The concept of “handmade” has taken consumers seeking luxury goods on far-reaching emotional journeys for centuries. Once revered as subtle art forms, many of the manual techniques used in the production of fashion and jewelery were gradually outstripped by their automated counterparts throughout the 20th century, as brands produced their products at breakneck speed, opting for cost efficiency and a standardized approach to design over an extended period. One character.

Even Italy, a country famous for its prestigious “Made in Italy” label, has seen a decline in the number of skilled craftsmen, as younger generations gravitate towards jobs in offices, software and technology, rather than manual labour.

However, in recent years, global appreciation for traditional craftsmanship has seen something of a resurgence, with many fashion and jewelery houses revisiting centuries-old methods to enhance their modern designs while recognizing the emotional value embedded in handcrafted creations.

This year’s Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda collection is testimony to this, paying tribute to traditional Italian craftsmanship. The designers celebrated the embroideries and hand-stitched designs coming from the southern Puglia region, where the brand hosted the stunning presentation of the collection in July, underscoring the commitment to heritage and art.

Likewise, Dior’s creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri’s fall collection, pays homage to India’s time-honored techniques and craftsmanship that reflects the country’s rich cultural heritage, even partnering with a local atelier in Mumbai.


As everything becomes fast and artificial, we need to preserve traditional crafts, which slowly reveal their beauty over time.

Fatima Mostafa, Egyptian jewelry designer

This passion and appreciation for handcrafts also resonates in the Middle East; Handicrafts are thriving as brands and organizations support traditional crafts. The Middle East has been central, literally, to global textile trade for centuries, as a crossroads between East and West.

It was a focal point on the Silk Road trade routes, transporting textiles back and forth between Europe and Asia. As a result, the combination of global influences and region-specific cultural traditions has made the Middle East a melting pot for brands and artisans, embracing heritage and history in everything they do.

In Saudi Arabia, the establishment of the Fashion Committee by the Ministry of Culture indicates a commitment to nurturing the Kingdom’s clothing industry while preserving its artisanal heritage. Burak Çakmak, CEO of the Authority, underscores its mission, saying: “The Fashion Committee was established to build a forward-looking fashion industry in Saudi Arabia that amplifies local talent and supports the local value chain and local craftsmanship.”

By highlighting some of the country’s well-known and upcoming designers, the committee helps share their designs with the world.


The designers of the 100 Saudi Brands program preserve the Kingdom’s rich fashion heritage

Burak Cakmak, CEO of the Fashion Authority at the Ministry of Culture, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Cakmak says Saudi fashion has a long history of talented craftsmen and women, with many craftsmen mastering their skills and sustainable design traditions that have been passed down through generations, from weaving to beading and traditional jewelry design.

Last year, the authority created the 100 Saudi Brands platform, selecting 100 designers from the Kingdom whose work was showcased around the world. The traveling exhibition has been renewed for a second year with a new group of talent, which also provides mentorship to designers and increases brand awareness internationally.

“Designers from the 100 Saudi Brands program often blend the traditional with the contemporary, preserving the Kingdom’s rich fashion heritage and sharing our vision of developing a circular and sustainable industry that allows local brands to share their identity with the rest of the world,” Cakmak adds.

In the UAE, the Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council is expanding this commitment to include traditional Emirati crafts. Since its inception, the organization has provided support to Emirati women, igniting the passions of their ancestors in particular, and encouraging them to practice traditional weaving techniques such as talli and safifah.

By establishing partnerships with local institutions, participating in international exhibitions, and collaborating with international brands, Irthi aims not only to raise the profile of these crafts, but also to foster a sense of pride and purpose among Emirati artisans. Furthermore, the Council’s mentorship programs encourage younger generations to participate, fostering a deeper connection to their heritage and the legacy of craftsmanship.

Designers across the region regularly draw inspiration from their cultural heritage. For example, Egyptian designer Fatma Mostafa, winner of the Jewelery category at the Fashion Trust Arabia Awards 2022, creates unique jewelry pieces that draw on her home country’s ancient history and diverse landscapes. Her designs are now stocked globally on British online retailer Matches Fashion.

Mustafa blends modern jewelry techniques with traditional crafts inspired by her heritage. “In the Middle East, handcrafts have always been the basis of design, especially jewelry, because it is an essential part of our culture and every place has its own unique jewelry,” she says.

“I naturally found myself combining the crafts I master and love, such as embroidery and jewelry making when I started my brand, to create distinctive, artisanal pieces to express myself. As everything becomes so fast and artificial, we need to preserve traditional crafts, which reveal “Itsself and its beauty slowly over time. It is also a source of income for many communities that still practice it.”

These crafts represent the roots of fashion and jewelry thousands of years ago before trends or seasons emerged. “The skill of the craftsman has been a part of all industries since the beginning, especially in the fashion industry,” she adds.

“In all ancient civilizations you can find examples, so preserving them is crucial to preserving the beauty that cannot be found in something that was made quickly, and keeping us connected to our roots.”

Updated: September 14, 2023 at 4:00 p.m

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