Since their grand entrance into the sartorial world back in 2015, Kuwaiti siblings Fahad and Shouq Al-Marzook’s namesake brand, Marzook, quickly became internationally recognized for their distinctive designs, celebrity collaborations, and crystal-encrusted handbags. Now, the Middle Eastern label is using their dazzling luxury accessories to shine a light on a topic that is often shadowed by cultural stigmas in the region: mental health. On the heels of last season’s successful pharmacy-inspired collection, Marzook’s SS20 campaign “Pharma Azure” reintroduces the sought-after pill shape in tones of blue to call attention to the strength of those dealing with their own mental health journeys.
Ahead of the line’s official debut, the Marzook siblings hosted a pop-up event in Kuwait City on December 3 with ASAP Initiative, a private campaign co-founded by Kuwaiti beauty entrepreneur Sheikha Majda Al Sabah committed to increasing mental health awareness and investing in related initiatives, to share this message and donate a portion of their proceeds to the non-profit. Vogue.me talked to the designer duo about the overall perception of mental health in the region, how they allocate time to focus on their mental wellbeing, and the inspiration behind their upcoming collection.
What do you think the cultural perception of mental health is here in the Middle East and how do you think it’s changed over the past few years?
Shouq: Empowering young people is at the heart of everything we do at Marzook. We are very proud that we’re taking an active part in the mental health discussion and this event is the first step in our work with mental and physical wellness. An increasing number of brands are bringing out products meant to raise awareness around mental health or raising money for organizations that specialize in treating mental illness. It’s similar to the way fashion has rallied around other causes such as bullying or women’s rights. The more we can talk and make mental health conversations more of a norm, people will feel comfortable to get the help they need. It’s an opportunity to say something that’s profoundly important—an opportunity to shine a light on it, maximize the message, and hopefully bring incremental resources to this issue. Our wellbeing should be acknowledged and included in mainstream discourse every day.
Fahad: It’s a sector of health that needs to be addressed on a much broader scale than the current status quo. While there’s been a remarkable cultural shift in the collective perception of mental health, there is still much more work to be done. In the growing effort to remove the stigma that’s shadowed the discussion of mental and psychological disorders, we wanted to do our part to spread the word to give back to organizations like ASAP that helps the cause.
Who or what inspired you to rally around this cause specifically?
Shouq and Fahad: There has been a general shift in our community towards mental health. ASAP Initiative caught our eye with their previous campaign “مو عيب” which translates to “No Shame,” that had a number of educators, professionals, and highly well-known individuals in our society that spoke about your right to help yourself without being ostracized. Majda Al Sabah is a personal friend of ours; we have had many conversations about this issue and felt this was a great cause to give back to and raise awareness for.
What are a few ways you dedicate time to focus on your mental wellbeing?
Shouq and Fahad: With our work, it sometimes feels like we are running on a treadmill without a stop button. But this year, we learned to take a step back and focus on ourselves. We both feel that our health is our priority. We both go to the gym on a daily basis and found it relieves a lot of our stress. We’ve also started to meditate in the morning right before the start of our day which we also found helpful to start the day with mental clarity. For the event, we collaborated with different professionals to create an interactive diagram that allows you to follow through and learn more about your mind, body, and soul through these small exercises. Whether you need to be outdoors more or eat better—whatever your needs are—just to understand yourself better in a light and easy way.
Why do you think conversations about mental health are important and how can we encourage them to become the norm?
Shouq and Fahad: The latest campaign set in a makeshift pharmacy was inspired by the strength of people who speak out about their issues and how to remove that stigma. While taking on those who do not understand the movement for mental health awareness is difficult, it is also important to recognize those who move towards educating the society about the importance of keeping our minds healthy and giving the proper interaction and treatment to those who have a hard time coping up with their anxieties. Our role as designers is to use our platform to discuss these issues. Who needs help? How can we help them? Make them feel that they are not alone and there are many people struggling with these issues.
How does this season of “Pharma Azure” differ from your previous “Marzook Pharma” campaign? Why did you select blue as your collection’s star hue?
Shouq and Fahad: This season, Pharma Azure incorporates a medical beauty center which creates an essence of conceptualizing health. The pill-centric designs help deal with society’s pressure and lift to a serene and calming place named Pharma Azure. The effect of the color blue is calming and known to have a positive effect on the human psyche. It is very similar to last season when the campaign was more focused on a Pharmacy named “Marzook Pharma”. In each campaign, we have a strong message but we wanted to portray it in a fun way. We did not want to focus attention on any particular cause. But joining forces with ASAP initiative for this specific event allowed us to focus on a strong message, while also donating a percentage of the proceeds to help their cause.