All photos by Lesley Walker
Inspired by the traditional face covering worn by some women in the Gulf, a Qatar-based fashion designer has launched a new collection that uses natural fabrics to help raise awareness of cancer.
Under the slogan “think pink, wear green,” the Batoolah Love collection features women’s bisht, abayas, tops and dresses made from linen or silk.
The initial dozen items were designed by Manjulakshmi Bharathan, who teaches fashion at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar (VCUQ) and has her own women’s clothing label, Gills Manjulakshmi.
Majulakshmi is known for her ornate designs which borrow from her Indian heritage and have become popular in Qatar and the region, particular for weddings and special occasions.
Having been born in Qatar and lived here all her life, Bharathan said she had long been intrigued and inspired by the batoolah, the face covering traditionally worn by women in Qatar and the Gulf region for modesty reasons.
Many of the items in the designer’s new collection are trimmed with gold cord, and feature slivers of crystals for a glamorous touch. Dresses have big, bold pockets and all of the items incorporate a larger-than-life batoolah design.
Speaking to Doha News during the launch of the line yesterday, Bharathan said:
“The batoolah is an icon of women in the Middle East. I have always been inspired by the shape of it against a woman’s face and by the way you can see women’s eyelashes against it. I wanted to transform it, not too sharp but still with a femininity to it.”
Bharathan said she opted to use silk and linen in her new line after researching their health benefits.
“Linen especially has so many health-related properties which make it a perfect fabric for this region especially. It lets your body breath, it absorbs more sweat than cotton but still keeps you warm in cold weather,” she said.
After reading about how natural fabrics are recommended for use by those undergoing cancer treatment, and even claims that they can help the body’s fight against its return, Bharathan said she was inspired to create a small collection using these natural materials, in collaboration with Eqlipse boutique at the Pearl-Qatar.
The range costs from QR800 for a top to around QR2,500 for a bisht. While a small collection, other items can be made to order. Some 15 percent of the proceeds will be donated to the Qatar Cancer Society.
“They are all natural, and these traditional fabrics are not cheap, but they feel great on. I combined traditional and natural colors of beige and burgundy with little pops of pink and turquoise for this collection,” she added.
Maryah Aldafa co-owns the fashion store with her sister Maram and said when they heard of Bharathan’s collection they were keen to work with her to promote it.
“I have had family members diagnosed with cancer. Some have passed away as a result. I loved Manjulakshmi’s ideas of using traditional fabrics and the traditional design of the batoolah, which is so close to our hearts, in a modern way,” Aldafa said.
Breast cancer survivor Munira Nadir, 54, said she welcomed the collection as a new way to help raise awareness of what can be a taboo topic.
Speaking to Doha News at last night’s launch, she said:
“When I was diagnosed, no one talked about this. It was hard to find information. I am 10 years free of cancer now and I am happy to help spread to the word to everyone about what cancer is and early detection.
And to let them know that there are people here who have been through it all and can talk about it.”