Emirati fashion designer Sheikh Khalid Al Qasimi talks about the assimilation of Middle Eastern elements in his works and the challenges of operating within creative parameters to design menswear
‘Qasimi’, the fashion house of established fashion designer Sheikh Khalid Al Qasmi, has dressed many a celebrity and has inspired the world of fashion with Middle Eastern nuances, which reflect the designer’s roots in the neighbouring Sharjah. In the following e-interview with FACES he talks about his plans to re-launch women’s wear and the paradigm shift that he experiences in designing menswear.
How would you describe your start in the fashion industry and the subsequent success of your label ‘Qasimi’?
I was lucky enough to be able to start my brand straight out of university and its success is testament to the hard work I put in each season. I took some time out to restructure the company a few seasons ago. This gave me the time and room to really decide which direction I wanted it to go in; I got the opportunity to observe the industry as an ‘outsider’ and really analyse what I wanted the brand to represent and what our message was.
Is your interest in architecture reflected in your fashion works?
Studying architecture is the pinnacle of design education and I believe a lot stems from it. I always look at the body as a landscape and highlighting the construction is key in my work.
How has your heritage influenced your label?
I feel that it is extremely important to discuss and debate about my cultural heritage and the political discourse that surrounds it. The media is generally very biased towards a certain agenda and it is key for me to voice my views through the medium of my collections.
You are known to incorporate Middle Eastern elements in your work. Tell us more about the concept of ‘Middle East Meets West’ in your design elements.
Shapes and silhouettes in the collection are intentionally referenced by Middle Eastern dress while the choice of technical fabrics, voiles and drill cottons aren’t typically Middle Eastern and are more inspired by London.
You started off with the Qasimi women’s wear label in 2008 before expanding into menswear in 2010. Is ‘Qasimi’ today only about men’s wear? Tell us more about your brand.
With menswear I feel that it is important to design and be creative within certain parameters, there are rules to follow and it is interesting to slowly break them over time. Womenswear is less restrictive but can easily be over designed. I have learned to constantly strip back and edit over the course of the season. For me, it’s always been about the construction of the garment and highlighting it has a purpose and function; I steer away from decoration. The Qasimi silhouettes are fluid, oversized and languid and our colours are always optimistic and fresh. I get asked all of the time when we are bringing back the women’s collections and it is in the overall plan for the next few years, but I’d like to perfect our men’s collection before re-launching womenswear.
Global fashion observers have described you as a young Emirati designer who was born in the UAE and raised in the UK. How much of the Emirati or the regional connect can be discerned in your line of clothing?
I was born in the Middle East, but I grew up and studied in London and it continues to be one of my most important sources of inspiration and there will always be that juxtaposition of both cultures in my work. As I mention above, there are references to both running through every collection.
Fashion in our part of the world is dictated by culture and tradition; although women’s fashion has incorporated a range of fusion elements and western touches, men’s wear has, perceptibly, remained stagnant. Do you see the status quo changing?
I think over time we will see the same incorporation of different elements in menswear as we have in women’s fashion, but it will be at a much slower pace, as that is the nature of menswear as a whole. It has always been much slower to adopt new ideas.
Is it difficult for a designer from our part of the world to make it big in Europe?
No more difficult than it is for any emerging designer, you have to be true to your vision and work hard.
Is ‘Qasimi’ available in the Gulf?
Qasimi is available globally as we have a fully transactional e-commerce section to our website.