London-based Middle Eastern fashion brand Qasimi’s spring/summer 2022 ready-to-wear collection borrows traditional South Asian, Islamic, and Arab influences. The label’s creative director Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi, daughter of the Ruler of Sharjah, Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi who is known for shaping the artistic legacy of Sharjah, looked to her cultural roots for the collection named “Between Ashes and Roses.” In collaboration with Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council, a Sharjah organization dedicated to preserving Emirati hand-weaving techniques and creating a sustainable future for female artisans, the collection juxtaposes the label’s journey forward with its respect for local cultural heritage.
Sheikha Al Qasimi tells Vogue Arabia that she was inspired to work with Irthi after seeing their mission to preserve traditional craft and experimenting with various materials, creating “beautiful, elegant hand made works of art for the last number of years.” She adds, “Irthi is part of Nama Women Advancement Establishment which creates environments to advance gender equity and inclusive economic and social growth. It supports initiatives by women across and engages with grass-roots and international organizations as part of its approach towards developing an ecosystem for women to realize their full potential.”
The collection’s film is set in the countryside surrounding London, taking place at a modernist masterpiece by architect Sir Raymond McGrath amongst a landscaped idyll. Models can be seen sporting garments and accessories that nod to Islamic architecture combined with modernist creative aesthetics.
Between Ashes and Roses takes its name from the words of Syrian poet Adunis, who wrote the poem of the same name during the wake of the Six-Day War of 1967. The season’s minimal aesthetic and oversized shapes draws parallels between muqarnas, a geometric style of vaulting found in Islamic architecture, and monochromatic brickwork, found in Middle Eastern architecture, to develop a luxurious cotton jacquard weave translating the brick relief into the embossing and debossing of woven yarns.
The womenswear is cut slightly closer to the body for some silhouettes, where tailoring precision is counterbalanced by sportswear detailing: a cinched jacket is made more comfortable with an elasticated channel at the back, or strong shoulder construction paired with loose, comfortable drawstring trousers. Sportswear elements are elevated by traditional craft techniques such as safeefah – a dried palm fronds weave native to the Emirates. It can be found on the men’s denim jacket, and the women’s cropped jacket and skirt, as pockets, and on tasseled tote bags.
Meanwhile, more graphic elements can be found in the graphic ikat print, a signature of Qasimi, that combines color dégradés and multi-directional stripes with op-art precision. Laser-cut coated cotton is used across women’s trench coats, blouses and skirts, along with men’s cagoules and shirt backs, and is inspired by the mesh canopies used as camouflage in the military.
Contrasting with last season’s moody hues, this season’s color palette takes cues from the Indian subcontinent, incorporating orange and pink in soft and shocking tones. Necklines also borrow from the Indian subcontinent, with specific reference to the angarakhi and Nehru-inspired collars. The Gulf dress is also referenced in the form of the kandora – a floor length robe, and the tarbousha – a woven decorative tassel; staples of an Emirati’s man’s wardrobe. The tarbousha has also been developed as a key ring that can be clipped onto pieces throughout the collection.
To add to South Asian culture joining forces with Middle Eastern culture in this collection, Qasimi uses jewelry from Pakistani Lahore-based jewelry designer Zohra Rahman, whose work centers around the manipulation of metals into innovative & stunning works of wearable art. Sheikha Al Qasimi tells Vogue Arabia that she chose to work with Rahman because not only she carries the same value for traditional craft as Qasimi, but also interprets techniques that are used in the collection. This includes laser cutting and knotting using jump loops and perforation to develop a brooch. Each multifunctional brooch, which can also be worn as a pendant or an earring, is custom-made in her workshop in Pakistan.
“There is no question that the cultures of the Gulf and South Asia are intertwined and have many overlaps, with language, food, crafts and more,” the royal adds. “It was only natural to look at those neighboring countries and bring some elements together, like the Nehru-inspired collar or the Angharaki shirt. I met Zohra in Lahore in 2019, and I was very interested in her reference to Urdu calligraphy and Islamic architecture within her work to create contemporary pieces.”
The power of collaboration holds a strong place in Sheikha Al Qasimi’s creative vision. “There’s always beauty and strength in coming together and collaborating,” she says of the personal lesson learned through this collection. “Not only by creating relationships and friendships but also trusting and learning from each other’s creative journies and experiences.”
Also developed as part of this collaboration were two-toned macramé bags, inspired by Irthi’s faroukha collection, woven into a bucket shape, and repurposed as water bottle carriers. Trainers and sandals were constructed from braided tape in brilliant colors to match those of the collection providing a sporty, yet futuristic touch.
Sheikha Al Qasimi says that her favorite pieces in the collection are the safeefah skirt suit in technical shot nylon in bulletwood as well as the washed denim safeefah jacket. “I also love the pieces with laser cut, especially the women’s trenchcoat,” she adds.