De­signer Os­man re­veals his Lon­don bou­tique

Emirates Woman - - Contents - WORDS: GE­ORG IE BRADLEY

If there’s any de­signer who knows women, it’s Os­man. With the open­ing of his new bou­tique in Lon­don, he talks bo­hemian her­itage, the uni­ver­sal ap­peal of Mid­dle East­ern glam­our and why he thinks in­flu­encers are here to stay Be­sides the fact that you were born and bred in Bri­tain, how does the world of Os­man co­a­lesce with the world of Lon­don?

I was born in the sec­ond city of Eng­land, Birm­ing­ham, and left to come to Lon­don to study at the age of 18. The world of Os­man and the world of Lon­don co-ex­ist in their con­tra­dic­tions very har­mo­niously. Lon­don is an amaz­ing place to find in­spi­ra­tion, from its myr­iad of cul­tures and cos­mopoli­tan out­look, it in­spires and touches me in lots of ways.

It’s been 10 years since you made your Lon­don Fash­ion Week de­but. Where did you want the brand to goat that time ver­sus where it is now?

Fash­ion is prob­a­bly the hard­est busi­ness in the world. If you op­er­ate purely on a creative level, you be­come an ‘ideas’ brand. At some point you need to be more com­mer­cial, and of­fer a prod­uct that has a wider ap­peal that works for many more peo­ple, and brings more peo­ple into the fold. I think the brand has grown big­ger than I pre­vi­ously an­tic­i­pated, and we have man­aged to add dif­fer­ent lay­ers of con­ver­sa­tion around fash­ion, art, diver­sity and sus­tain­abil­ity.

Tell us about the House of Os­man’s de­sign con­cept.Who­doe­si­tap­pealto?

The House of Os­man is re­ally an amal­ga­ma­tion

of ex­pe­ri­ences: a book­shop, a space for fash­ion and a gallery space for ex­hi­bi­tions. The last one was in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Fiorucci Art Trust, where Ital­ian artist Milo­van Far­ronato cu­rated a show for our open­ing from Ni­co­letta Fiorucci’s col­lec­tion of some young and es­tab­lished artists. And then the clothes take cen­tre stage. It’s re­ally like be­ing in some­one’s home.

Why did you pick F it zro via?

Fitzrovia has its own his­tory of artists and writ­ers. The Vor­ti­cism art move­ment (in­spired by Cu­bism) in the early 20th cen­tury gave birth on this street. The area was also a hunt­ing ground for the Blooms­bury set (writ­ers Vir­ginia Woolf, Ge­orge Bernard Shaw along with Dy­lan Thomas) so it’s a per­fect hy­brid area for Os­man with its bo­hemian her­itage.

What part of your Afghan roots are sewed, so to speak, into your de­signs?

I think the ex­u­ber­ance, the fab­rics and the cuts are very much part of my own her­itage. I try to bring them into my work with­out it be­com­ing too overtly eth­nic. I def­i­nitely want to throw a new light on an East­ern aes­thetic, fused with con­tem­po­rary tai­lor­ing, yet still re­tain­ing a uni­ver­sal ap­peal.

What makes up the Arab aes­thetic and how have you cul­ti­vated that in Os man?

I think the Mid­dle East­ern aes­thetic is a uni­ver­sal idea of glam­our and beauty with touches of mod­esty. I think my clothes are never too re­veal­ing – they en­hance women with­out ob­jec­ti­fy­ing them; my clothes help women feel like a bet­ter ver­sion of them­selves. They are more pow­er­ful than any­thing else.

The world of Os­man mont age on your web­site in­cludes some black and white film stills. Where does Hol­ly­wood glam­our fit into the aes­thetic of the brand?

I think ideas of fe­male glam­our are uni­ver­sal, and Hol­ly­wood has a uni­ver­sal ap­peal. I think glam­our can be a very pow­er­ful ex­pres­sion of fe­male beauty. I am mind­ful not to ob­jec­tify women. My wo­man is al­ways strong. The Arab wo­man is strong, con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief – I knew this from my mum and other women I grew up with.

What do you think it is about Lon­don that res­onates with Arabs as a de­fin­i­tive style cap­i­tal over the other three?

I think Lon­don is such an in­ter­na­tional city with her­itage, and it’s also a very tol­er­ant city. It of­fers a dy­namic cul­ture and eco-sys­tem, and a space for cre­atives to flour­ish, wher­ever they are from. Many mi­grants have be­come suc­cess­ful here. It’s a true melt­ing pot, and I think diver­sity, the tol­er­ance against a back­ground of her­itage, res­onates and al­lows any­one to be them­selves.

You stock at The Mo di stand Ou­nass. What do you think gives these e-tail­ers an edge over other in­ter­na­tional fash­ion por­tals?

The lan­guage and styling of these e-tail­ers speaks to a lo­cal yet in­ter­na­tion­ally-minded di­as­pora. Women’s needs are met with prod­ucts that are in sync with the re­gion’s life­style.

What was the best thing you were taught at Cen­tral Saint Martins?

The best thing was not to look at what any­one else was do­ing in class.

As you've devel­oped over the years, who has been your main men­tor?

There have been many men­tors, from artists, teach­ers, my mum, my sis­ters, busi­ness peo­ple and other de­sign­ers. You get dif­fer­ent types of guid­ance from dif­fer­ent peo­ple. I ab­sorb it all.

What do you make of the rise in Arab in­flu­encers? Fleet­ing or here to stay?

I think there have al­ways been in­flu­encers, or women who have in­spired peo­ple and led the pack. But the speed at which we com­mu­ni­cate and con­sume con­tent de­mands in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion – all the time. We al­ways look for ways to en­gage and be part of some­thing. I think it’s here to stay but of course it has to be fine­tuned. Is­sues such as sus­tain­abil­ity and diver­sity (whether paid or not) are at the fore­front and needs to be com­mu­ni­cated well. I think we are all nat­u­rally vis­ual and cu­ri­ous peo­ple who search for things. Tech­nol­ogy just makes it faster and eas­ier for these mes­sages to reach far. There will be in­flu­encers who adapt and de­velop their im­age into some­thing long-term but then they’ll be a lot who will have their 15-min­utes of fame.

How do you think in­flu­encers can bet­ter el­e­vate brands in a more sub­stan­tial way?

The right in­flu­encer can make your prod­uct ac­ces­si­ble in a way that mod­els can’t. Cus­tomers tend to vi­su­alise and as­so­ci­ate them­selves eas­ier when they feel like they can at­tain it. An in­flu­encer of­fers a life­style ex­ten­sion to a brand, and can add another di­men­sion to what a de­signer is do­ing.

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