|Title||WFO Goodwill Ambassador|
Sheikha Hend Al Qassemi: A fashion-forward multi-tasker
Sheikha Hend Al Qassemi isn’t your typical fashion template. In the last few years, the businesswoman, mother, artist, designer and editor has been leaving her mark in the region. We sat down with the Sharjah-born, Qatar based Al Qassemi to discuss her latest ventures.
You recently opened a boutique in Sharjah’s Mega Mall. What makes it unique?
As you know in the last ten years the Middle East has witnessed an influx of mega-brands opening stores here, and what seemed to be missing was a venue for local talent from the region. With that in mind I opened Velvet Class, which serves as a laboratory, providing a platform for a new generation of Middle Eastern designers. Once a month we hold fashion shows at the store, as well as in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, to introduce new designers to our clients.
Who are some of the designers you carry in your store?
The store carries 40 designers from around the world that represent a diversity of talents and appeal to a large customer base. Homa Qamar is a St. Martins grad who does modern interpretations of abayas and sheilas. Mona De Sabkar, the Egyptian/German designer is influenced by her travels around the world as well as the work of Karim Rashid and Philippe Starck. Then there is Ali Fawaz who designs exquisite evening gowns. The store also carries a line that I design called Medici.
How important is sourcing new talent for the store?
It’s important to show the world that the Middle East is a vibrant and creative place…. I travel extensively around the world from Beirut to London looking for new fashions and accessories to fill the store. Next April we are holding our first Miss Velvet design competition at the Armani Hotel, with cash prizes of 200,000 AED.
In addition to fashion do you have any other areas of interest?
I am an avid architecture buff, especially since I studied Architecture and Design Management at the American University of Sharjah. I am a part-time researcher for the reconstruction of Doha’s Old Town and I recently applied for a PhD in Sustainable Architecture at Oxford. I also have a huge appreciation for the arts. I paint, sculpt and take photographs, which I’ve exhibited at art shows in Qatar and the UAE. I am currently collaborating on a book of Middle Eastern botany, for which I am photographing images of the region’s diverse plant life.
What made you decide to launch a magazine?
I initially started Velvet magazine as a means of promoting our fashion shows and the designers we were carrying at the store. But I soon realized it could a serve as a platform to provide positive role models to young men and women throughout the Middle East. It’s a fashion, health, beauty and lifestyle publication with a cosmopolitan appeal. My hope is to reach readers across the region; from the GCC countries, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and beyond.
Illustrations by Lama Khatib Daniel for DIA
If there is a will, there is a way
A WOMAN’S initiative will lead her to achieving what she wants, an architecture and design management degree-holder believes.
“It feels better when you accomplish something on your own,” said Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassemi.
The Sharjah Business Women’s Council member was interviewed on Saturday evening, when her Velvet Class boutique in Sharjah Mega Mall, featured another set of budding as well as long-time designers in the UAE through a fashion show of abayas, jalabiyas and evening wear. Al Qassemi dipped her hands in business eight years back through real estate.
“I also went into stocks and bonds when it was good,” the daughter of physician-turned-businessman Dr Faisal Al Qassemi added.
“It is really fulfilling when you are on your own,” she added, when asked about the strong support from her family and in connection with her foray into the fashion industry a year ago.
She said fashion is her passion and since this is so, she puts up the boutique that covers affordable clothes for all family members.
“Fashion can be affordable especially in these times,” she added, showing this reporter an article on “fashion and the crises”.
She believes strong support must be provided to everyone and since her interest is in fashion, she thought of providing platforms to all its stakeholders like French
Claire Talon, British award-winning Zaeem Jamal and Egyptian-German Mona Faris.
Include in the list another award winner, Filipino haute couture designer Michael Cinco, who, in a telephone interview said, his gowns were featured in Al Qassemi’s “Velvet” fashion catalogue.
On Saturday, budding designer Elham Al Flamarzy from Dubai said she had heard about the Velvet Class.
Correspondence immediately led to be part of the boutique’s suppliers.
Early on, Al Qassemi said she believes in women empowerment.
She, however, pointed out that a vital part of women empowerment is providing opportunities to men “because all must be given the chance to share what they have to keep the society going.”
“That is why I am also featuring men in the fashion industry,” she said.
Sheila & Abaya Fashion Show by Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassemi.
UAE's top abaya and Sheila retailers Hanayen, displayed the spring/summer collection that featured 32 different looks spread over 16 ensembles. The brand strives to focus on the needs of the customer and designs abayas for all occasions and seasons.
With bold patterned cloth weaving in and out of the gaps in the abaya, the collection is a mix of the trendy and traditional.
Chains of coloured beads and bands of exquisite gold lace were used to embellish the loose flowing abayas.
Innovations included the 2-piece abaya for better mobility, poncho like tulle layers over the black robe, abayas draped like the Indian sari, outfits with tall stiff collars as well as abayas flowing open to reveal patterned pants.
In a unique twist, models donned satin stewardess-hats paired with draped shawls, re-enacting the iconic look of Emirates Airline stewardesses, paying homage to the airline.
Keeping in tune with the latest trends and colours of the spring, the outfits were decorated with colourful hexagonal and circular appliqués and thick bands of colour running through the fabric.
The Hanayen collection preserved the true elegance of the Arab woman, all the while remaining enchantingly fashionable.