MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We are going to end the program today by talking fashion. No apology. It's a hobby for many people and, for others, dare we say it, a way of life.

In a few minutes, we'll visit with Kevan Hall. He's dressed First Lady Michelle Obama and A list Hollywood stars. We want to ask him about his rise to the top of the fashion world, one of the few African Americans in those ranks, and maybe a word or two about his new bridal collection.

But first, we take a look at high fashion in the Arab world. Renowned Iraqi designer, Hana Sadiq, is known for her intricate designs with elements like embroidery and even calligraphy drawn from Arab culture. She says she hopes to create an elegant look tailored for the modern Arab woman.

She's designed dresses for members of the royal families of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other gulf states, but now, for the first time, she's bringing her distinctive style to the U.S. Tonight, she's wrapping up her first U.S. tour at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington, D.C. at an event called Turaath, a celebration of Arab culture in America.

And Hana Sadiq joins us now. Welcome. Thank you for joining us.

HANA SADIQ: Thank you to give me this opportunity to explain about our heritage.

MARTIN: Which is what Turaath means, correct? It means heritage.

SADIQ: Turaath, in Arabic, it means heritage. Yes.

MARTIN: Okay. Well, wonderful. Thank you for coming. Now, when people think of American fashion, I think that they think, you know, casual. I think, when people think of European fashion, perhaps they have a sense of maybe tight tailoring and things of that sort. When you think of Arab fashion, what do you think of?

SADIQ: I want to just explain, very clearly, that, when we speak about fashion, it means for inside the community of Arabic families because the best that they wear, they wear it for the people they love. It means husband, family or friends. They don't wear their best clothes for people they don't know in the street. So this is the difference between two culture, the Western and Eastern culture.

MARTIN: I see your point because I think, for many Americans, their image of Arab women and how they attire themselves, they're perhaps used to seeing public figures wearing what we would call Western attire. You know, the skirt suit and a dress. But if they see women dressed in a traditional way, many times, they see them covered, so they don't have a sense of what else is possible.

SADIQ: Yeah. What's going on.

MARTIN: What's going on. And so you're saying that, really, showing your best is for the home?

SADIQ: It's for people they know. And when I went to the West, they think that our dresses, because they are long and long sleeves, it's for traditional conservative women, which is not true because the long sleeves and long dress, in our culture, means that the woman - she is pampered and it means she's served.

MARTIN: Oh, so she's wearing long sleeves because she's not doing dishes?

SADIQ: She's not doing dishes. She's not working in the farm or gardening.

MARTIN: How did you get bitten by the fashion bug? How did you fall in love with fashion?

SADIQ: I started as a painter. I was famous in Iraq and Baghdad. You know, Baghdad was beautiful city with the river and the nicest sky and the palm trees, and these were inspiring anybody. And then I left Baghdad. I studied in Paris about painting and ceramic and whatever connected with art.

But I had nostalgia for our heritage and I remember my grandmother. She was using all these long, beautiful dresses and when she enter, she was much more feminine than any other western dresses. These dresses gives the woman grandeurs, very, very sheik and classy. Everybody looked at her when she enter.

And I thought, my God, what I'm doing here? I have to teach the women how to be feminine again and sensual as they were before.

MARTIN: Now, your styles - I've seen both traditional flowing styles that some might associate with more conservative wear, but I've also seen more figure-revealing styles that hug close to the body. Are you - do you sell some pieces or show some pieces in some parts of the world but not others, or do you bring your whole collection wherever you go?

SADIQ: No. It's the same collection. This collection, it's about love. All pieces is signed with the name of love. You know, love in Arabic, it's not like an English, one or two words. I found more than 70 words for love in Arabic and we use it in our poetry and in our songs. So I use this collection like peace against violence. All these people, they talk a lot of violence in the world, so I went back to the classic way how we see love, and through the fashion you can love her fashion, her dress, but you admire the woman and then you forget about her dress immediately.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Finally, and thank you for coming, by the way. Before we let you go, is it your hope that women who are not of Middle Eastern heritage will wear your designs?

SADIQ: I'm working on the Arabic woman first.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SADIQ: They have to respect their heritage so the others they respect them. Second, why not? Red carpet, I see a lot of actress but it's all the same. It's open shoulders, open sleeves, open - we see a lot of legs, but it's not sensual, it's not feminine. It's not because you show your breasts, it's feminine. This is what I want to show them, so you can be covered, but also very, very sexy and feminine.

MARTIN: So what will you be wearing tonight?

SADIQ: I'm wearing turquoise because Iraqi color of Babylon Gate was turquoise, ceramic turquoise. And I'm always proud to be Iraqi also.

MARTIN: Hana Sadiq is an Iraqi fashion designer. She is based in Jordan. She's known in Italy as the Ambassador of Arabic Fashion. She wraps up her first U.S. tour tonight at the event Turaath, which is held at the historic Lincoln Theater in Washington, D.C. Hana Sadiq, thank you so much for speaking with us.

SADIQ: Thank you. Thank you very much.

MARTIN: If you'd like to see some of Hana Sadiq's designs, go to npr.org, click on the Programs tab and then on TELL ME MORE.

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