BY ANAAM IKRAM
The abaya: a loose black cloak that covers the woman from head-to-toe, a religious and cultural symbol in majority of the Arab world, especially in the Gulf region. A traditional item of clothing present in most wardrobes in the GCC, the abaya today represents more than a garment meant for covering up, but also somewhat of a modest fashion statement, allowing the wearer to express their individuality while keeping their traditional and religious values close to their heart. Available in different colours, styles, cuts, prints, fabrics and more, the abaya has become a sign of versatility, ingenuity, and elegance, and the sisters of Leenaz abayas aim to project just that through their eclectic prints, hand-embroidered details, and abstract designs. Perle Magazine spoke to the sisters exclusively about their beautiful creations and the historical roots behind their decision to launch their abaya brand.
Having grown up in and around the world of tailoring, it was inevitable that Leena and Fayqa Janahi would also venture into designing. Their father, Abdulrahim Janahi, was a talented tailor who owned a quaint tailoring shop in the heart of the old Manama Souq. During the early 1960s he was one of the few to tailor suits on the island, along with the traditional thoub. Passing his creativity and innovative mindset to his daughters, the sisters have also become known for stepping away from the norm and incorporating various elements from around the world into their designs – revamping typical abaya. Taking the risk and introducing coloured abayas with intricate detailing almost 6 years ago, Leenaz became the pioneers for contemporary abaya styles and the ultimate trendsetters, and tell a story of their personal interests through their designs.
Always wanting to create their own business in tailoring, the sisters launched their business in 2010. With their educational background in Business Management from University of Bahrain, and also being trained as a seamstress, the sisters decided to set up their brand. “We decided we needed to bring this brand to life because when Leena designs a collection, she is unbound by limitations and submerges into deep thought and storytelling, that is seen in the creative output of each collection”, says Fayqa. Naming it after Leena, the sisters are very hands on when it comes to crafting a collection, and relay a story throughout each of them through their designs. Designing 30 pieces per collection, the collections are divided into three segments with 10 abays in each style segment, which progresses from subtle hints of design to more elaborate pieces in the collection. Inspired from the both retro styles and modern elements to create their Volume 1, which consists of 4 collections: Aztec Empire, that pays tribute to the Aztec era and the abayas are decorated with tribal designs and embellishments; Geo Cuts, which is a more contemporary collection created using geometric shapes and sharp architectural lines; Nature’s Dream, drawing inspiration from freshness nature exudes, this collection boasts earthy-toned abayas with neutral coloured embroidery; Retro Rewind, an ode to the 80s with cassette tape embroidery and statement sleeves. “We design a whole range to satisfy more than one taste”, Fayqa adds. Starting out on a smaller scale and then slowly expanding their business, the sisters each brings a strength that helps create Leenaz: Leena inspires new collections, Fayqa adds details and runs the business, and Huma manages the Operations to see that the initial vision is translated into the final product. “The idea behind Volume 1”, Leenaz explains, “was to show a woman’s journey through culture and nature, through a cityscape, as well as through time, and at the same time it’s a beautiful display of cross culture fashion influences as can be seen through the Aztec designs, or the large frills from the 80s collection, or the Lavender field embroidery from the Nature collection.” Wanting to bridge the gap between cultures and fashion through their abayas, the sisters explain they take their inspiration from art, vivid imagery, music, pop culture, and want to translate that into their creations, but not in an ostentatious manner.
Travelling the globe and looking for the suitable fabrics for the abayas, Fayqa says she handpicks the materials herself to ensure their customers receive only the best of items; noting that everything is done by hand. Earning mentions in the coveted Vogue Arabia as favourite designers of a UAE-based artist, the hard work and dedication that goes into maintaining Leenaz has earned the brand many loyal followers from across the GCC region.
Photo credit: Ali Riffai
Art direction: 217 Public Relation
Make-up: Masooma Hashim
Still running their late father’s shop in Manama as well as their own two-story tailoring workshop and showroom in Riffa, the sisters hold their father’s passion close to their heart and even still use the scissors he used for 45 years, the Janahi sisters have taken their dream and turned it into a reality and work tirelessly to propel it to further. “From the very beginning, we appreciated what our father did. We were raised in a family where it was all about tailoring, so we thought why not continue on with this legacy in our own style”, Huma says. Working on Volume 2, Leenaz has taken a completely different direction by focusing on a ‘Travel’ theme and juxtaposing that with the life and style of a cosmopolitan world. “There will be more about travel and human movement on foot, vehicles, and hot air balloons, and more.”, the sister explain.
Coming from humble roots and earning their rights as one of Bahrain’s contemporary abaya brands, Leenaz has been making its mark all across the GCC. Along with doing monthly exhibitions in the GCC, Leenaz abayas are also retailed in Bahrain and around the Gulf and continue to expand further with their worldwide shipping services.
Reworking the standard abaya and pushing the envelope with their modern aesthetic and innovative designs, Leenaz is a brand that speaks to the modern woman and is making a difference in the cultural fashion scene.
For more information:
(00973) 3669 0665
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