I want to start by talking about the path to how you started this lovely business, in the description on your website you say that you are driven by your passion, and your curious nature. Where do you think you got that from? Do you think it’s something you’ve inherited or something you’ve grown yourself?
For sure, it’s something that comes built in, within, to be interested in things and to be interested in life and to be curious about it and to have the courage to discover. But it’s also grown and nurtured by my environment, my dad is also an artist, he’s a business man, but as a child, and growing up he had an artistic side. He used to paint and carve, he appreciates art and music. So, since I was young, I’ve been exposed to art and good music and good taste. There’s also the fact that my dad couldn’t pursue it, because he had responsibilities, he encouraged this passion in me and my younger brother.
You’ve lived in many cities and you’ve visited many places, what do you think these travels have taught you?
I’ve been to Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, Germany, Italy, London, I’ve been many places… I love to travel. Everywhere that I went, I discovered a piece of me, sort of a missing piece and it’s coming together in a puzzle. And everywhere I go I think, “Oh this is the best place I’ve been to by far,” I remember that I have this feeling every time I go to a new city and every time I discover a new place, I love it I love discovering I love meeting different cultures and different people, I just feel as though it opens up a path or a certain way of seeing things, and it’s actually a process of growth. Your philosophies are put into an actual experience and lived, because it’s different when you read things in books than when you actually live the ideas and impressions you get from reading. Living them out gives more shape and concreteness to these ideas in your life.
How did you make the decision to delve into the world of fashion?
It started off as a hobby, I remember I was working in Dubai in advertising, and then I decided to take a break, I went to London and I took fashion design courses in Central St. Martin’s, then I came back to Beirut, and I was just exploring a hobby, putting the theory into something practical to see what comes out of it, and LaLaQueen came out of it! But, of course, it came with a lot of hard work and commitment. I’ve always had a creative side, I’ve always had a unique style in the way that I dress and the way that I see the world. I receive a lot of feedback from my surrounding that I have a nice sense of style, that I do things differently, that I’m creative. But I never actually pursued it or concentrated on it because it was natural for me.
And was your decision to go to London met with support from those around you?
I’ve always made my decisions myself, I’ve always fought for my decisions, took full responsibility, because when you get fought back is when you get in trouble. I never had to go through that. My parents were okay with it; they knew it was something that I wanted to do. I was working in advertising in Dubai, and it was great, I loved it, but I didn’t see myself continuing with it, and I was at a point in my life where I wanted to re-evaluate my next step. I needed a break, and I needed one where I was learning something new and discovering something new.
And how did you decide on the name LaLaQueen?
Because all my friends are like, “Wow you live in LaLaLand!” (laughs). But this also comes from my belief that every person has a space inside of them, an imaginary space, a creative space that we need to be able to conquer and control and overcome our fears, so that we can become the Queen, or King, of that virtual reality that we have. So this is where the philosophical meaning of the brand actually comes, because sometimes what you do in life and what you think is going on are two different things, so it’s just like finding the harmony between the two and making the best out of these two places.
A lovely aspect of your brand is that it provides sustainable fashion, where did the decision to be this kind of brand stem from?
I think every designer has their own identity, and I bring my own values into my work. In order for me to sleep better at night I need to know that what I’m doing is responsible, I feel responsible about the message that I’m spreading to younger people, to other designers that are coming into the market, to the supply chain industry. When I go somewhere, I pick the material I want, even though it might be expensive but it doesn’t do as much harm. They may not go with it from the first time, but it gives them something to think about. There are so many obstacles when you decide to work like this, though. Finding the consistency of the materials, finding the leather, the accessories that we use, the sustainability of it in the market, to find the same colours, it’s pretty hard. And also to explain why we need these specific materials as well. When it comes to the people I work with though, I find no hardships. I only work with people who understand and believe the vision of the brand and are supporters of it. I don’t need to explain anything because we have the same vision and the same values and ethics.
I would like to talk about your collections now, starting with your line Dr. Bag…
Every collection is a reflection of a part of my life and an experience I go through, so Dr. Collection is inspired by an actual doctor’s vintage bag that I found in Florence while I was on vacation. It actually belonged to a doctor, and when I opened it there were the medicine stains inside, and I was very inspired by the story that the guy in the shop told me. The bag belonged to a doctor and he used to go to different villages and heal people, so I got inspired by the story and I decided to bring back the Doctor Bag in a contemporary way, and for it to be a classical timeless piece. There was a very interesting response to the Dr. Bags, all our bags are very unique in terms of their architecture, in terms of the structure and the size, the type of leather that we use. Our customers are very unique as well, they have a different sense of taste and beauty, and once they see the bags, they either fall in love with them or they can’t identify. It’s like, “oh, this is something very different to me, I haven’t seen it before, hmm…”
And then, some of those, that wonder about it, with time get used to the idea and begin to like it, and then love it. As for La by LaLaQueen, we now call it the geometrical collection, it’s inspired by geometry, by crystals, how they’re found in nature, and the structure of crystals. This is something about mother nature and the beauty it creates, which inspires and amazes me. There is natural geometry which is embodied in the crystals. This collection has a younger feel than the rest, and they come in different sizes.
The Tribal collection is inspired by my upbringing in the Emirates, so I was inspired by the culture of tribes, in which, they live in the desert and they sustain themselves in hard conditions and they still have hospitality and sisterhood and brotherhood. The Q collection is also inspired by geometry and tiles, from Turkey, and they come as well in two different sizes, a bigger one and smaller versions. The Curve Collection is actually inspired by a paper bag, a recycled paper bag when you want to go shopping, where you put all your stuff in it and you just carry it around, and go about your day.
How about some collaborations that you’ve had with other artists?
We’ve worked with an artist called Hatty Pedder from Dubai. She illustrated our website and she did our logo, and now recently we also collaborated with her on illustrations that are on some of the bags. We’ve also collaborated with photographers. There is a photographer in London called Aleksandra Kingo, we worked with him on an artistic campaign that was shown in a couple of magazines and on our website as well, where it shows an older lady and a younger lady. It has a story to it as well. And now we’re in talks with a couple of other designers and artists for a future collaboration.
As for the fashion film with Joanns Buncelmans (the producer Izzedine Alwan is a friend of mine), it’s a campaign revolving around a mother-daughter relationship, as well as the higher self you could be and the lower self, and finding harmony between the two, and the experience and the growth that goes from the child to the adult. Everything I do is related to abstract ideas that I have and experiences that I go through, that I try to tell in a very simple artistic way, and it’s up to the audience to interpret them. I don’t like to spoon feed my audience my interpretation.
And what do you have in store for the future of LaLaQueen?
LaLaQueen is full of surprises! We have a lot of interesting projects coming up in the next 6 months to one year. We are going to continue to grow, and we will introduce a new line in the beginning of summer, this is like a sneak peak of what’s coming.
Looking back at the history of LaLaQueen, it’s been featured on many magazines and carried by several famous figures, including Amal Alamuddin. If you could choose one woman to carry a LaLaQueen bag, who would it be?
I create an artistic piece and I don’t think of someone while I design. I think about it as an artistic project, I have a lot of ideas in my mind that I put in a piece and for it to also be functional, beautiful, and of good quality. I’d love every woman to carry my bags, there isn’t a certain person I design for. But I do design for contemporary women, definitely.
And, finally, if you could describe your brand in three words, what would you say?
Timeless, unique, and handcrafted.
Interview recorded on December 27 at LalaQueen headquarters in Beirut.