Founded in Dubai, Jelena Bin Drai is a luxury clothing brand with elegance and comfort at its heart. Whether pret-a-porter or haute couture, Jelena Bin Drai uses exquisite craftsmanship and the highest quality fabrics to create chic and wearable collections with a contemporary, on-trend edge. Suitable for a host of different occasions, each piece is timeless and classic – The perfect addition to a modern woman’s wardrobe.
Dubai Fashion Tour got the opportunity to meet Jelena Bin Drai and interview her about her amazing journey from being a model to a fashion entrepreneur in the Dubai fashion world.
DFT – When did you know you wanted to be a fashion designer?
Jelena – I was twelve to thirteen years into modelling and by this time I learnt to distinguish good fittings, texture of fabrics and their characteristics because all the regional designers here in UAE were making their collections around my body. This went about seven to eight years of my modelling years. I was working with big designers like Rami Al Ali, Amato, Escada , Max mara etc.
So when you’re working with such designers who build the collection around you, you tend to pick up certain tricks. My mother is an art teacher and I love the art of sketching. I guess it runs in my genes. Also in Dubai the fashion industry is very big and we all get a chance to learn something from the many diverse designers especially the young and talented local designers of this region.
DFT – What is your favorite part about being a fashion designer?
Jelena – Choosing fabrics! It’s both a boon and bane. I discussed this with other designers and found that they faced a similar issue. Sometimes when you choose the fabrics they are so beautiful that you wish to get them all for the collection you are working on currently. My designer friends advised me to always leave some for the next collection. I love to search and choose fabrics and work with my amazing team who constantly work here in my studio.
DFT – What is your favorite fabric to use?
Jelena – My favorite fabric is organza because it’s very flexible, you can make beautiful shapes and come up with new ways to fold the fabric. You can always discover something new with Organza. In the ready to wear collection I was making for 2016 RTW collection we were using very thin pressed wool which can be worn here in Dubai during winter. For couture I prefer Organza but for ready to wear I don’t prefer it as it gets crumpled easily and very hard to manage.
DFT – How do you balance creativity with commerce?
Jelena – My team and I follow what goes on in the fashion world but we don’t let ourselves get influenced by it. My customers are women of all ages. When I design pieces I keep women like Kate Middleton or Queen Rania in mind who wear timeless, elegant and conservative clothes with a modern touch in their fashion style. To make such pieces you cannot blindly follow the fashion trends and I refuse to do that. Here one should know how to wear and what to wear when you go out because of the part of the world we are living in. I have my niche which I am catering to and I just can’t follow trends. Sometimes everyone try to follow the Kardashian trend and it’s not like I am against it , sometimes I feel it is not fit for our culture or nation.
DFT – What skills according to you are necessary for a successful fashion designer?
Jelena – I think that everyone can create fashion today because there is no particular fashion trend that you are forced to follow and no expectations like how it used to be in the forties, fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties. From nineties the mix of trends began. In the 21st century everything is in fashion. In high social events now women still dress up in fifties and forties designs. The old elegance concept is what we follow in this store. Today everything is in trend. If they have a passion, love and interest in designing and fashion they should definitely work hard and become a fashion designer.
DFT – How would you describe your design aesthetic?
Jelena – The pieces I design are elegant, conservative, and feminine with a touch of modern.
DFT – What is your inspiration in general? What was your inspiration for the last season?
Jelena – Last two to three seasons I was inspired by Dubai, the desert, MENA region, colors of the sand, colors of the skyscraper and everything that surrounded me and made me happy in the last fifteen years with my family here and living a happy life in UAE. But last collection I got inspired by early winter and late autumn of Hyde Park England because England is my third home after Serbia and UAE. My apartment in England is next to Hyde Park and I got inspired by the autumn winter. So you can see a lot of white shades that reminds you of first flakes of snow from the sky, red color and a touch of black like the rain of Hyde Park in my last collection.
DFT – Which one is your favorite piece from the fall 2016 RTW Collection and why?
Jelena – It’s very difficult to choose one because all of them are like my kids and I love all of them and I worked hard on each one of them. If I had to choose one I would choose the last piece that I showcased. My heart is in couture and it gets hard for me to pull the line between couture and ready to wear specially for our clientele who are always amazingly dressed. Everyone knows that in Dubai one is never overdressed. You can wear the same outfit for breakfast, lunch or red carpet because it’s all about glamour, luxury and beauty here. So I put my ready to wear with couture pieces to showcase that even my ready to wear pull off a couture side which makes it a demi couture. And this is the piece that is close to my heart.
DFT – How is your work received internationally?
Jelena – We exhibited for the first time in Monte Negro. We were guests of the government and this was the first time we went abroad. Once we finish our spring – summer collection we will go big time international. We were concentrating more on this region as we had more customers from here. I started it here and friends would ask me to make pieces for them. Soon people got to know by word of mouth. That’s how my brand was born. I do get a lot of European, British and American customers and I am hoping to take my brand there.
DFT – How do you market your business?
Jelena – I built PR for myself in the last fifteen years by being one of the first models in this region and I got a lot of exposure and coverage by doing interviews. Before building my brand I first built my name through modelling. This made it easy for me to come out as a designer as the name JELENA- BIN – DRAI existed years prior to its release. We constantly try to make our customers happy and in the last two to three years we noticed that word of mouth worked best for us. We still see customers coming back to buy pieces after a couple of months. We may not have changed the cuts or design sometimes but it is still categorized by them as top fabrics and top fittings. If you want high end fashion you know where to go. I am just catering to ladies who want good fabrics, good fittings, and elegant pieces with modern touch.
DFT – Do you do special customization for your clients and do they inspire you in designs?
Jelena – I have some beautiful lady customers who inspire me and each of them have a special personality. I have help from the girls who work in my studio as they also know what the customers want. I work on the new collection and they work with the customers in such a way that our pieces are custom made and no two pieces will look the same.
DFT – What do you think about Dubai fashion industry? Do you think it will become the next global fashion capital?
Jelena – I think it is fantastic. Dubai fashion industry is definitely growing and every day we face bigger competition because of the many talented designers. In the next five to ten years it will grow immensely big and become the next global fashion capital.
DFT – What excites you about the potential for spaces like d3?
Jelena – It is very trendy and I think most of the designers are moving to D3 and doing business there. But I personally love to stay in palm as most of my customers are from the same area. For me it’s convenient because I have other businesses here besides being a fashion designer – a health clinic, nursery and cosmetics. I need time to be with my kids and husband too so it’s better when all my businesses are in one place. Initially it was hard running this business and looking after my first child. Now I have five businesses and three kids but I find it easier thanks to my bigger team with great managers. I delegate all the things and work on the creative and entrepreneurial part.
We had an amazing time talking to Jelena and we wish her all the success for her future ventures. For more information on her collection visit – www.jelenabindrai.com