Introducing Nouri

Nour Kelani knows how to throw a launch party. At the beginning of Ramadan, the young Syrian fashionista-turned-designer had her living room transformed into a chic showroom; complete with hung traditional bamboo walking canes as makeshift rails to display her latest designs. Her first complete collection that included Ramadan thobes, abayas, and skirts, Kelani’s official debut of “Nouri” was a great success. The saccharine presence of Pink Camel catering and party accessory company only sweetened the ambiance with its sugar-high products, while complimenting the feminine essence of the Nouri brand.

In addition, Kelani’s inspirations were overtly sprinkled throughout her home, from the “Prada” backlight sign to the Philippe Stark 18k-gold-plated “Kalashnikov AK47” lamp, each item taking us further down the rabbit hole that is her imagination. Friends and customers snapped Polaroid photos under a “Got Moustache?” sign, while Kelani proudly displayed her mood board, much like a doctor would a degree, intentionally positioned to suspend any doubts over whether she was a true designer or not.
But if her mood board stood to suspend any doubts, the designs acted to permanently dissolve them. Perfect for the trendy fashionista, Nouri is a lifestyle brand that translates Kelani’s personal style and sentiment for the past into unique renditions of basic cuts. Her strength is the designer’s ability to juxtapose contrasting materials on simple designs to manipulate interesting proportions. The various textures, from soft jersey to stiff cottons, are used to construct sculptured silhouettes that are both strong and feminine.

“My inspiration came from many different sources,” revealed Kelani. “From my best friend, Dina, to Marie Antoinette.” Yet probably the most significant inspiration for Kelani, and the motivation to even contemplate venturing out to become a designer is her grandmother. “My grandmother is what this is all about,” she explained. As a child, Kelani recalls her grandmother’s chic fashion sense and the sophisticated ambiance she accessorized every outfit with. “My passion for fashion came from her,” she added.
“My brand has a lot of Syrian heritage,” explained the designer. “It’s why I chose the ***tarboosh*** [red felt cylinder hat with a tassel] and moustache to be in my photo editorial.”  These motifs that are so immutably embedded in Kelani’s adolescence are representative of a patriarchal society. She implements the association of these symbols rather unconventionally, borrowing their strength to create strong designs for her female clientele. “Traditionally, the men with power sported a moustache, so the tarboosh become a symbol of power. So for me, my designs are about women empowerment,” stated Kelani. In fact, Nouri includes a revised men’s thobe with princess cap sleeves made out of the red shomagh (checkered head scarf worn by men).

Her love of high-fashion and fetish for guns and poodles fused together produce an edgy abaya collection appropriately called, “Guns and Poodles.” She admits that while the collection reflects her, it is the abaya collection that is “so me.”
Not known to many, the Nouri brand actually existed five years ago, albeit in a very premature stage, insists Kelani. She began making designs for herself and her close, inner circle. When potential clients asked her friends who designed their unique outfit, they would simply reply “Nouri,” the moniker affectionately given to Kelani by her family and friends.
Soon she had sold some of her pieces to the Hilton Hotel in Makkah, but was too embarrassed to let her friends know that she aspired to take her hobby of designing and transform it into a legitimate profession. “I was too scared,” admitted Kelani. It was after working in one of Saudi’s oldest multi-brand department stores, Al-Sawani, and a short stint at the locally started mass-brand, that Kelani realized she had to step up to the plate and commit herself 100 percent to her true passion. “If it wasn’t for my husband and his support, I’d probably never have had the courage to quit my job and focus on this full time.”

What’s next for Nouri? Well, Kelani promises that the next collection is going to be completely different, with a focus on separates. “I’m doing jackets, shirts and skirts,” revealed Kelani. “And the Nouri brand, which is meant to be a lifestyle brand — not just fashion, will eventually include home accessories and paintings … whatever, really,” she chuckled. “There’s no limit.”

Article by Marriam M Mossalli – Arab News