Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Roua Almawally, and I'm a fashion designer. I was born in Iraq, where I lived until I was 18 years old. Our family eventually moved to Sweden, where I've lived for 15 years and studied fashion design. I completed my Masters in Fashion Design in Milan, Italy. After finishing my masters, I started Roua, my own self-titled brand, and moved to Dubai.
My dream is to provide the world with my colourful designs and style, and to inspire individuals to seek the kind of fashion that fulfils and fits their lifestyles.
I'm also active in social media as an influencer for fashion, beauty and lifestyle, showing the world that culture and fashion are meant to be enjoyed together.
How would you describe your personal style?
My style is a bit of a mix and match of everything. Having lived in Iraq and Sweden, both the Iraqi and Swedish cultures are embedded in my personality, the way I think, and my personal style.
My style reflects my personality. It is a mix of casual, contemporary, trendy and colourful. In Sweden, where the weather is always gloomy, people tend to wear black, white or grey; in contrast, the exotic colours of Iraq give me life, energy and happiness.
Why did you decide to blog your style?
I love photography. Before I started blogging, I had a personal account. I always take photos of every outfit I wear when I go out. I love posing, taking photos and editing them. Editing photos is one of my hobbies.
When I started studying fashion design, I decided to do blogs. I thought that this could be my future—to show people what I do and what I love. I started getting positive feedback from people, asking me to continue to teach mixing colours and styles, and it gave me the motivation to continue. Eventually, blogging became a part of my life because I love to do it.
My first tutorial was about wearing hijab with style. I wanted to show people that we can always think outside of the box and we can be trendy while still staying modest.
Tell us about Roua Almawally the Brand and what it represents.
Roua Almawally the Brand reflects my style, and the way I see fashion and the world. Mix-and-match is one of my brand’s themes. For example, adding flair or versatility to a simple dress can be done by wearing it as a shirt or by adding another piece of clothing to create a different look.
My brand is not only for hijabis—it's for everyone. Many of my clients are not hijabis, so I’m very happy that I also reach other people. I also want to show people what modest, contemporary fashion looks like by keeping in the trend while looking modest and classy.
What inspires your designs?
At the outset, what I considered as my greatest source of inspiration was the mix of cultures that I've been immersed in. Swedish and Iraqi cultures are incredibly different, and yet both cultures are ingrained in my personality and I wanted to showcase them in my designs.
I have a big passion for learning about new cultures. Each culture is unique and rich in many aspects. I love the colours and history of each, and I am curious to learn how people lived before. I’m eager to know why a particular style is popular in a certain country or region.
My first collection was inspired by Nubia, a small town in South Egypt. Nubia is famous for its colourful houses filled with eclectic murals and the happy music of its people.
My second collection of Roua Almawally the Brand was aptly called Her Soul, was inspired by Arabian women. The concept started when I came to Dubai to work. Working in Dubai, I realised that a woman is capable of achieving huge success. She can be a businesswoman, a teacher or a pilot. She's a mother who needs to wake up early to bring her kids to school and to work chore after chore.
I believe that the women of today command respect and admiration from society. That's also why I put the mix-and-match concept because of women's need for multi-use clothes.
What does hijab mean to you?
I wear the traditional hijab and turbans. My turbans have become a part of my identity. I've proven this on many occasions, especially on one occasion where the designers I met in Milan Fashion Week visited Dubai for our fashion week. They said that they remembered me because of my turban. People are going to remember me with my turban and I love this idea.
I started wearing a turban as a hijab because I know I have something different in my personality. It might be because of the mix of culture I lived in and the way I think. I love my turban a lot and I don’t see myself without it.
How do you counter the rhetoric of hijab as a symbol of oppression? Something you’d like to tell other women?
Nowadays, I feel like that concept of wearing hijab is not linked to being oppressed any longer. I think the world is more open now. In social media, we can see hijabis who achieved success in different fields, and we even see models on the runway wearing hijab.
Many times, I was asked questions about wearing hijab, like as to why I prefer not to take my hijab off. Sometimes, I even receive comments that I’m more beautiful without it. My only advice to women who wear hijab or want to wear one is that wearing one is definitely their own choice. If you want it and you love it, don’t take it off. It will never stop you from reaching your goals.
You are much stronger when you show your true self. Be yourself and you will be able to prove to people that you can do it. For me, everything is equal. To wear hijab or not? Honestly, I don’t see a difference.
Some would argue that hijab is losing its true meaning as women are now wearing it in different styles, shapes and colours. Do you agree? If not, why?
For me, not at all—as long as we are free to wear, look and decide what and who we are. Wearing hijab in a modern way, even adding colours and styles, is a positive thing, as long as the essence of wearing a hijab is not being set aside.
I really love my hijab and turban, that’s why I know how to wear it. Many girls asked me for help on how to wear it the way I do. My answer is always the same: you need to embrace it whole-heartedly and love it. After that, you will know how to wear it.
Every time I’m in a different country, people will usually ask me about my turban, my culture, where I am from and why I’m wearing it this way. I’m always hearing people saying that they are happy to see it in a modern and new way.
Whatever way you decide to wear a hijab, it will always be gorgeous. If you’re choosing and doing it with love while expressing yourself, that’s the most important thing. There’s no right or wrong. People should choose what they want to do and what they want to be.
What are your thoughts on hijabi models on the runway?
They are absolutely gorgeous. I was looking at Halima—she’s so beautiful and rocking everything in the best way. I’m so happy to see her enjoying the success she worked for. There are many models like her and I love seeing them making their mark.
I love how the brands of today are creating modest fashion with hijab and making turbans for the runway. I love how fashion has evolved.
If you could change anything in the fashion industry, what would it be and why?
If I could change one thing, that would be the fast fashion trend—the changeability. Nowadays, even the big brands are creating new brands with different names to follow street and casual trends. People want to see new designs and styles all the time. Some brands are doing this, but at the same time, they’re losing their own identity.
How do you see yourself growing outside of social media?
I’m growing very well because I’m always wearing my own designs and style. I’m happy to see the reaction and hear the feedback of many people wherever I go.
Late last year, I participated in a fashion event at the Mall of the Emirates, Dubai. It’s a pop-up store concept and I displayed my collections there. It was a successful event and I was very happy. People loved my designs and I got very positive feedback. I even got new clients.
As you know, I display my collections on different online platforms. Because of this, I got the attention of one of the biggest platforms here in GCC. I was extremely happy because they saw that I am able to showcase unique fashion imbibed with youth and energy, as well as different styles that are contemporary and colourful.
How do you look after your mental health in a world that is so driven by social media?
When I feel that everything feels too much, I will stop myself and get a feel of the reality I am in. I always try to find a balance between being online and offline. I don’t really like to watch what other people do or what’s going on. I prefer not to hear negative things about anything in life. I’m also the kind of person that is not focused on what other people think of me, be it about my style or my personality. I’m confident in myself. If I see any negative comments about me, I try not to make it upset me or affect me.
Social media has become an important part of our daily lives, so I don’t see it as a negative thing. We just need to make sure that we are using it for our own good and don’t let our lives circle around it.
What is that one quote you live by?
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
If you are afraid to do something and you let that fear stop you from doing it, then you will never be able to make it. If you don’t try, you won't know and you won’t learn anything. Trying is the first step. Just be yourself and do what you love. Believe in yourself and it's going to happen.
Follow Roua Almawally on Instagram
ALSO READ: Hijabi Style Guide