Qasimi returned to the London Fashion Week scene this weekend with a clear vision and message, hand-crafted and sewn directly into their wondrous garments. Drawing parallels between the subculture of nineties grunge and the Bloomsbury Group, the collection brings together different communities and progressive thoughts, all mirroring the belief that art can be a conduit for change. The clothes themselves reflect this melting pot mentality, whilst the styling and layering of pieces lovingly introduces the concept of wrapping, hugging and protecting in a time of yet more uncertainty and upheaval.
Fabrics are conjured from the interior settings of the Bloomsbury Group meeting rooms: velvets, chenille brocades, mohair, chenille yarns and silky padding. This marries nicely with Houndstooth, barathea and tweed-inspired fabrics, synonymous with Savile Row tailoring; a direct nod to the the brand’s second home, the UK. Silhouettes take their cue from turn of the 21st century fashions where minimalism rules, allowing the fabrics and prints to speak out. Prints take a rebellious stance, riffing on the region’s military camouflage but then contrasted with a softer power: the motif of the tulip – found in arts and crafts across the Islamic world.
This season’s message continues the brand’s ideology: standing up for civil rights and fighting inequality, bearing a spirit of hope and optimism. An example of this is the words of Konrad Adenauer: “We all live under the same sky” printed onto detachable panels and buttoned to outerwear like posters to a wall. Or in the commandment “Dream!” written in Arabic calligraphy on jerseywear and echoed by the words “Free At Last” in English; referencing Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic speech of 1963. Finally, “Live for What You Desire” is simply an encouragement to be yourself – no matter who you are, what gender you love, or what god you worship.
We sat down with Creative Director Hoor al-Qasimi to discuss the importance of the collection.
The collection presents the notion that art can be a strong conduit for change. What changes did you experience in your creative approach during the pandemic?
Of course, the main change has been the digital presentation which has given us an opportunity to rethink how we can come together as a team, along with collaborators to produce a film that would showcase the clothes and styles as much as possible with the atmosphere and concept behind the season.
What are the core reference points of inspiration for the Qasimi brand?
Continuing with my brother Khalid’s core references of architecture and military as well as artist collaborations, we are working on expanding the idea of artistic collaborations to include cross disciplinary collaborations. Last season we used a work by artist Nari Ward and commissioned a soundtrack by rapper Freek for the digital presentation, and for this season we worked with musician Visionist and choreographer Bakani Pick- Up. Another reference point is messaging which has always been part of Qasimi’s ideology, using quotes by inspirational thinkers, poets and activists which have inspired us and using them to support our vision behind the season and what it represents.
How do you find the process of fusing British craftsmanship with Middle Eastern culture?
Both cultures are rich in their craft and textiles but in remarkably different ways. The interesting part was in bringing those two cultures together through fabrics and silhouettes in unexpected ways. For example, we developed a fabric from the wooden latticework often found around windows in Islamic architecture – mashrabiya – but made oversized shirt jackets and jeans with it.
The collection is delivered with strong messages of dreaming and living for what you desire – why is it important for fashion to carry these strong messages?
I think for everything we do in the arts, and all creative fields, you have a platform or a responsibility to address an issue or speak up for a cause or an idea. I think fashion can reach a wide audience and is constantly evolving and reflecting the current time.
How would you describe the Qasimi world?
I would like to say a world where everyone feels represented and can have their voices heard, to be part of a global society and make a difference. Inspired by architectural lines, relaxed silhouettes and striking colour combinations to represent all genders, creeds, shapes and sizes.
How do you wish the Qasimi customer to feel when wearing one of your designs?
It’s important that the customer feels like they could cherish each item and see all the work that has been done by the designers, artisans and factories to bring to them clothing of great quality that is comfortable yet elevated.
What’s next for Qasimi as a brand?
We are working on a number of new collaborations, which is very exciting, of course. Also our new line of womenswear, which has given us a new audience and public. We are not in a rush and want to build a steady, sustainable business and be more conscious as a brand.