EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Shiekha Raya Al-Khalifa



Raya Al-Khalifa is one of the kindest people I have ever encountered. Not only is she a fashionista in her own right, she is also one of the new faces of alKhalij that are trying to make a mark in the world. She's having a vintage exhibition in Qatar soon, that will definitely be the talk of the town! 
Each EXCLUSIVE of mine I think that I have outdone myself, but seriously, I'm certain that reading Raya's interview will give people a window into her soul; they will definitely be inspired and equally entertained. 


Introducing Raya...

F:Who is Raya Al-Khalifa?
R:I am a Bahraini, married to a Qatari, mother of two. Grew up between London and Florida.

F:You are  a freelance writer, are you thinking of writing a novel or a book? 
R:Yes! I love writing, probably a trait I picked up as an only child. I get inspired to share non fiction features. One of which was published in the British political publication, The NewStatesman. I love reading up on current events, social topics and whats happening in the art world. There is inspiration all around.
Presently, I am involved in a fun etiquette manual. It was a total must in my family to read the famous Debrett's Etiquette book or the Tiffany's Table Manners for Teenagers. I think it would be fun to create my own, based on our region's cultures and customs, to guide the young modern lady. 


F:When did you know that fashion was a part of your life? 
R:There was no 'Aha' moment when Fashion entered my life. It is not an external dimension, but rather, intrinsically a reflection of my creative side. I have always, whether it was popular or not, been guided by what I am attracted to. As a three year old I ran around with an armful of Swatch watches and was forever attached to my bevy of Hello Kitty purses! Many a times I have been scoffed at, but the heart wants what it wants! Growing up in Florida, I used to return from Europe with what seemed to my peers as crazy get ups and accessories which they laughed off as 'European'. Fashion is a part of everyone's DNA, whether it is popular and lusted after or not even acknowledged, what you wear says something about you. Your life, your experiences, even your culture.

F:You live for fashion! Have you ever thought of designing your own label or collaborate with a designer? 
R:Yes, I absolutely have thought of going into designing. I love to feel comfortable, and elegant and have easy pieces to throw on that still look ultra luxe. As I travel a great deal, I am always looking for something that can transition well. A dress that can be worn with heels for dazzling Doha nights, which can be adapted to a beachy vacation when swapped with bedazzled sandals. I am also planning for a jewelry line, which stems from a love affair with all kinds of bits and baubles, mostly vintage inspired. 


F:You like to collect some of the world's finest vintage pieces, would you want to open your own boutique? 
R:I have always been a collector of real and costume jewelry pieces thanks to my Mother and Grandmother. I was given, or conveniently 'borrowed' their vintage jewels, like master pieces dating to the early Graff sets from the mid 1970's that oozed glamour with heavy gold adorned with glamorous diamonds and other precious stones like rubies and emeralds as well as onyx, to Cartier Art Deco styles belonging to my Grandmother and Great Grandmother. Vintage Van Cleef is also a favourite, their ludo hexagone bracelets have me spell bound, they are gorgeous gold buckled bracelets dating back from the early 1940s up to the 1970s finished off with a buckle in a deco pattern covered in diamonds, sapphires and rubies.
This love and appreciation for the real master pieces naturally sparked an interest in all hings of those eras, including the stunning costume pieces. My mother and I used to wake at the crack of dawn to rummage through antique markets to find random gems. We have amassed such a vast collection, that we hardly wear but preserve with the utmost of care.
It was after the birth of my second son, when I was taking a while to get back into my normal dress size that I indulged in mega watt vintage dazzlers, mostly costume. They are beyond stunning, museum quality pieces, and produced by famous brands of the era, like Ciner (a favourite of the late Elizabeth Taylor) and Trifari who had the head designer Alfred Philippe who worked in such great houses like Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels! I love mixing new with old, real jewels with costume, and wanted to cultivate a niche for this in our local market. Before, I was met with dismay with 'old' pieces, but a sudden interest in vintage Chanel and Versace at the same time made me feel it was the perfect timing to introduce our part of the world to the masters of the heydays in the western world. Socialites, Hollywood Starlets and Royalty all loved and coveted these pieces which were made by hand with such care and attention to detail.

I have amassed quite a collection to sell. I am very selective and really know my history on the brands the heritage and the eras. I also feel very protective of the little treasures. It would absolutely break my heart to see something from the 1930's to just be sold and worn as a trendy outfit and flung to the side when someone was bored with it!

I plan on holding intimate soirees where people could see the gorgeous pieces as opposed to an actual boutique. I keep people updated on my twitter account (@RayaAlKhalifa). As of yet I have kept everything that I bought intending to sell!








F:If you were stranded in a deserted island, what 3 items of clothing would you take? 
R:1-Beautiful Giueseppe Zanotti sparkly sandals, at least I will have something pretty to look at as I trek the Island for food! 2- a stolen Panama hat from my husband's collection. Just because I am stranded, doesn't mean I should forget sun safety! 3- A stunning bangle set by Ciner from the 1980's, because they would be sure to sparkle enough for a rescue chopper to notice!

F:Describe your personal style? 
R:My personal style is ease with an added touch of opulence. After becoming a mother, I favour pieces that are comfortable and that allow me to enjoy my time with my boys, as opposed to being too neat and tidy or stiff in! I also follow the mantra "go big or go home"!

F:Who are your favorite designers? 
R:It changes season to season, but I must say, the British fashion scene has really taken charge. London fashion week, for me, was once considered a slight lull amongst New York, Milan and Paris. But now, I eagerly await Peter Pilotto, Mary Katrantzou, Roksanda Ilincic and Erdem just to name a few. They have that certain British eccentricity, but in a wearable way...Moving art! I always fawn over Oscar de la Renta. In the Summers I do love to go for a full on Prada look, they are so much fun and not too serious, as well as Fendi, who often have easy flirty dresses for the warmer months. There is also something about Lanvin that draws me in each season, I think Alber Elbaz does such a great job creating a certain 'DNA' without you getting tired of that certain look which is so identifiable with the house. And well year round, you can never go wrong with a Chanel Jacket.

F:Who are your fashion icons?
R:My late Grandmother is my style icon. She oozed elegance. She had a certain polished look that was consistent and predictable. She wore black basics very often, like a Gucci black skirt with a black Christian Dior blouse which was finished off with a huge cocktail ring and a strand of pearls, and a brooch...always a brooch. I used to love borrowing her things but she always wanted me to live in colour.
I would also have to definitely say  Coco Chanel for changing the dress code of the Modern Woman, as well as Elsa Schiaparelli who was  daring and pushed the boundaries of what is the norm.

F:What are your favorite cities? (list your favorite restaurants and shopping spots in each city)  
R:London: Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Matches, Dover Street Market, Net-a-Porter with their amazingly fast London Premiere Service and not forgetting the High Street! Dining Out: Nobu, Le Petite Maison, Totos, Scotts, Cut, the Claridges for Afternoon Tea.
Miami: Lincoln Road for dining and Shopping, Bal Harbour Shoppes also for Dining and Shopping and always in the States, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Ave. Nobu at the Shore Club, and the Delano hotel for a late night meal. 
Palm Beach: Worth Avenue for shopping, and the Breakers for a Bite, as well as Biche for amazing Italian food.
South of France: (Cap Ferrat, Monaco, Nice). Of course every corner where you turn there is amazing shopping but for restaurants, love the idyllic views atop Chateau Eza, Hotel Jerome, Le Petite Mason, and Tetou
Doha: Anything to eat at the W (The Market and Spice Market are me favourites) the Cafe at the Museum of Islamic Art. K108's YumYum restaurant is amazing with the finest European cuisine by Chef Hugo Coudurier.  For shopping, the Vanity Room at the Pearl, The Closet at Al Mana Towers, Impression boutique, and Toujouri with a bevvy of stunning dresses by local talent Lama El Moatassem. 

F:Describe your perfect day?
 
R:My perfect day would have to be a stroll in the park near our home in London with my boys, followed by some time at either the V&A or the Natural History Museum with my dinosaur obsessed son followed by the most delectable thin crust pizza from Cocomaya on Brompton Road with a walk around the city, and a late dinner dressed to the nines with my nearest and dearest, most likely at Nobu.

F:List 3 items that are always present in your bag? 
R:Candy/toys for my boys as you never know when you may have to bribe them! A Smythson Diary, a habit I have adopted from my Grandmother who documented each day on one. and finally Too Faced Lip Plumping gloss, for bee stung puckers.  

F:Blogs are very 'in' these days, do you follow any fashion blogs? 
R:I do indeed. They are inspirational and addictive. The ones that I check into most often are, The O blog by AlOthman Boutique; TheOverdressed, which is my cousin Dana Al-Khalifa, a girl after my own heart with an injection of daily wearable glamour; Sea of Shoes by Jane Aldridge who photographers the ordinary transforming it into extraordinary, and the Neiman Marcus NMBlog. And of course C'est Ma Vie!

F:Could you take pictures of you in a casual day look & a night out look.
R:



Comments

  1. Hey, this is so interesting and new to me, thanks for your work. You have amazing contacts and work, really well done.

    Jana

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