If this pandemic has taught us anything about fashion, it is that it is always about more than clothes or products. It is about ideas, societal movements, the zeitgeist – things, that not only define how we dress, but who we are as a culture. It reflects what happens in our lives and how these events change our habits. For this reason, it is also strongly entangled with politics: It expresses and communicates beliefs and convictions, it distinguishes people from one another, but it can also unite them around common ideas.
It is that belief that guided the process behind making the cover of this issue of L’Officiel Arabia. Gracing the cover and the accompanying editorial is 19-year-old Top model Yael Shelbia - an upcoming industry star with 1.1 million followers on Instagram, who has modelled for Kim Kardashians KKW Beauty. Shelbia is the first Israeli model ever appearing on an UAE magazine since the signing of the Abraham Accords between Israel, UAE and Bahrain in September 2020. The now-famous peace agreement was a historic moment that marked a new chapter in the history of all countries involved.
L’ Officiel Arabia is not the only fashion entity celebrating the agreement: The cover is part of a collaboration with Israeli weekly magazine LAISHA, Israel’s most successful magazine, published since 1947 by Israel’s main publisher Yediot Ahronoth group. LAISHA has put the same image of Shelbia on the cover of its current issue and features the special shoot in its pages. At the same time, it has dedicated its back cover to Dubai-based top model Chanel Ayan and published coverage of the fashion and luxury scene in the UAE. Chanel Ayan is no secret to the fashion scene of the UAE: Originally from Kenya she made history as the first black model successfully making a career in the region, and has worked for brands such as Valentino and Chanel and is the face and ambassador of Dior Make-Up in the UAE.
What is probably one of the most ambitious initiatives of fashion diplomacy of the past year, was kickstarted and completed by fashion entrepreneur Anna la Germaine, founder of media and consulting company Fashion Politique Ltd. Anna la Germaine is a former student of International Relations who graduated with a Masters Degree, and decided to apply her expertise in politics and diplomacy to fashion. She called her firm Fashion Politique accordingly, starting in 2011 as digital magazine F’OLITIQUE, which exists to this day. The company has since developed a 360-degrees range of services focusing on emerging and medium-sized brands and endeavours in the digital space.
La Germaine’s holistic approach to fashion and its talents as well as her belief in their strong impact on society lead her to start working on this project in September 2020. It took months of negotiations and planning to make the vision become a reality. “Fashion and Politics are inseparable and the successful combination of both creates the ground for a flourishing business resulting in thriving economies of the countries. With Yael Shelbia on the cover of L’Officiel Arabia we are aiming to celebrate new business opportunities between UAE, Bahrain, and Israel.”, says la Germaine.
Her words are reminders that peace and cultural exchange not only benefit our lives and existence, but they bring opportunities for growth and success for businesses too. This collaboration symbolizes the new potential for opportunities of progress for creative ideas and business partnerships on all sides. It is because of that L’Officiel Arabia and LAISHA not only wanted to promote models from their respective countries, but many different creative talents. It was Israeli Yossi Michaeli who photographed Shelbia at The Peninsula Hotel in New York City. The New York-based photographer is known for his work in international editions of Vogue, Elle and L’Officiel and clients like H&M and Fila. On the cover Shelbia wears a design by upcoming Israeli brand MICU. (@micuandmicu) Founded in 2020 by creatives Michal Stern and Inbar Ben Shabbat, the Jerusalem-based brand made its debut with its Fall Winter 2020 collection. The designers take inspirations from royal nobility, Renaissance art and architecture, translating them into clothes with clean cuts out of high quality fabrics like silk and wool. Its elegant and luxurious line uses minimalist tailoring and modern patterns and reflects childhood memories of the founders. Their families both come from creative backgrounds. Michal’s mother used to sew sketches for royal families in the 50ies and her work inspires a lot of MICU creations. Inbar, the creative director, remembers the work of her father, a sculptor. Art being a shared passion in the family, it drove Inbar’s interest in sewing, drawing and painting. The clothes are sewn in a Salon in Jerusalem. Tailored pants, feminine dresses with turtle necks or puffed sleeves, and a big cape made out of Italian mohair are the key elements of the first collection. On the cover, Shelbia wears a classic dark blue and white silk printed blouse, embodying the modest and sophisticated elegance that MICU stands for. The brand has showrooms in Jerusalem and Paris.
Apart from MICU this issue also features a special collaboration involving an Israeli artist as well as an UAE-based artist. New York based brand FOXYLAB NEW YORK (@foxylab_ny), a creative laboratory that marries art by different creatives with streetwear, has teamed up with Israeli Illustrator Talia Zoref (@taliazorefstyle) as well as with Dubai-based calligrapher and muralist Diaa Allam (@diaallam) to create dresses imprinted with artworks of the talents.
Telling these stories is an important step in the relationship between the UAE, Bahrain and Israel. In this political context Fashion becomes a means of communication, a diplomat and builder of trust and friendship. “The women of Israel are eager to be introduced to UAE women and to learn more about them and about all aspects of life and culture. No doubt, celebrating talents, fashion and creation – is a wonderful way to tie connections and to build a strong and fruitful peace”, says the Editor-in-Chief of LAISHA Karina Shtotland about putting Chanel Ayan on the cover of her magazine, “We are excited to be Anna la Germaine’s partner on this groundbreaking first ever international collaboration, when two major magazines from different countries – who have just signed a historic accord – share a cover, promoting a message of peace, brotherhood (or shall I say sisterhood?) and cooperation, that bridges and unite between our nations.”
It´s hard to think of a moment more urgently in need of this message than the moment we are living in right now. The pandemic has made us confront truths about ourselves and made us question our lives. What we took for granted and deemed normal is suddenly being challenged. We may have to rethink who we want to be in the future. But the good news is: we don´t have to do it alone.
PRODUCTION: ANNA LA GERMAINE X FASHION
POLITIQUE / WWW.FASHIONPOLITIQUE.COM
PR: FP PR&MEDIA / FP-PR.COM
CREATIVE DIRECTION AND STYLING
BY JULIA MORRIS @ TRACEY MATTINGLY AGENCY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY YOSSI MICHAELI
MODEL: YAEL SHELBIA @ ITM MODELS
HAIR BY DAVID CRUZ USING KEVIN MURPHY
@ TRACEY MATTINGLY AGENCY
MAKE-UP BY GEORGINA BILLINGTON USING
CHANTECAILLE @ JUDY CASEY AGENCY
NAILS BY KAYO HIGUCHI USING CHANEL LE VERNIS ROUGE PUISSANT @ BRYAN BANTRY AGENCY
LOCATION: THE PENINSULA NEW YORK
BRAND RELATIONS: GILI BIEGUN AT JOYSMAGAZINE.COM
TALENT RELATIONSHIP: AKASH MEHTA, RYLE TUVIERRA
ASSISTANT TO ANNA LA GERMAINE: MARIA VITTORIA DEL ROSSO, EKATERINA CHEKHIRKINA
ASSISTANT TO YOSSI MICHAELI: MICHAEL SANTOS
POSTPRODUCTION: DOCTOR RAW