by Anna Castan
  • 7 minute read
  • July 05, 2021
Modern Mirage

GUCCI Pre-Tied Silk-Grosgrain Bow Tie, ALEXANDER MCQUEEN Double-breasted two-tone grain de poudre wool-blend blazer, SAINT LAURENT Herringbone wool tapered pants, all at NET-A-PORTER

Tenacious. Maverick. Empathetic. Imaginative. Independent. These are the qualities half-Emirati, half-Mexican digital creative Ashley Al Busmait embraces in herself. And as she arrives on set for our Villa 88 cover shoot accompanied by her mother, we’d add that while living her best fashion life, family will always come first.

Born to a Mexican mother and Emirati father, Ashley embraced the cultural fabric of her duality from a very young age. Inspired by her rich heritage, she began to interweave artistic elements of her culture into her personal style. As the years passed, she became increasingly enamored with the way clothing could hold so much power in representing one’s identity. In 2016, Ashley launched The Mirage Edit on Instagram, aimed at documenting her personal journey of self-discovery from an artistic lens. The platform focuses on curating impactful fashion editorials that go far beyond pristine aesthetics and tell deeper meaningful stories. Her visual canvas is a symphony of her muses, her beloved background, her avant-garde spin on modest fashion, and her chameleon-like interpretation of style. She aspires to give life to thought-provoking fashion editorials with an underlying message of celebrating one’s intrinsic individuality.

ALTUZARRA Lilium belted wool-blend twill blazer, SAINT LAURENT Pussy-bow ruffled silk crepe de chine blouse, BOTTEGA VENETA Silk-satin pants, BY FAR Gigi 100mm cut-out sandals, all at NET-A-PORTER

“I feel that my generation, the millennials, is less unapologetic and more forthright in choosing the direction they want to lead their lives. With all respect, I believe that past generations, specifically here in the Gulf, were guided by the expectations set by society’s norms. This, I think, influenced their decisions when it came to a career path, a timeline for marriage and having children and the way they chose to present themselves in society. I find that there is a massive transition taking place with the mindset of the younger generation. They are placing an emphasis on self-discovery. I see that my peers are focused on seeking peace, alignment, independence, and happiness as opposed to being concerned with complying with societal norms.

I feel as though this current generation is working hard to redefine their identity. In contrast to previous generations, they are navigating a balance between a respect for what past generations stood for and the ever-changing influence of globalization. As we venture into the modern world, we are inevitably challenged with decisions on balancing our traditions with newly developed ideologies.

GUCCI Oversized round-frame embellished acetate and gold-tone sunglasses, GUCCI + KEN SCOTT Jenni appliquéd floral-print velvet blazer, SAINT LAURENT Silk-satin turtleneck blouse, MAX MARA Kirsch pleated wool-twill wide-leg pants, all at NET-A-PORTER

I am a firm believer that it is important to harness the beauty that comes with tradition but equally and more importantly, to challenge ourselves to maintain an open mindset and not be afraid to create and live by values that may differ from what is considered the norm.

I definitely consider myself an old soul. I have a deep appreciation for the way previous generations expressed themselves. Their world was not a digitized one. They were more inclined to express themselves through poetry, music, dance, and art.

GIGI BURRIS + NET SUSTAIN Pippa silk tulle-trimmed woven hat, SAINT LAURENT Double-breasted checked wool blazer, ALEXANDER MCQUEEN Pleated crepe wide-leg pants, all at NET-A-PORTER

The past generation has inspired me to explore the art of expression through poetry and penmanship. In today’s high-tech world, I find that poetry helps ground me and brings to surface my innermost thoughts and feelings, encouraging me to reflect and grow. I have always kept my writing private but will soon be breaking out of my shell and releasing my first poetry film about change and acceptance. I hope that it touches people even if in a small way.

MAISON MICHEL Pina grosgrain-trimmed wool-felt fedora, SAINT LAURENT Cropped grain de poudre wool and silk-satin vest and Cotton-poplin shirt, ALEXANDER MCQUEEN Pleated crepe wide-leg pants, GUCCI Gold-tone and resin necklace, all at NET-A-PORTER

It gives me great joy revisiting elements of my Emirati culture by creating fashion editorials that celebrate traditional jewelry and artisanal craftsmanship such as Al Sadu and Al Telli. It is a great honor to be able to use my fashion platform The Mirage Edit on Instagram to represent my roots and give women in the West an insight into Emirati heritage. I also connect with my Mexican side through music. I enjoy listening to genres of Mexican music. For example cumbias, which are upbeat and vivacious (they get me on my feet and dancing every single time) and rancheras which pay tribute to the simplicity and beauty of the Mexican culture. My favorite singer is Chavela Vargas. She was a Costa Rican singer who dominated the music scene in Mexico in the ’50s. Her raspy voice always transports me to Mexico and makes me feel closer to my roots. I love how she was such a unique character and wasn’t afraid to go against the grain, often donning menswear and breaking into a genre of music that was reserved for men at the time. She gives me the strength to be my own person despite society’s concerns about change.

MAX MARA Lamine double-breasted camel hair and silk-blend twill blazer and Josef pleated camel hair and silk-blend twill wide-leg pants, SAINT LAURENT Cotton-poplin shirt, 16ARLINGTON Ralphie mini leather tote, all at NET-A-PORTER

I’ve been heavily influenced by the independent and empowered women in my life – both from my Emirati and Mexican sides. Their way of modest dress and impeccable elegance has greatly influenced me. I discovered early on that dressing modestly evokes a certain sense of respect. Most people would assume that the modest theme is derived from the Arab world, but it exists in various cultures and civilizations, and it is being adopted widely in today’s world. For it is not merely a way of dress or an extension of faith, but sends a message not only of beauty, but also of power and control. I hope that through my work, I can empower women to celebrate their choices, challenge negative stereotypes, and take on the world one outfit at a time.

ALEXANDER MCQUEEN Asymmetric cotton-gabardine trench coat and Buckled cotton-twill tapered pants, DODO BAR OR Gabi open-back ribbed-knit bodysuit, GIUSEPPE ZANOTTI Metallic stretch-leather sock boots, all at NET-A-PORTER

I believe that the biggest misconception about Emirati women is that they are oppressed. Like many women from past generations around the world, Emirati women were homemakers and contributed to society through their skill in producing artisanal crafts. Through the years, there has been extensive support and encouragement in education for Emirati women. This has catapulted them to reach the height of the career path they choose to pursue and thus, contribute greatly to society.

I want the world to know that Emirati women are a force to be reckoned with, in the best sense of this phrase. They are empowered, independent, innovative, entrepreneurial, and carry themselves with elegance and grace. Throughout the course of my life, my parents have instilled in me an appreciation for both my cultures as well as the cultures of others. When I paint the mural of my heritage, I see two worlds unified — I am overcome with a sense of gratitude to have been nurtured to see the world through a clear glass window, untainted, with arms wide open. My Emirati father and my Mexican mother bestowed the gift of cultural understanding and to see that goodness has no sides.

ALEXANDER MCQUEEN Asymmetric ruffled cotton and silk-blend crepon dress and Leather waist belt, GIUSEPPE ZANOTTI Musa suede sandals, all at NET-A-PORTER

I ultimately find that the key to navigating cultures is not about adopting every aspect but more about respecting differences and maintaining an open mind. This mindset has allowed me to fluidly ebb and flow into the melting pot of cultures in Dubai. I find that people tend to open up when they see you have a genuine interest in respecting their culture and values, and the opportunity to learn and expand your understanding of others is heightened.

SAINT LAURENT Spencer cropped wool-twill blazer and Pussy-bow silk crepe de chine blouse, GUCCI Malibu leather-trimmed crocheted cotton beret and Embroidered tulle gloves, all at NET-A-PORTER

I aspire to take my experimentation with art direction to new heights, creating awe-inspiring visuals that are aimed at encouraging my audience to embrace their individuality, celebrate the cross-cultural threads that weave people together, challenge the status quo, and shed light on positive change in my community.

Through my platform and directional fashion collaborations, I hope to convey to women from all walks of life that fashion can be a positive and powerful reflection of who you are, where you come from, and what you stand for.”

GUCCI Oversized appliquéd stretch-scuba hoodie and Cropped appliquéd neon stretch-jersey wide-leg track pants, WOLFORD Colorado bodysuit, all at NET-A-PORTER

Follow Ashley Al Busmait on Instagram at @themirageedit

PHOTOGRAPHER: Vladimir Marti



MAKE-UP: Manuel Gomez

HAIRSTYLIST: Corrigan at Sisters Beauty Lounge


STYLIST’S ASSISTANTS: Joanna Jagodzinska and Jasmina Rossi



PRODUCER: Jesse Vora


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