The Sabina Motasem label is all about unadulterated luxury – pared-down simplicity that makes a powerful statement. We talked to founder, owner, designer Sabina Ali, about her past, her present, and her very bright future
A bit of background, please?
I trained as a knitwear designer at DeMontfort, and worked in fashion for several years before creating my own line.
Do you come from a family in the business?
No-one in my family has worked in the bridal industry, although my father was a businessman and inspired me to do the same. My business is all me; I started from the ground up, and it has grown organically over the years.
Did you always want to be in bridal, or did it just happen along the way?
Ever since I was little, I always wanted to be in fashion and have my own business, but I had no idea what that could be, nor did I have the courage to take the plunge. After working in fashion for several years, and as a graphic designer in marketing, I created a line of cocktail dresses for off-schedule London Fashion Week, and special wedding dress gifts for two best friends, who couldn’t find a simple and elegant gown to wear on their special day 11 years ago.
It suddenly occurred to me that there could be a gap in the market for such a thing, and the idea for Sabina Motasem was born.
Motasem happens to be my middle name and means ‘inner beauty’. I won an award on the HBV New Entrepreneur Scholarship, which provided a grant to start my business and was selected to showcase my collection at the Zandra Rhodes’ Fashion and Textile Museum. I then won the Highly Commended Award at the 2016 Wedding Industry Awards for London and South East.
When did you launch your label?
I launched my first collection in 2007.
What preparation (and bravado) went into it?
Winning that HBV New Entrepreneur Scholarship made a huge difference. I spent a lot of time at the Business and IP Centre at the British Library, networking with other businesses, and learning about business. It was there that I was fortunate to have mentoring sessions with the late Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, who was supportive and helpful in those early stages.
How would you describe your style?
Our dresses are timeless, with simple and elegant shapes and a focus on beautiful detail and styling.
Where do you source your fabrics?
We are committed to always using the very finest fabrics, and our silks and heavy silk crepes are from fine suppliers in Italy.
Where are you based and where are your dresses made?
We are a London-based label; our dresses are exclusively made in the UK in high-end ateliers.
Tell us about your 2019 collection…
Aurora is timeless, elegant, and always under-stated. It includes sequinned beauties, delicately embroidered 3D flowers, pearl-encrusted toppers and waterfall draped and reversible wrap skirts. There are ten pieces now and a further seven launching in October.
Do you take inspiration from anywhere or do you just focus on reinventing classical lines?
I’m always looking for innovative, original ideas and working on new ways of cutting and draping fabrics. I’m fortunate to have a very creative and collaborative team, who love developing fresh ideas. I am really excited to be presenting the second part of our Aurora collection in October, which is going to have more embellished and artfully created pieces.
How many stockists do you have today and where are they?
Our dresses are available in Ireland, Germany, the US and, of course, here in the UK.
London Designer Weekends at The Andaz – tell us all about it! What are you hoping to achieve there?
Brides want to connect with brands in a way that hasn’t been done before, and be able to co-create their wedding dress. At our exclusive designer weekends at the Andaz, the most popular and the most voted for new styles we preview exclusively to brides will become the new, additional styles in our October collection.
We want to create a luxurious and innovative experience, one where the bride is involved and can influence which styles make it into our collection… Along with all-important bubbly in five-star luxurious surroundings, of course!
The Andaz London hotel is perfect for us. It is known for celebrating personal style; it’s where East London art meets modern and eclectic.
And where can retailers interested in stocking your collection see it?
In London, at a private viewing, in March. They can call or email me for information and to make a date.
What is your retail price range?
Prices start from £1,750 and can go up to £4,500.
And the size range?
Sizes start from 8 and can go up to 22 – all our dresses are made to order.
Any celebs wearing your dresses?
We’ve dressed actresses Jacqueline Jossa, Fiona Wade and Lucy Dixon.
Three wishes – what would they be (no, you can’t include a lottery win)?
I wish Brexit wasn’t really happening.
I wish British Summer continues to be super-hot – it’s great for weddings!
I wish… I can’t think of a third one!
Where do you see yourselves five years from now? And ten years?
I hope to be still meeting lovely new brides and dressing them in beautifully designed couture dresses.
What have been the biggest changes you have seen in the industry since you started?
The bride of today is looking for an amazing experience. She wants to be able to reflect her own individual style in the most important dress she’s ever going to wear. She wants to be able to choose between lots of different options. Brexit has been the biggest challenge to navigate, with ever-changing exchange rates and uncertainty, but things will settle soon. The high street offering of wedding attire has changed the industry, but I believe it’s great to have other options out there for brides that are interested in an off-the-peg dress rather than a couture, made-to-order gown.
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