Meet the designer - Ma Ra Mi

Romanian designer Andra Clitan tells Kate Dobinson about her striking style and new fashion workshop


Andra Clitan’s collections walk straight from the woods of a magical, dark fairy tale. The celebrated UAE-based designer’s fashion label, Ma Ra Mi, is in the business of making strong philosophical and historical statements. Inspired by her pieces? Through a brand-new fashion workshop starting this August, Clitan is imparting her wisdom and offering aspiring designers an avenue to embrace their passion.

What are the most important things to know about your fashion design course?
I offer short courses such as draping, fashion illustration and drawing, textiles, introduction to fashion design, fashion styling, historic costume (on request), sewing, fashion merchandising (on request) and short workshops from one to three days, where you can learn how to personalise your abaya collage techniques or personal styling, for example. The short courses are meant to give a good base for someone who has interest in fashion, wants to start a small brand or just wants to change their personal style. The courses and workshops can be personalised according to the students’ aims, expectations and schedule. Many of my students work during the day, so the classes usually take place in the evenings and at weekends.

What kind of flair and talent do you look for in emerging designers?
We are always looking for creativity. It is very important that a designer brings a kind of innovation, which can be through the designs, fabrics or associations between all these elements.

Who are your fashion icons and why?
I appreciate Leandra Medine and her ‘Man Repeller’ blog ( for her effortless chic style, unique combinations and incredible self-confidence. Situated on the opposite side, I totally appreciate the princess Marina Sturdza from Romania, she is in my opinion an example of sophistication, subtlety and good taste.

What is your personal style and favourite item in the wardrobe?
I love to mix different elements, like a traditional piece with something very modern and edgy, and I am totally in for the effortless chic and sophisticated style. I believe my style can be perceived as contradictory sometimes. My favourite pieces are traditional and are from some of my collections, which have been hand embroidered by craftsmen. I also have a special interest in shoes, which I believe are very important and I like to try brands that are not so famous, but are made up of unique designs.

Your pieces are said to go ‘beyond the functionalities of garments’ – does that mean they are not wearable? Are they actually high-art pieces?
My pieces are wearable, I have a ‘limited edition’ line and a more casual one. Therefore, the casual one offers ready-to-wear pieces, for day and cocktail use, and the limited edition is mostly composed of designs made using couture techniques, such as handmade fabrics and embroideries, more like statement pieces. The limited edition line includes made-to-measure designs and can satisfy the most extravagant ideas.

Your collections are deeply philosophical and historical, such as the ‘Making of the Self’ and ‘Back to Roots’ collections – what are you trying to say about your own identity?
I have studied arts my entire life, starting by playing piano at seven years old and moving towards visual arts when I was 13 years old. Since then I entered this world that I am absolutely in love with and due to my background, I never really just made clothes, but always tried to give a meaning to my designs. I always have a strong concept for my work, I don’t just ‘make nice clothes’. I always tried to create my identity in this way and I hope I succeeded. Every collection has a meaning, and what I started to do in Romania with my previous brand ‘Andra Clitan’, I tried to extend with my new brand, ‘Ma Ra Mi’. I am interested in discovering different cultures, trying to make people from different cultures work together and create stories behind my designs. Ma Ra Mi is a platform and a lifestyle.

What was the best lesson you learned about your designs when studying at Central St. Martin’s College of Art and Design?
It was a great experience for me to be part of the Central St. Martin’s universe, even if it wasn’t for a long time. I guess I wanted to see where I am situated compared to the best from the fashion industry, as the college is famous for it. I have a few of my colleagues now starting their own brands – no-one really famous yet. We shall see in the future.

Why is fashion so important to you?
I love what I’m doing. It’s my life, I guess. I could never be happy without it and I never feel tired or bored with my work. Being creative, it’s part of who I am, I can never be happy without that.
Dhs2,800 (including materials). Level one, fashion drawing and illustration, introduction to fashion design and textile design, one month intensive course (module one). Morning or evening three-hour classes twice a week (timings yet to be confirmed), starting August 30. Students interested in draping must bring their own mannequin or purchase one for Dhs150. The Space, TwoFour54 building, Abu Dhabi,, (052 782 6887).

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