“Empowering the wearer and focusing on accentuating the beauty of the feminine form is what keeps my interest in fashion so alive.”
As an entrepreneur in couture fashion, with a rising international clientele, Dina is dedicated to the detail of each of her designs, while recognising that fashion can help transform people in so many positive ways. While she dreams of opening her own shop in London, she is kept grounded by her two young daughters.
Please introduce yourself.
I am a fashion designer, creative director and founder of Melwani Couture Fashion House. Originally from Moldova, I moved to Dubai in 2008, have been married for eight years and have two beautiful girls, who are my number one priority.
I’ve always had a creative nature, so I established Melwani Couture in 2015, positioning ourselves as creators of couture. Since I married into the Indian culture, I am always inspired by the creativity and beauty of Indian textiles and embroideries.
Tell us about your education.
I completed my Business Administration degree at Middlesex University Dubai, with First– Class Honours. Simultaneously, I took courses in Fashion Design at Esmod University and internationally at the London College of Fashion.
At Middlesex University, Dubai, I am one of the Alumni students; hence I was recently asked to be a participating member of their Fashion Design Advisory Board. It is a tremendous honour for me.
I think it is important always to educate ourselves. I continuously take business and self-growth courses to help me with my growth.
What sparked your interest in fashion?
My love for creativity comes from a young age. I always remember drawing and making dresses for my toys. My mom is a very creative person. During her free time, she was teaching students at our school painting and how to make ikebanas for which she received international awards.
Later, she took me to Arts School in Cahul, Moldova, where I went religiously every day after school for four years. During this time, I received many national and international painting awards. I always knew I wanted to become a fashion designer and own my own business.
For me, fashion is a very powerful phenomenon. The clothes that a person wears can empower and make them more confident and attractive. I find it amazing how wearing the right outfit can ultimately even change people’s perceptions about you.
I was always fascinated by beautiful dresses, and now I am able to create these dresses that people love and are so happy wearing is genuinely the most satisfying job to have. To empower the wearer and focus on accentuating the beauty of the feminine form is what keeps my interest in fashion so alive.
Are you self-taught, or did you study fashion design?
Although I completed short-courses in fashion design, most of what I truly learned is through the people I employed. I invest in my people as I believe the final product and the success of the company are fully dependent on the team.
I employed people that study fashion and that worked for prominent ateliers in Europe and Moscow. I ask my team what the work process in their company was, what is the design process; how do they approach each step. I always design each piece myself, but also work closely with my embroidery team, consider their input and how the embroidery should look.
As a creative, it’s ok to be self-taught as it always comes from within.
When was your brand established, and how has your work evolved since?
I opened my brand in Dubai in November 2015, beginning with a very simple pret-a-porter collection. Although my interest was always couture, I took a year to understand the business truly, created a supplier list, and learnt everything there is to know about creating a couture collection. It’s very important to start small, and enjoy the journey and the learning process.
What influences the design details in your collection? What’s the inspiration behind each of those designs?
I draw my inspiration from various sources. For the “A Million Dreams” collection, The Royal Russian House (end of the 19th century, beginning of the 20th century) served as an extraordinary source of inspiration. The exquisite fashion of that time, as well as the fine jewellery and crowns, inspired the gowns and the style of the hand embroidery.
Also, the Phoenix bird, often cited in Russian folklore stories, is predominant in some of the gown embroideries, gently blending with the baroque-inspired themes.
I always get inspired by the fabrics I use. In this collection, we utilized extraordinary meshes such as Italian and French laces, crepes, Italian silks and silk chiffons.
What’s the creative process of creating a new collection?
A lot of time is spent perfecting a collection and ensuring that each garment is created with care and flawless construction techniques. Although it is always advisable to first identify the trends for the next season, in my case, I prefer to make our own trends. That’s why I love my job so much; it allows us to be more creative.
We begin with a mood board. Mood boards usually create a visual of the direction we want to take in our collection, and it gives us an idea of the textiles and textures we need to utilize in the collection.
Based on our mood board, we then create our sketches. Then we select and approve the sketches that go into the finalized collection. Even though the model of the dress can still change in the process, as each fabric falls differently when draped on the mannequins, we may decide along the way that a certain garment style doesn’t necessarily suit the fabric we intend to use. It can be a long process as we may decide to remove certain dresses from the collection.
How is your work received internationally?
In general, I think fashion that is inspired from the Middle Eastern and Eastern cultures are becoming more popular among Western and Russian communities. While catering to the Middle Eastern market, many of my European and Russian clients appreciate this style.
We have a growing clientele worldwide buying our pieces. Therefore I am thrilled that, although we target and cater to the Middle Eastern market, we have such a wide range of clients for our designs.
How would you define fashion?
I will answer this by quoting Ralph Lauren: “Fashion is about something that comes from within you.” I think fashion is an expression of oneself. You use fashion to express emotions, feelings, a lifestyle. It represents life, making us feel empowered and confident. It has the power to change perceptions, making people more interesting, alive and present. Fashion can be so many things: art, functionality, expression. It is also very personal, real and raw. It can make you powerful, beautiful and in control.
How would you describe your style?
I strive to wear timeless pieces. During the day, I opt for high-waisted jeans or classic trousers with a classic long-sleeved silk shirt. For evening, I opt for uncluttered and sophisticated styles, usually centred around classic and elegant pieces. Classic elegance is key to any wardrobe. Furthermore, I like modest fashion. Long sleeves, high necks and calf-length skirts are predominant in my wardrobe.
Where do you get the inspiration for your designs?
From various cultures, but mostly from Indian and Middle Eastern cultures.
Your plans for the future?
My dream is to open my store in London and expand the brand to the European and Asian markets. We are also looking to start a pret-a-porter line shortly.
Three things that make you happy?
My family, work, and religion.
Do you have any advice on staying happy and healthy?
I always have a routine during the week. I start my day by dropping my children to school. In the car, we still practice gratitude. I like to remind my girls how blessed we are to have each other, be healthy and have so many blessings in life. I think by doing this, we keep a happy and optimistic attitude. I also start our day on a positive note. For my health, I ensure I sleep eight hours a day and exercise at least three times a week. On a personal note, I don’t eat meat.
Favourite brands? I love Chanel, Ralph and Russo and Valentino.
Favourite snack? Tomatoes and mangosteens.
Favourite music? The soundtrack from The Greatest Showman.
Favourite movie? Mulan, I watch it every year since I was 11.
What advice would you give to young fashion designers?
In this competitive market, being a fashion designer and owning your brand is not easy. It is essential to learn more about the business side of fashion. Before starting your brand, be prepared and clear about your strategy, brand vision and business plan. Passion and patience are critical in this industry.
My advice for budding fashion designers is to take one year for planning, research the market, get the right suppliers, and research various distribution channels. Furthermore, work for an established company to get an idea of how the business works. And staying true to yourself in your creations is essential as doing what truly makes you happy will keep you motivated.
Your motto in life?
Winston Churchill said: “Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.”
Your message for CiiN magazine.
I love your magazine and so thrilled to be part of your amazing team.
How do you feel joining the CiiN family as a regular fashion contributor?
I am very passionate about sustainability and ethics in the fashion Industry. This wonderful opportunity of being part of your team will give me a platform to bring these issues to your audience and be part of the change.