Artist Maria Iqbal cultivates her very own universe of color in many different ways; be it a Lichtenstein-inspired clutch or a look-at-me customised antique. Bringing joie de vivre to living rooms and wardrobes the world over, the Dubai-based designer remixes her Afghan-American heritage, a love of Bollywood, and a penchant for pop art in a subterfuge of cool designs. From painting directly onto premium clothing for bespoke clientele or reviving a classic chair with her rainbow paint-pot approach, this mold-breaking designer is set to have another stellar year. Vogue Arabia speaks to Iqbal about the cultural references behind her blend of kitsch and how she takes customization to the next level.
What is your favorite medium to work with?
I’ve done everything from furniture to painting onto clothes [across different fabrics]; leather, organza, and delicate fabrics. It’s beautiful how fabric reacts in a different way.
What would you like to see on your fashion CV in the next ten years?
Your clothes express who you really are… more than just looking good. And how you wear something makes a message. Fashion can be very informative and educational; I want to influence this change. Young women are so affected by what they see in social media.
Which artists inspire you across different cultures?
My first inspiration is Van Gogh because he did something completely different in his time. Andy Warhol, too, and Lichtenstein.
You often cite Bollywood films as an inspiration. Who are your favorite Bollywood actors?
Shah Rukh Khan––he’s my favorite. I grew up in Dubai; a lot of people were [inspired by] Bollywood, that’s what was on TV. When I left my career in advertising, I moved to India for a year; it was amazing. Mumbai is so inspiring. People are so open and loving; they just embrace color and have a way of expressing themselves.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
When people wear my things and carry my stuff and say: “Thank you so much, this makes me feel like you got me.” I work mostly one-on-one with people. I like to make people happy. That’s what I would like to do with my work, [be on trend], but have a message in there.
Describe the atmosphere of your studio in Dubai.
I don’t have a typical day. My tailor is with me, so if I have an idea, we work on it at the same time. [There’s often] madness with all the fabric and machines. My first floor is my studio and I live upstairs, so the work never ends. [The atmosphere is] collaborative and relaxed––fun.
How does your cultural heritage inspire your work?
I was born in Afghanistan, even though I grew up in Dubai. We spoke the language; the roots were Afghan. We were always reminded that we were Afghanistan. This both helped and hindered me. That, and the fact that Afghan culture is obsessed with Bollywood.
What is your most-played song?
Let’s Break Up from the film Dear Zindagi.
Finish this sentence. Vogue Arabia is…
…[a sign] that Dubai has arrived. Vogue is the ultimate fashion publication out there. Everyone here is very excited about it.
Maria Iqbal is available for private commissions across the fields of furniture, fashion, accessories, and art works. Maria Iqbal Studio, Jumeirah 2, Dubai, UAE.