Raya Bisharat is a familiar name in Amman, but in my opinion, she needs to be an internationally familiar name. I want her to leap from her safe place to grand adventure, a feat few have the tools to manage. There are plenty of quotes out there that encourage you to jump, leap, dive… Out of your comfort zone. Seldom do they remind you that unless you have a strong body, a parachute (just in case) and all the equipment that you may require on your journey, it’s not going to be pretty…
I was first introduced to Raya’s work last year, at around this time. We had commissioned this talented Jordanian designer to dress up our Al Anoud doll. What we received from her promptly a few weeks later was an unexpectedly-designed, fabulously-creative dress. What shone through was her ability to bring together a myriad of concepts in a sophisticated and seamless manner.
At each angle the creation entertained us with a unique perspective, ultimately reflecting how Raya herself understood the project. We all have different opinions on a single idea, bringing them together is complicated. It is of course much easier to stick to your strongest point and drill it in, but that doesn’t tell a complete story…
Fast forward to last week, when I am once again introduced to Raya’s work and for the first time, the woman behind the name. A slight woman with the beauty of Roman mythology, dreamy eyes, aquiline nose and warm olive skin. It would be fair to state that she has better eye brows though… Wow what eyebrows… As she mingles with her guests at the Four Seasons, I find that she, like many designers is in her own world, cordial, polite, warm yet slightly aloof. I can imagine her in her thinking room, a place where she goes inside her brain to think, dream and imagine.
Her Spring couture collection is on show for use to oooh and ahhh over, 6 formal pieces of handmade luxury. The painstakingly beaded dresses shimmer in the afternoon sunlight, almost teasing us into taking a closer look. As I sat down to write my article on the collection a few days later, I knew I would not be able to do justice to Raya till I saw her and the pieces up close and personal.
As I trudge up the stairs of the building that houses her collection, I worry that I am in the wrong place. As I knock at the door of a lower level office, they assure me that Raya is indeed in this building, somehow I feel the man gets that a lot… The minute I set foot on the third floor everything changes, immaculate white walls and a finely sanded wooden door usher me into the Kingdom of Raya. I am greeted by her eyebrows and then the rest of her, ‘I wonder if she uses a eyebrow pencil to fill them in ?’ Nope, she tells me later, they are authentic, for real, genuinely hers. Wow…
As she walks me through her S/S Couture collection, she explains to me how nature’s Spring season inspired her. There is nothing cliché about this however…Have you ever seen a collection of black dresses inspired by Spring! Her sophisticated thought process allowed her to manufacture her own spring out of her favorite color. The intricately pleated black gross grain ribbon creating a three dimensional flower of sorts. The flapper style beaded fringes reminded her of fields of grass swaying in the wind. Just like in nature, many elements come together to create a healthy eco-system. In this collection Raya brings lace, leather, rhinestones and beads together to perfection.
As I study the black taffeta circle skirt, encrusted with multidimensional beads of different shapes and sizes I really am overwhelmed by the level of workmanship. Bead upon bead upon bead to create a storyboard of Raya’s version of Spring. Her vision is like a ray of sunlight that pierces through every element of her dresses. Everything needs to be done to perfection, there is no room for mediocrity. I don’t think people would have realized had she used ready-made beaded fabrics, or even taken out one or two of the elements, but it doesn’t matter because Raya realizes it, and that’s what matters.
As she pulls out a midi A-line dress made entirely of laser cut petals, I am astonished by the level of expertise required to create it. Forget the fact that it must have taken weeks to physically attach the petals to the dress, what may not be obvious to many is the fact that if done wrong, the dress could make you look like an ostrich. Layers of petals don’t necessarily guarantee your most svelte silhouette, unless placed perfectly. As I study the individual petals, how they gently flutter as we sway the dress from side to side. As I inspect the waist-band to realize that she did indeed tuck those specific petals to emphasis the waist, I have respect and admiration for this 29 year old. She hasn’t gone the extra mile, she has gone the extra 100.
She confides in me that the creation of her collection was more like an obstacle course, so much to overcome, so little time. Spending days and nights at the atelier to complete the presentation on time, Raya was finally ready to show her pieces to the ladies of Amman and she didn’t disappoint. She explains to me that they are almost all gone, the good news is, you can place an order.
I am always on the lookout for a word that I feel best represents a designer, just because… It’s not necessary, but I like it. As I struggle to place Raya, I turn to her and say, “Raya, you are layered”. Like her pieces she is multi-dimensional, almost like a peony flower, it is the layers that make her even more beautiful. Some people are layered but it just makes them complicated and perhaps a little too serious. Raya’s delicate layers are paper-thin, fragranced with her intuition and packed together tightly with her perseverance and hard work. I am truly thankful for my visit to her atelier yesterday, it enriched my soul, invigorated my mind and gave me a beautiful sense of hope, this woman is going places. Watch this space !