It was a day filled with happiness as a triumphant victory loomed over the nation. A day that renewed the fabric of society by weaving in newly glistening threads of hope, kinship and unity. Indeed, the inauguration of the seventh president of the Maldives was monumental for every Maldivian, with the inauguration ceremony held on 17 November is the apex of this momentous conquest.
Hundreds of invitees graced the ceremony, foreign dignitaries included, while even more eagerly tuned in to watch the telecasts and live streams.
Amidst the historic commemoration of the President Solih's new administration, one rather glamorous facet caught the attention of us all.
It was the sight of hundreds of Maldivian women donning the beautiful traditional dress 'Dhiguhedhun', and in particular, one very special lady's unique take on it.
Dhiguhedhun is one among three types of traditional Maldivian wear for women officially unveiled by the first President of Maldives, Al-Ameer Mohamed Amin Dhoshimeynaa Kilegefaanu, on 12 May 1942.
Of the three, the frequently donned Dhiguhedhun remains the undisputed favourite, a traditional ensemble that transcends class, caste and dynasty. Dhiguhedhun, adjacent to its literal translation: 'long dress', is a floor length gown with long sleeves and a wide puritan collar that is paired with a pinned veil that is to be worn starting exactly at the middle of a women's head, falling to the middle of her back.
Keeping in line with the original template, modern-day Dhiguhedhun features patterned fabric juxtaposed onto the traditional, figure-hugging template. Over time, Dhiguhedhun has evolved into colourful, cutting edge and innovative garb, unafraid of making a statement.
The Dhiguhedhun worn by the newly sworn President Ibrahim Solih's First Lady Fazna Ahmed at the inauguration ceremony followed similarly modern template, crafted with stunning artistry.
Fazna wore a rendition of the traditional dress made even more exciting by its one-of-a-kind printed fabric design; a creative concoction of patterns of 'Hirigaa' (stone carvings) and wood carvings found in Maldivian mosques, paired with manipulated images symbolic of aerial views in the Maldives.
The 'first dress' worn by the First Lady at the Presidential Inaugration, is often globally recognized as a strong statement of its own. For instance, for her husband Barack Obama’s first inauguration, Michelle Obama accented a coat and dress by emerging Cuban-American designer Isabel Toledo with a pair of sage-green gloves by J. Crew, issuing a subtle statement of international goodwill, acute sartorial insight, and relatability.
If the idea holds merit, then it would seem that Maldives' newest First Lady made a characteristically strong choice, like her insistence against being referred to by fancy monikers, in her decision to wear a dress that is unique, locally crafted and in many ways, truly Maldivian.
The creative conductor behind the unforgettable creation is the owner and founder of the boutique store Island Bazaar, Fathmath Salah.
A working interior designer extraordinaire in the Maldives, Fathmath Salah has a decade of notable projects under her belt. In addition to her career as an interior designer, Fathmath is also the founder and proud owner of Island Bazaar. Island Bazaar is a brand synonymous with the tropics with a speciality for transforming Maldivian culture and heritage into everyday products.
According to Fathmath, it was Fazna who first approached her about making the dress for the inauguration ceremony. Expressing her admiration and appreciation of Island Bazaar's locally crafted products, the First Lady specifically highlighted a love for the popular scarves and cushion covers range that boast rich shades of teal and ocean-inspired designs.
'She wanted something simple yet beautiful and very 'Jazeera', said Fathmath, describing the idea our first lady approached her with.
Detailing the design process, Fathmath spoke of the time afforded in putting the dress together with local seamstress Sakeenatha, deeming the creation as the hard work of a fortnight.
"I'm not a fashion designer by profession, referred designer," professed Fathmath modestly, "But I really appreciated the opportunity and wanted to do it."
Fathmath described the gown as following a simple and traditional Dhiguhedhun pattern whilst simultaneously drawing attention to her boutique's masterful fabric design.
Dubbing the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the Dhiguhedhun "surprising, she added that it was a rather unexpected response to such a cutting-edge, creative version of the traditional dress.
However, future fans may be disappointed at her candid response affirming that she does not believe that she will be making dresses available at the boutique for sale, or recreating the same fabric.
Not worry though, if there is demand for fabric design, Fathmath assured that she will consider making a permanent addition to store shelves, adding that in the meantime, she is more than happy to work with customers interested in creating their own silken finery on request. This, undoubtedly, is very exciting news for all lovers of the brand!
"It is great exposure to the designers and designs of our boutique, that's been very nice", said Fathmath, addressing the attention her work has received.
"I'm very happy that it's given a platform for local artists."
Locally made traditional dresses are not just a garment worn. It is a sense of pride donned. It is a combination of culture and arts. An exclamation point to representing one's nationality.
And quite an exclamation the inauguration ceremony was, with the sense of pride that emanated with every single Dhiguhedhun that completed the beautiful event, including of course, the grand debut of our First Lady's 'Jazeera Dhiguhedhun'.