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Zay Initiative Presents Inspiration Adornment in Practice with Patricia Millns

Written by: Nikoleta Morales

On the 6th of October 2020, the Zay initiative hosted another special cultural webinar dedicated this time to an extraordinary designer and expert on Islamic art Patricia Millns (FRSA). The webinars that have been held by Zay initiative organization and hosted by Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli were focused on describing the history of Arabic dress and of its impact on the Arabic and world culture.

The guest of the webinar Patricia Millns is not only a world renowned British designer and artist, but also a real pioneer of the modern art movement in the Gulf region and has influenced the region’s art scene for the last 30 years.

Patricia Patricia, a member at the Royal Society of Arts in London and a resident of the Middle East for more than three decades, is herself a real institution of the regional art scene. The art of Patricia Millns is mostly based on the minimalist sculptures that she describes as ‘objects and textile-based works in white or grey colors, is expressed on clean surfaces, white walls and white furniture in the uncluttered space”.

After living many years in Kuwait and Oman, she is currently based in Dubai and her designer studio in the city attracts many local and international art lovers. Patricia says she always had a fascination with the UAE (United Arab Emirates) as it was forward-thinking and allowed people to try new things and be authentic in art.

Photo credit: Patricia Millns Adornment Object 1 2012

During the webinar for Zay initiative the famous designer told Dr. Reem El Mutwalli about her fascination for the adornment of the Arabic women. She said that the history of the Arabic dress and of their garments has been her passion since she has graduated in the history of Islamic Art. After her Masters in Islamic art, she realized how much culture originated from the Arab world. Therefore, she was drawn to learn more about it. She has been interested in this subject since 1980 after moving from the United Kingdom to Kuwait.

The designer indicated that she has found amazing support from the ladies of Arabia. She has found their company and their understanding of art overwhelming. Their support has inspired her to continue her work in the region. After working in art museums in Kuwait, she has found out the importance of the fragrance in the Arabic adornment of the Arabic ladies. She has come learn to appreciate the Arabic fragrances and to understand the olfactory as actually an art form that she has never experienced before. Millns mentioned that inside the closed space in the Gulf, everything moves with the breeze of the air condition. You feel the fragrance is always present in any place you visit. Fragrance is often a part of her artworks as she uses it to put between the folds of the fabrics to inspire her client’s emotions.

Fragrance plays an important role in the Arabic culture and it’s very giving. The hospitality of the Arab women and their sincere giving nature has overwhelmed her and she uses all “natural” and everyday fragrances like tea, coffee, roses and jasmine in many of her art works.

The designer finds that Western clothing shows who we actually are and our individual expression, but Eastern clothing shows the history. Arabic classic garments such as chador, al almira, shayla, khimar, tunic dresses and kaftans carry the history of the Arabic culture and the story of the women of Arabia.

The Arabian fashion and adornment celebrate not only history, but also beauty, modesty, holiness and tradition all combined together.

The designer has interviewed the ladies of the UAE to see which pieces of her art would be attractive for them. Her Shayla created in fabric tulle attracted big interest. She also created an installation by adorning small beads made from paper torn from fashion magazines and embroidering them with thoughts and comments obtained from women she interviewed in the Gulf.

According to Patricia, there is nothing as precious as history, not even gold and silver. The Arabic culture has an extraordinary rich historic patrimony to offer as inspiration to any artist and fashion designer.

Stay tuned for more webinars hosted by Dr. Reem El Mutwalli and the Zay initiative organization with more extraordinary guests related to the history of the Arab dress.

Dr Reem El Mutwalli leads the informative discussion captured on audio and we hope our audience enjoys the enlightening discussion.

For more information on Patricia Millns, visit

Information on Zay Initiative can be found at:


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