Fatma M. Al-Mulla originally wanted to go into graphic design, but her love of type and illustration instead led her down the road to fashion instead. Now with her own popular line, FMM by Fatma Al-Mulla, the Emirati designer has become a household name in her home country and is set on going regional.

The first thing that strikes you about Fatma is how bubbly and confident this young woman is, in fact, we could have sat and chatted for hours. Her life has been a wealth of adventures and I couldn’t have felt more at ease talking about her brand, FMM.

Lucy Moore: Have you always been interested in fashion and design?
Fatma Mohammed Al-Mulla: I was always into fashion, to be honest. I was a girly girl. And I’ve always loved painting and drawing. But I think I found myself in the digital world so that evolved into seeing what kind of different mediums I could put my art in.

Why did you start your blog?
After I graduated [with a degree in visual communication design] I was very confused; I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had this energy, and I didn’t know where to direct it. So I started the blog; I started to post illustrations about my perception of society, and it was very tongue-in-cheek. Then people were enquiring after the illustrations and wanted to own them on some kind of merchandise. After a lot of research, I decided why not put it on plain white t-shirts. That organically evolved into putting them on accessories.

And what led you to go from accessories to fashion?
I was pregnant and I wanted nice loose dresses and I couldn’t find any. I didn’t want to go to the maternity store because it was very boring. So I decided, why not have my illustrations on a dress?

You use Arabic in your designs, why is that?
As an Emirati and as a generation we’ve been going to private schools because our parents thought it would be better for us to be bilingual, which later on was a negative aspect because we kind of lost the essence of Arabic as a language. We can speak in our own dialect, which is fine, but if you come and tell me, and tell a lot of other Arabic people, to write a formal Arabic letter, it’s difficult. We’ve become a generation where we are bilingual, yes, but our English is stronger than our Arabic. So I just wanted to put that Arabic there.

How would you describe FMM?
FMM, basically, is a cultural infused label. This is because the Emirati culture is a mix of different kinds of cultures; it’s a mix of Iranian, of Indian, of different parts of the Arab world.

Tell me about your latest collection – The Carbon Edition?
I drew on childhood memories in Dubai so the collections take the wearer on a cultural journey through the old parts of the city such as Deira. I remember wandering the area as a child, fascinated by the grand, brightly painted patterned doors. I loved the congestion, I loved the traffic, I loved the people.

Interview: Lucy Moore

Images: Olga Lobanova

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