The Shop at Bluebird
Arabic lettering, Tunisian doors and zodiac signs – it’s a random mix that makes the new Culture and Craftsmanship pop-up at The Shop at Bluebird so intriguing. “I think the stores in London are definitely guilty of stocking a similar mix of brands,” says Emma Pull, womenswear buyer at the concept store. “The fashion industry has been taking a really clean, tailored, ‘beige’ approach and I think people are becoming tired of that.”
From now until the end of June, The Shop at Bluebird will hold an in-store pop-up that celebrates cultural diversity and craftsmanship. It features womenswear, jewellery and accessories collections by eight international brands from all corners of the world, including Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and Lebanon. “We wanted to work with brands that don’t have a platform in the UK and introduce them here,” says Pull.
Because caught up with these exciting, emerging designers about multicultural upbringings, modern craftsmanship and what it means to be “international”.
Nazanin Rose Matin
Matin is a British-raised, Iranian-born womenswear designer. She worked for Alexander McQueen, Christian Lacroix and Céline before launching her eponymous brand last year.
"I was looking at old, vintage polaroid photos of my mum. She had a great travel wardrobe from the 70s and there was a polaroid of her wearing an all-white kaftan in Hawaii.
The women I design for are ‘journeying women’ – they are adventurers and aren’t afraid of colour and different textiles. The travel wardrobe has become a staple because everyone is travelling more."
Beirut-born Nadine Kanso is a photographer and jewellery designer based in Dubai. She launched her jewellery brand, Bil Arabi, which takes inspiration from the Arabic alphabet, in 2006.
"Bil Arabi means ‘Arabic’. So it’s a very personal thing for me. I use Arabic letters for my jewellery designs. Arabic calligraphy is beautiful to look at – if you look closely, there is so much refinement in the shapes of the letters."
Swiss-raised Libyan sisters Mariam and Dania Sawedeg are the designers behind Kamushki, a jewellery brand heavily based on the duo’s multicultural upbringing, growing up between Zurich, Dubai and Tripoli. Kamushki means “precious stones” in Russian, and crown jewels from the Romanov Dynasty are key inspirations behind their collections.
"The current collection, entitled Cyrene, is named after an ancient Greek city in Libya. Cyrene means ‘woman warrior’. We wanted to design things that empower women and we always loved the Greek culture. We mix sports elements with culture – some of the shapes are inspired by old barbells and mosaics."
Beirut-born designer Nathalie Trad worked for Proenza Schouler before founding her own brand in 2013. Her statement clutches use natural materials such as shell, wood, stone and resin.
"This collection, titled ‘South Beach Boulevard’, was conceived when I was walking through the Art Deco district of Miami’s South Beach [SoBe]. I was inspired by the whimsical, pastel-painted exteriors adorned with quirky motifs, abstract Aztec patterns, sunbursts and geometric forms.
I like to think of my pieces as architectural works on a small scale. Louis Kahn, James Stirling, Walter Gropius, Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid are some of the architects who have impacted my designs. Zaha Hadid once said, ‘There are 360 degrees, so why stick to one?’ And I would say, some of our clutches embody this concept."
Reem Al Kanhal
Born and raised in Saudi Arabia, designer Al Kanhal says she got into fashion while reading her mother’s magazines. She launched her ready-to-wear label, Reem Al Kanhal, in 2011.
"My latest collection is titled ‘If Doors Could Speak’. I looked at the beautiful doors in Arabia and Tunisia. Doors, in my culture, are a symbol of hospitality and generosity. Then, for privacy, the doors are closed and this is a sacred time. I thought there are so many stories to tell with doors, linked to community, loneliness and happiness. There’s a mystery behind closed doors that I find very inspiring."
All Things Mochi
All Things Mochi founder Ayah Tabari was born in Riyadh, raised in Amman and studied in London before settling in Dubai. All of her colourful, embroidery-heavy clothes are handcrafted by local artisans in countries including Jaipur, Thailand, Hungary, Spain and Uzbekistan.
"Each of my collections use different styles of hand embroidery – some use cross-stitch and others use weaving techniques. The focus is merging Eastern and Western sensibilities and encouraging talent from different communities."
After studying in Geneva, Swiss designer Sandra Mansour moved to Lebanon to rediscover her Lebanese roots and worked side-by-side with Elie Saab. In 2010, she started her workshop in Beirut and her eponymous brand now makes bridal and women’s ready-to-wear clothes.
"I love the intricacy and magic of the constellation and I was also inspired by the artist Jean Cocteau and his detailed illustrations. I use the zodiac prints on embroidered tops – they allow the wearer to escape through the whole idea of the constellation.
It’s all about creating wearable pieces that have a bit of magic to them. I think my ability to work with fabrics also brought me to fashion. But I think that my tailors and their expertise, their craftsmanship, is the glue that binds us."
Text by Jainnie Cho