your accessories stand out?

Poupée Couture accessories carry with them a story – the story of the modern Arab woman. She is a woman who handles the delicacies of her pro-masculine context without compromising her individual beliefs, emotions, and needs. This modern Arab woman both shows and tells, but never simultaneously. She creatively finds ways to push the lines a little further without creating an uprising. And above all, without loosing her femininity.

For those who come from a part of the world close to mine, Poupée Couture instils a romantic sense of a modern Arabian reality. And for those who are from the other side of the world, Poupée Couture offers a sense of journey, and a sincere reflection of my reality.

But either way, Poupée Couture aspires to be a brand for women who are discerning, and have a refined eye for extraordinary quality that deviates from the norm. It is a brand that feels age is an irrelevant boundary, and rather focuses on the women’s spirits, energy and their “joie de vivre.”

Tell us more about how Arabic culture continues to influence your collections.

My initial designs materialized into bags that had strong geometric forms on the outside, in reference to our rigid societal norms, but then on a closer look emit rays of brilliant colour from underneath. This creative concept was initially depicted by leather cut into thin symmetrical slits that revealed a colourful material beneath. The amount of colour revealed depends on the quantity of items in the bag. The more filled up the bag gets, the more of the woman’s ”true colour” is revealed.

Perforated Arabesque metal is another element I use consistently to personify the Arab woman. At a first glance, this metal appears to be quite sober and monotone, but with a second look, it often reveals a colourful material peeking out through the bars of the Arabesque metallic grid. The way in which the woman’s’ ‘true colour’ radiates through changes with each and every model, but it certainly is consistently present. And this has come to be the Poupée Couture trademark.

Most recently, crystals accurately set within this metal grid added a sense of interactive shimmer when the bag is held or worn on the shoulder. It’s almost as though those tiny deeply colourful crystals personify the womens’ sense of mystery and the way they deal with their cultural limitation. The way they make their mark, but above all the way in which they do that, leaving the outsider wanting to know so much more.

What materials do you use and how do these fit with the overall image of your brand?

Although, Poupée Couture’s most distinctive trademark has come to be the metallic Arabesque grids, metallic hardware in general, is recurrent characteristic of the Poupée Couture brand. I find that metal is the perfect symbol of the rigid and often dominantly masculine Arab society. It has an almost industrial feel to it that I like to challenge by combining it with more delicate, and ultimately feminine satin materials.

Furthermore, I find the combination of a hard, cold metal with a feminine textile backdrop again is a great personification of my muse. Despite the strong outer shell that this woman is putting great efforts to reveal to the world, she always has a softer more vulnerable side to her, maybe more concealed but nonetheless present.

Moderately priced with belts from $60 and bags from $90 and upwards, Poupée Couture is available in Dubai at s*uce Boutiques at The Village Mall and The Dubai Mall, Chocolates and Pickles at Wafi City, Boom and Mellow at Mall of the Emirates and ICONIC at Deira City Centre. Fashionistas in the capital can get a hold of Poupée’s creations at s*uce at the Marina Mall.

Not in the UAE? Catch Poupée Couture online at