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All bow to Nefertiti: Zuhair Murad revives the Egyptian queen as a symbol of female power

Regal, seductive, and powerful, 2020 is the year women will embrace their inner queens

That Zuhair Murad has a flair for the dramatic isn’t a secret. If we are to base our opinions on previous year’s collections, to say that the Lebanese designer loves the storytelling side of fashion would be a massive understatement. Take his SS19 Couture collection, for example, when he turned the catwalk into an underwater dreamland. Murad is simply a designer that takes the ‘show’ in ‘fashion show’ to heart. And his public loves him for it.

This season’s haute couture collection is Murad at his best… with a twist. As the music starts – a hypnotic beat that follows the models’ strut – and the first look enters the catwalk, it becomes obvious there is a difference between this and the designer’s previous shows. It isn’t the craftsmanship or the elaborate beauty of the bejewelled two-piece the model is wearing. The women on the catwalk have not been dressed to evoke something ethereal or fantastical. They’re not mermaids, fairies, or even goddesses. They’re queens. They’re the modern Nefertiti.

Dripping gold and covered in sequins, the sculptural shapes of crop tops and pencil skirts give way to long gowns with plunging necklines and flowy capes. Hieroglyphs, beetles, snakes, cats and falcons are visible on lace bodices and belts, worn like amulets that conjure images of a reimagined Ancient Egypt.

But in Murad’s Egypt, the queens that were once buried inside the pyramids, surrounded by jewels and treasure, decide they’ve been sleeping for too long and finally go out into the world, wearing the riches they were buried with.

Royal blue, black, and gold slowly fade to deep crimson red. As if imitating the waves of a biblical Nile, turning into blood as a symbol of change, Murad plays with the symbolism of colours. The red sequins of a one-shouldered gown speak of sensuality, whereas the wave-like flow of icy blue sleeves tell a story about freedom and movement.

Among the beauty of embroidery and lace, however, there is one thing that stands out throughout the whole show: skin. By having these revived queens stand proud and unafraid in their semi-transparent rose armours, Murad is sending out a message of independence and emancipation.

The final look, a spectacular ivory bridal gown, featuring an intricate headpiece, is a reference to Murad’s fascination with bridal wear. The elegance yet impressive presence of the bride is the perfect final piece for Murad’s fairy tale. Applause.

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