This season marks a poignant shift for London-based brand Qasimi, as Hoor al-Qasimi presents her first collection for the brand, taking the helm following the tragic passing of her twin brother and founder of Qasimi, Khalid, late last year.
Established by Khalid as a means of celebrating his Middle-Eastern heritage while exploring the intersection of politics and poetry that define the region, Hoor – a well-respected name within the art world – has taken up its creative reigns with a view to expand these key principles. Aligning the brand with her own sensibilities, this season’s opening chapter saw Hoor present her debut menswear collection alongside a new womenswear line; mirroring the relationship with her brother, it resembles an organic extension of the men’s line, a spiritual continuation of the same beliefs and principals that builds upon Khalid’s legacy.
Presented as a short film (shown below), for SS21 Hoor took inspiration from Al Sadu, the ancient geometric weaving technique of the Bedouin nomads that embodies their tribal lifestyle. Historically used for domestic interiors: tents, carpets and floor mats, using either goat or camel hair, Al Sadu techniques are here reinvigorated through contemporary forms including bomber jackets and trousers. In soft silhouettes that echo the domestic dress of the Bedouin, loungewear and pyjamas are rendered in luxurious woven fabrics that fuse culturally distinct fabrics and reflect the colours of the desert.
SS21 also draws its strength from two collaborative influences. The 2018 work of Jamaican-born artist Nari Ward, who spelled out the opening phrase of the Preamble to the US Constitution (We the People) using hundreds of shoelaces, is reworked across bomber jackets, hoodies and shirts, the words translated into Arabic and shoelaces replaced with hanging thread. The show’s music meanwhile comes courtesy of Somali-born, UAE-based hip-hop artist, FREEK. Incorporating the first line of the US Constitution and the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this spoken-word soundtrack in English and Arabic typifies the brand’s deft handling of nuanced issues.
Below, Hoor talks us through her opening chapter.
It’s your first collection with Qasimi, what was your starting point when you joined the brand?
Hoor al-Qasimi: My starting point was to really learn from the team and try to understand the process and how I can contribute with my ideas and vision.
What made you look towards Al Sadu for inspiration this season?
HaQ: The brand wanted to look back at it’s cultural heritage, more specifically textiles from the Arabian Peninsula. We used it as patchwork in the jersey collection and on accessories, as well as entire pieces of outerwear, trousers and headwear.
Al Sadu was created to be a holistic vision reflecting tribal iconography – their environment and the weavers’ creative self-expression. Do you believe that these traits are still true to brands such as Qasimi today?
HaQ: Like the weavers, at Qasimi we also interpret the world around us to try to make sense of things, imparting our own creative input into the garments we design.
“I believe collaborations between the arts and fashion worlds could complement each other and come together to create something beautiful which can be very powerful.”
This season marks Qasimi’s first womenswear line, can you talk us through the Qasimi woman and her partnership with the brand’s man?
HaQ: Rather than a couple, the Qasimi woman is very much a soulmate to the Qasimi man. They are two parts of one story.
There’s a relaxed, freeing silhouette throughout the collection, how does this cut reflect this season’s vision?
HaQ: Qasimi has always been about a relaxed silhouette, whether it be oversized, or soft tailoring. We have continued in this way for this season, for example, floor-length jersey dresses in patchwork stripe and over-sized djellabas inspired by men’s evening shirts.
How do you think your background as an artist and curator influences your work?
HaQ: I have worked with many artists throughout the years. I believe collaborations between the arts and fashion worlds could complement each other and come together to create something beautiful which can be very powerful.
The SS21 press release speaks of fusing cultures through fabrics, could you take us through some of these?
HaQ: There was an exhibition at SOAS exploring African Textiles which referenced how traders along the trans-Saharan trade routes encouraged a cultural exchange between the Islamic world and that of Northern and Western Africa, whereby the latter began incorporating forms derived from Islamic motifs into their own weave repertoire. We found this fusion of two cultures to create a new hybrid fascinating
Can you tell us when you discovered Nari Ward’s work and how the collaboration evolved?
HaQ: I worked with Nari Ward in 2005 when he participated in Sharjah Biennial 7 and have always been an admirer of his work. At Qasimi we always use embroidered texts to convey a message and Nari’s installation We The People (The Arabic Version) 2018, made perfect sense. I approached Nari and explained the idea.
And that evolved via a collaboration with Freek, how does his music echo your own vision?
HaQ: Taking inspiration from Nari Ward’s We The People, we thought it would be a strong message to collaborate with a young musician who raps mainly in Arabic and focuses on subjects around identity and youth culture. I had worked with Freek in the last Sharjah Biennial in 2019, when he collaborated with biennial artists “New Orleans Airlift” on a performance around an abandoned airplane where he filmed his last music video, Wala Kilma. We discussed the themes around the collection and the message behind the brand, he understood right away and we went back and forth a few times to create this powerful track, We The People.
There’s a strong message of diversity and community throughout your SS21 collection, which seems essential for these times. How did the events and movements currently happening around the world influence this collection?
HaQ: The overarching concept of the collection is about diversity and change through unity, civil responsibility and equality. So once the protests against anti-black racism began, the collection started to take on a new, more profound meaning, reinforcing the brand’s mission to address political and social issues.
SS21 Video credits
Creative director @hooralq
Music @freektv @donfuego.beats
Art director @nicolas_santos
Show production @studioboum
Photography – looks @benjaminbreading
Photography – backstage/mood @rememberyouweremadetobeused