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The Responsible Abaya

Collaborative Practice and Climate Engagement


This is a broad partnership between collectives, designers, artists, students and community members of differing backgrounds including immigrant Arab women in Scotland, UK-based digital experts, and Qatar-based designers.  We will empower young women and raise awareness of the climate catastrophe by filling a void in the market: producing an affordable abaya using sustainable textiles and methods— while exploring how clothing choices can be a signifier of the modern Arab/Muslim woman’s identity and values. 

This project is a tangible response to the desire of women to have more options regarding responsible clothing.  It is a ‘proof-of-concept’ project which aims to be ‘copied’ by other designers.  Producing a responsible abaya (and making responsible textiles available to other designers in Qatar) is intended to spur further local production of responsible clothing. We aim to empower women, respond to their desire to make responsible choices about what they wear, and, through this process, think more deeply about our identities and value systems as reflected by our clothing choices.




An abaya is three metres of cloth that has a cultural and spiritual meaning.  As a visible symbol of the wearers’ values... could it also make a statement about a commitment to sustainability?


What if there was an affordable, every-day abaya made from responsible textile?   

This research and process-based art/design project is a practical initiative to produce and bring to the market an abaya using responsible textiles and methods. In additional, we will lead the way in making it possible for Qatari designers to access responsible textiles.  Alongside this, we will explore the cultural significance of the abaya, making lens/sound work about the clothing choices we make.


What is the problem we are solving? Many young women want to be involved/be able to purchase/own responsibly made garments.  While there are abayas made from more responsible textiles available, these tend to be expensive and suitable for special events. Furthermore, Qatari designers say responsible textiles are difficult to source.


Why is it important?  We will be researching lower impact material choices, for example the majority of affordable abayas are made of 100% virgin polyester, switching to recycled polyester will achieve a 75% carbon reduction and a 23% water reduction.  However since recycled polyester (like all polyester) can shed plastic microfibers during use, contributing to marine pollution, we will also consider other planet-friendly textiles. 


The Cutting Studio (Qatar): recognises the negative effects of the textile and fast fashion industries and is determined to create transparency in the design and production process, minimising fashion waste. Committed to creating a safe space for the nurturing of the female community to come together to empower and uplift each other professionally and personally, the founder, Ghada Al Subaey, also has her own sustainable clothing collection. ( (Abaya design process, textile library, student workshops.)

Teresa Albor (UK artist/designer) with British Council Qatar and M7, Qatar’s design museum, produced ‘Cut from the same cloth’ - an interactive series of workshops, conversations and live events promoting textile recycling which engaged 200+ students in recycling activities. Albor is the coordinator of Re/DRESS (Dhaka, Doha and London) which works with factories in Bangladesh. Re/DRESS ( is a non-profit, proof-of-concept responsible fashion brand available in Bangladesh, Qatar and the UK. (Project lead. Procuring textiles. Lens/sound work. Student workshops.UK/Qatar showcasing.)


Dr Zarqa Parvez (Qatar-based) : An educator (affiliated with Qatar Foundation, Georgetown University and Northwestern University in Qatar), her focus is on Women and National Identity in Qatar. Her research focus includes Nationalism, National Identity, Women, State and Society in the Gulf Region.

Bureau 555: A UK-based female led design group collaborating on design projects who believe that there is a pressing need for fast and inclusive digital product development services in the apparel industry and are committed to upskilling the supply chain so the fashion eco-system can move towards a more sustainable future. 

Mariamah: Established in 2006, Mariamah fills a gap in the global market for a much-needed line of contemporary modest clothing.
Founder and creative lead Roxana Mariam has a Master's degree in fashion design from the UK and extensive experience with European design houses,  Her styling stems from the idea of 'One World' which crosses all boundaries of race and religion. 

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