The Jameel Prize began in 2009 as a partnership between the V&A and the Abdul Latif Jameel Community Initiatives, aimed to raise awareness of the merging between contemporary art and Islamic design traditions, and hoping to foster debate about Islamic art and culture as a whole. With £25,000 on the line as the prize purse, it’s no wonder that there were more than 270 submissions from artists from every corner of the planet.

In a close battle between such a wide range of creations, from carpets made of pixels or concrete, to paintings made of tiny dots of ink or cardamom, and everything in between, on December 10 the judges finally came to a decision and awarded the prize to the cream of the crop: Dice Kayek and their Islamic architectural dresses.

“We didn’t expect to win! It’s the first time that the Jameel Prize is given to fashion designers,” said Ayse Ege, half of the sisterly duo that makes up Dice Kayek.

Martin Roth, the V&A’s director who led the judges, said that they were, “struck by the way that Dice Kayak’s work uses Islamic inspiration in a completely secular context, taking it into a new world — that of contemporary fashion.”

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Ayse and her sister Ece established their Turkish fashion label back in 1992. Their submission, Istanbul Contrast, highlighted three dresses out of the 26 in their full collection that sought to conjure up the architectural and artistic heritage of Istanbul. As you gaze upon the hand-woven Caftan, made of its regal gold and silver brocade, you get the unmistakable sense of power and honor that must have come with the similarly-styled robes of Ottoman rulers of old. Dome 2, made of a light-weight cotton organdie, looks the simplest of the three, but is hand-folded to mimic the layered domes of Istanbul›s Blue Mosque. Finally, Hagia Sophia, a beautiful satin coat with detailed, hand-stitched embroidery and antique glass beads, drew its inspiration from the interior of its namesake, one of the most famous landmarks in the world.

“Every dress is a symbol and interpretation of Istanbul’s diverse architecture,” said Ece. “It’s a city of contrast, where east meets west and modernity and tradition coexist.”

“The judges felt that Dice Kayek’s work demonstrates how vibrant and creative Islamic tradition continues to be today,” said Roth. “The translation of architectural ideas into fashion shows how Islamic traditions can still transfer from one art form to another, as they did in the past.”

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