Jalila Aarab, the Bahraini fashion designer who has over 25 years of experience in fashion design, merchandising, and development is the proprietor of Lilly and Jo and the Co-founder of Bahrain Fashion Incubator (BFI). BFI is the first business incubator and accelerator in the MENA region that provides creative professional solutions and services to fashion start-ups. Jalila Aarab, shares the visions of BFI, the relevance of fashion in the economy of the Kingdom as well as for the whole region and her experiences in the ever evolving fashion industry.

Tell us about Lamasat.

Lamasat was about bringing back the tradition, the exclusivity, and the luxury without appearing conservative in the fashion scene.

What does Lilly and Jo mean to you?

Lily stands for “Jalila”, which represents the formal collection and Jo stands
for “Jood”, the name of my 11 year old daughter, representing the teen’s collection.

When and how did you decide to start Bahrain Fashion Incubator (BFI)?

Realising the significant impact fashion has on the local economy as a driver for job creation, cultural growth, trade development, and tourism, the idea came about to have a place that used the resources and opportunities available in Bahrain to help aspiring local fashion designers build sustainable businesses that can compete in the global fashion industry.

Established in 2016, BFI is the first Business Incubator and accelerator in the MENA region that provides creative professional solutions and services to fashion start-ups. It’s the bridge between creative design and business enterprise.

What’s the relevance of Bahrain Fashion Incubator (BFI) to the Bahraini society?

The Bahrain Fashion Incubator aims to help fashion entrepreneurs obtain a solid foundation to start brand names that will go global. We look to harness creativity of ideas, preserve cultural heritage, expose entrepreneurs to advancements in technology and business so that they can build businesses that will last and compete globally.

Which is your favourite role? Proprietor of Lily and Jo OR the CEO and Co- founder of Bahrain Fashion Incubator (BFI)?

Both of them are my pride and each one of them has different meaning to me, but the BFI touched my heart more because it combines the fashion creation with the social impact.

How do you define fashion?

Fashion is a form of expression without the use of words. To me, it’s about authenticity, and originality with strong artistic content that is innovative and includes creative design.

How do you stay up to date regarding fashion?

With the ever-changing developments in social media, the industry is more fast-paced than ever. The Trends are changing so rapidly. Back then, fashion would influence the streetwear. Nowadays, street trends are influencing fashion. Networking with industry professionals and keeping up to date with the latest trends is crucial.

What are your views on the MENA fashion? What is the position of Bahrain among them?

We have a youthful population that craves individuality and being noticed. In recent years, our fashion sense has impacted western designer houses. We have great Arab designers that are global brands and are growing, so we have the creative pool to produce talent. Bahrain is the entrepreneurial hub in all respects.  There are local talents that have gained international recognition, and we are looking to ensure that there are many more and that our experience can be emulated across the region.

Where do you derive your inspiration for the designs from?

Inspiration doesn’t always just happen at the snap of a finger. I get inspired by common sources like travel, history, weather, media, streets, art, and nature.

What do you believe the ethic that a fashion designer should keep?

Fashion itself is being redefined constantly. The advancement of technology, the impact of globalized economy, and young demographics are driving the change.  Fashion today has to be sustainable and support authentic designs and craft skills. We can no longer afford to have waste.