Meet Project Runway Middle East's 15 fashionable & feisty contestants

Published September 6th, 2016 - 08:27 GMT
International Lebanese designer Elie Saab will head the competition's judging panel. (
International Lebanese designer Elie Saab will head the competition's judging panel. (

Project Runway is coming to our TV screens in its first Middle Eastern version, with the king of the red carpet Elie Saab heading the competition's judging panel.

A total of 15 contestants will go head to head for 13 weeks, in hopes of impressing Elie and co-judge Tunisian model and actress Afef Jnifen and mentor, the Saudi fashion and design consultant Faris Al Shehri, and eventually winning a cash prize of $50,000 from Maybelline New York, a one-year contract for his/her own fashion house within the Dubai Design District (d3), a one-year membership to Dubai Design & Fashion Council and a cover feature on Harper’s Bazaar Arabia.

The battle will begin on September 17 and you can watch the fashion madness unfold on MBC 4 and MBC MASR 2 at 10pm UAE time. 

Until then, let's meet the contestants (as introduced by Gulf News's Tabloid!):

1. Maroun Issa – Lebanon

Having worked with some major names in Lebanon, and travelled around the world mastering her craft, Maroun is arguably one of ‘Project Runway ME’s most experienced contestants. The 60-year-old – who has her own atelier – applied for the show, as she wants to “achieve what I couldn’t achieve in my youth”. “‘Project Runway ME’ is competitive and innovative, and while I may be older than a lot of the other contestants, I believe I still have the same drive and determination.”

2. Mohanad Kojak – Egypt

He may only be 21 years old, but Mohanad isn’t fazed that he’s the youngest contestant on ‘Project Runway ME’. Having observed the craft from the tender age of six – Mohanad explains that his neighbourhood was home to numerous seamstresses and tailors, that he would visit regularly – the designer created his first dress at the age of 18 and went on to set up his own brand.


3. Ilham Aitsil – Morocco

Things haven’t been easy for the 26-year-old. Explaining that her dream of pursuing a career in fashion wasn’t supported by those closest to her, Ilham persisted and went on to study fashion, before specialising in event planning in order to fund her first fashion show.

4. Heba Mojaddidi – Saudi Arabia (KSA)

Heba has big dreams. She wants to become one of Saudi Arabia’s female designers to garner a global fan-base. The designer – who closely follows European runways, and wants to mix Western fashion with traditional Arabian elements in her work – designed her very first dress at the age of nine. She wore it to her brother’s wedding.


5. Lucy Fadel – Jordan

The self-taught designer picked up her skills thanks to the Internet. Growing up designing dresses for her dolls, Lucy decided to perfect her craft by searching for video tutorials online. But don’t underestimate her. Lucy is determined to show on ‘Project Runway ME’ that she can take on any assignment thrown at her.


6. Luma Saleh – Lebanon

Born in Brazil, Luma decided to return to her home country, Lebanon in order to study design. The designer has a wealth of international experience on her resume, including a stint working at New York Fashion Week.

7. Issa Hesso – Syria

According to Issa, his strength lies in his sewing skills, which he believes sets him apart from the rest of the contestants. The participant is determined to demonstrate that he can become a well-established fashion designer.


8. Alia El Nahass – Egypt

With a degree in human resources (HR), 27-year-old Alia gave up her office job in order to pursue a career in fashion. “For me, fashion is more creative and I feel more alive doing this,” she explains. Alia now has her own atelier and has even taken part in a number of fashion events.

9. Fatima Al Najdi – Kuwait

Known for her modest fashion designs – aimed at hijabi women (females who wear a headscarf as part of their Islamic faith) in Kuwait and the rest of the GCC region – Fatima says she entered ‘Project Runway ME’ in order to challenge herself and take herself out of her comfort zone. “I want to be able to do more than just hijabi wear,” she says. “I want to use this experience to find out more about my abilities and just what else I can achieve.”

10. Selim Chebil – Tunisia

The 25-year-old recently graduated from fashion school in his home country, but has already worked as a stylist on a number of movie and commercial productions. Selim says he applied to ‘Project Runway ME’ in order to learn more about fashion and gain valuable experience.

11. Taghreed Al-Arrayed – Bahrain

The former wedding planner reveals that she is “very confident” when it comes to her skills in fashion and design. However, she applied to the show in order to gain feedback from professionals to find out “at just what level” she really is.


12. Amna El-Shandaweely – Egypt

The bubbly 23-year-old admits she’d like to build up her confidence during the show. Having designed for herself, her family and close friends, Amna says she was encouraged by those closest to her to apply for ‘Project Runway ME’.

13. Saba Tark – Iraq

Having grown up in the Netherlands, Saba brings with her a wealth of experience in European fashion and design. Expect to see plenty of blue hues in her work, as the designer divulges that she is crazy about the colour.


14. Alaa Najd – Lebanon

At the age of 32, Alaa has pursued his passion for fashion at a later age compared to others. However, he says he is determined to succeed and prove himself during the debut season of ‘Project Runway ME’.

15. Rayan Atlas – Algeria

Having grown up in the small city of Béchar in Algeria – where fashion is merely an afterthought – Rayan moved to Algiers, followed by Tunisia in order to learn more about the industry. The 32-year-old says he entered ‘Project Runway ME’ in order to try and achieve the success that he has been in pursuit of for years.

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