‘Dubai Bling’ Unveils Struggles Of Women Fashion Entrepreneurs

Dubai Bling is not only a Netflix reality series which just launched its second season, it is also an empowering portrayal showing how Middle Eastern women are founding their own fashion brands.

Part of the subplot of this new season follows three women cast members, Zeina Khoury, Safa Siddiqui, and Saudi TV host Lojain Omran as they build their own fashion brands. It also follows Mona Kattan on her journey to expand her Huda Beauty Brand to include the Kayali fragrance line, and shoe designer Danya Almulla (also known as Diva Dee), who launched her line of footwear.

In a part of the world where women struggle to find their independence, it’s refreshing to see fashion and beauty at the heart of the series. There’s even an Instagram account devoted to decoding the show’s top style moments—and where to get the items.

To Omran, she always wanted to found a fashion brand, since she was a teenager, but had her first child at 16 years old. She had domestic duties to focus on. Now, decades later, she revealed her namesake brand’s first runway show. The series takes us on her journey designing her womenswear collection, and it captures her true voice. In the western world, this isn’t a familiar narrative, and Dubai Bling helps amplify women’s voices in a region that needs it. Oftentimes, when we hear about news about women in the Middle East, it’s often related to their limited rights.

But in Dubai, where tourists roam freely and bling is basically a birthright, it’s a completely different story. While there are women beauty and fashion entrepreneurs in Afghanistan, Jordan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, they’re often silenced—or at least, harder to find. So many women are kept under the thumbs of their husbands, and that struggle is something we see (albeit mildly) in this show. It’s tucked behind all the glitz and glamor, and fashion ends up being a catalyst for their freedom.

Just look at the argument that Almulla had with her husband, who would rather have her stay at home with their children, than be an entrepreneur. It leads her to hiding from her husband that she founded her own shoe line until its grand unveiling to the public (his reaction? not enthused).

Meanwhile, Khoury, who has a background in real estate, branched out with the show’s most viral moment from season one. In a confrontation with Almulla and Ebraheem Al Samadi in her office, she says: “I am the company,” before a catfight breaks out (with a cup of coffee thrown across the room). This catchphrase, which she repeats throughout the scene, is self-defense. It’s a mantra for women who are being bullied and ganged up on.

Khoury ends up spinning a brand out of this viral moment, a fashion line called I Am The Company, in season two. The brand features metallic dresses, sportswear for men and women, and naturally, coffee mugs, as a nod to the show’s drama. Her brand is carried in Dubai Mall’s Galeries Lafayette. It all makes so much sense considering shopping it at the heart of a city like Dubai, that the cast members might as well profit from the views and found their own fashion lines.

Meanwhile, Siddiqui—likely the most candid character on the show—has her own fashion line, which taps into her own extravagant style. She launched a capsule collection with a German brand called Lichi earlier this year, and it’s available at the Lichi boutiques inside Dubai Mall and Dubai Hills Mall.

The collection features silver party dresses, feather pieces, and purple and pink pieces with prominent bows. On Instagram, Siddiqui muses over creating her own camouflage bodysuit, similar to the one she wore on the show. But in the series, she fights with her husband over getting a “mommy makeover,” something she cannot do without his approval.

Kattan, who only joined the series this season as a side character, runs her billion-dollar empire of Hudda Beauty. In the series, we see her busy launching perfume scents and opening a new office, all the while experiencing the pressure from her husband, who wants to have children. She asks to push it back a year, but is met with resistance, and is told “There is no right time.”

Some might say that Dubai is a place riddled with first world problems, but in the United Arab Emirates—where homosexuality is illegal—there is still room for growth. Though women’s rights have gotten better in the UAE, there still is not equality. According to Human Rights Watch, there is still discrimination against women, in both law and society. Women can’t file for divorce the same way a man can, and access to healthcare for unmarried women with children is limited, among other issues.

Though these limitations aren’t acknowledged in the series, here’s to hoping Dubai Bling is renewed for a third season, so they can dig into the truth of the region, and the cast member’s enduring search for peace.


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