After the tragic death of her brother and founder of Qasimi, Sheikh Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi in 2019, Hoor Al Qasimi was tasked with taking over the running of her sibling’s fashion label, finding a way to continue with the vision of the brand as well as honouring his legacy.
Hoor Al Qasimi was born in Sharjah to the Emirate’s ruling family and she has worked for many years in the art and culture industry, including establishing the Sharjah Art Foundation in 2009 to help promote and grow the art and culture scene in Sharjah and the UAE as a whole. She also serves as President and Director of the Sharjah Biennial which highlights regional and local talent within the art world. Noting that the worlds of fashion and art can be closely intertwined, Hoor Al Qasimi has spent the last few years drawing out a roadmap that would honour her late brother’s vision, but also connect the work she is doing in the art world, with the brand her brother spent many years establishing. Qasimi is based in London but its roots are still closely linked to the UAE, with the culture and traditions of the country being a great source of inspiration.
Late last year Qasimi revealed Qasimi Rising. A talent incubator that will identify promising designers in the UAE and amplify their voices through a development and mentorship programme. The Qasimi Rising Talent Incubation will select and nurture two emerging designers over three years, providing holistic support across all business verticals. Talents will have access to a co-working studio space and support with production, product development, merchandising, marketing and all business functions from a network of industry leaders, placing them firmly within the Qasimi family while they develop their own voice. Qasimi will relaunch its e-commerce platform to accommodate its incubated brands, creating a digital space for them to build brand identity and sell products. Here we find out more about how the platform will work and discuss the UAE’s cultural scene with Hoor Al Qasimi.
Congratulations on the launch of Qasimi Rising – what inspired your to create this platform for emerging talent?
A lot of the work I do at Sharjah Art Foundation is focused on creating a platform for artists and filmmakers which has become a network, we continue to work with artists throughout the years and see their work grow and their careers flourish. It is something that I as a curator am interested in doing, within my many jobs and fields. I saw an opportunity to bring this same idea to Qasimi and look at how this can benefit designers in the long run. Another reason is of course to share resources, it’s important to support each other with networks, facilities, workshops etc. I see this as a way to work together, it’s not about competing, it’s more of a solidarity and becoming a community.
Talk us through the process and what the platform will do to support emerging designers.
We aim to give up-and-coming designers a platform that will support them in all areas of growth. The process starts with the application, these are reviewed by a panel of experts and the finalists will then be taken to Sharjah where they will meet one-on-one with panel and industry experts over two days. The finalists will be chosen on 14th March 2023. Two selected designers will get an initial three years of 360-degree business support, funding and mentoring, and an additional seven years of mentoring to build a long-term approach to their success.
Can you tell us some of the criteria you are looking for from the designers chosen for this project?
We are looking for designers who have a strong brand narrative and a voice that needs a platform. They should be able to demonstrate a clear brand vision and strength as a creative entrepreneur.
Why do you think it’s important to support upcoming talent, especially in this region and what do you hope to achieve with the platform?
Some parts of the world have fewer opportunities and access to these kinds of platforms. I believe that our location and connections help us to reach a more diverse group of designers and I am hoping that they will find the support and encouragement they need through this platform.
Can you share more details on the seven-year mentorship that will take place after the initial three years and how the support will continue?
We wanted to take a long-term approach and build a community around the RISING program. So, outside of the initial three years, we will continue the mentoring with business and team support. The chosen designers will also have access to the multi-brand wholesale showroom and our dedicated e-commerce platform to build their brand identity and share it with a wider audience.
Tell us about the Qasimi brand and where it is at today and what is the vision in this new chapter.
Qasimi is undergoing many changes, it was important to try to continue with Khalid’s vision and ideas but as with everything, you can’t second guess what someone would do especially with all the changes happening in the world. So the new chapter is to insert more of my vision and way of working in a way that will still honour him and his work, but also connect with the way I would like the brand to progress.
Can you share a preview of the curated permanent collection that will launch in 2023?
The permanent collection is more about having key pieces that are signature styles that our customers buy each season. They reflect timeless silhouettes and styles that are key to our ongoing collections and build a strong business to have a recognisable identity for QASIMI.
Can you tell us about the collaborations with artists that you plan to incorporate into the brand?
We have collaborated and worked with many artists in the past, for the last season; SS23, we collaborated with Omani photographer Tariq Al Hajri by using his photograph of a Dove as a print in the collection and we then invited him to photograph the collection in various locations in Sharjah.
How can your work for the Sharjah Art Foundation be complemented by the projects for Qasimi?
We have a few collaborations between Sharjah Art Foundation and Qasimi, such as a T-shirt to commemorate our upcoming biennial. Sharjah Biennial 15 “Thinking Historically in the Present” will open on the 7th of Feb 2023 in Sharjah and will celebrate 30 years of the biennial. We have also used an artwork by Nari Ward “We The People” (the Arabic version) which was part of the Sharjah Art Foundation’s collection for our SS21 collection.
In your opinion how would you assess the fashion and cultural scene in the UAE today?
There are many young designers in the UAE and a lot of platforms that are trying to support them. I have spoken to many designers to try to understand what is lacking and what they are looking for. I would say the fashion scene and culture scene intersect at times but more around certain trends or fields so it would be good to see more of those crossovers. The presence of fashion magazines like yours has also helped push the fashion scene here.
How do you think the industry has grown in recent years and what would you like to see happen moving forward?
I think brands are thinking a lot more about what they produce and how they produce it. Fair labour practices and trying to be more environmentally friendly. To produce less and make the garments last longer. In a time where everything is fast-paced and things are overproduced, and mass production of garments, it’s important to understand the social and environmental impacts of it all.
Are there any designers or artists that you are particularly inspired by or excited about currently?
I am always inspired by artists and work with many artists all the time, there are some artists I am working with currently for Qasimi but unfortunately, you’ll have to wait to see who they are!
What is the biggest challenge you face currently?
There are many challenges, but I think trying to get the brand out there and have more visibility is a big challenge for sure. Not only for what we’re doing in terms of Qasimi Rising but for the brand as a whole and its collections at Qasimi.
What is the professional motto that you live by?
It’s an Arabic saying that translates as “every delay has a blessing”. Whenever we have had delays for any reason, it’s important not to fight it and see the reasoning behind those delays, usually and more often than not it has been an advantage and a “blessing”!