Spotlight: Imtayaz Qassim
WORDS: FATEMA / IMAGES: IMTAYAZ QASSIM
From working with the likes of Represent Clothing and A-ColdWall* to creating bespoke pieces for Gareth Bale, Imtayaz Qassim has established himself as one of fashion’s rising stars for his ingenious ability to craft compelling collections inspired by his British identity.
Mastering the art of story-telling, at the heart of Qassim’s namesake brand lies the story of the designer himself; one which delicately balances and articulates both Pakistani and Welsh nuances through design, production and presentation. From sourcing fabrics in Istanbul to manufacturing in London; the brand is a celebration of East meets West.
Earlier this month, the designer showcased his latest collection dubbed ‘A Recurring Silence’ during a three-day, private showcase at London Fashion Week Men's which we attended. Taking inspiration from the book ‘Letters to A Young Muslim’ by Omar Saif Ghobash, the collection explored the state of silence that frequently accompanies unanswered questions.
The monochromatic collection saw the introduction of new products into the designers' range including Qassim's take on knitwear. The entire showcase was intelligent and refreshing; from the minimalistic setup featuring Persian rugs to the models styled in chappals - traditional Pakistani shoes - while championing the streetwear brand — a clever juxtaposition and subtle nod to the brand's heritage.
Following up on our visit, we caught up with the designer for a quick chat to learn more.
1. What would your advice be to anyone looking to create a brand, especially in fashion?
This is a question I often get asked, especially by students when I guest lecture at the local Universities. I always give the same simple answer; as cliché, as it may sound, you need to be obsessed with it; you have to eat, sleep and breath your brand. I've had plenty – and I know there are years more – of sleepless nights to get one step closer to my goals. It’s that level of dedication and passion you need to have and endure when creating a brand or business.
2. When starting, how did you manage the expectations that come from ethnic parents; and what advice would you give to those looking to take a more creative career route rather than the traditional STEM/practical choice?
It’s funny because these stereotypes of how Asian parents are portrayed in all honesty are true — or at least to some degree. For our parents, their views come from a pure place, from a place of love and them just wanting the best for their children. As we move forward, I think that old-school mentality is slowly starting to change, but for now it very much exists.
When it came to my situation, I was studying computer science at University after studying engineering at college, and I just knew it wasn’t for me. Once I had decided I wanted to study design, I sat with my Dad and explained everything to him; He was cool with it -- hesitant but cool-- and told me if I was going to do this then I should give it my everything and not go in half-heartedly as it wasn’t going to be an easy road.
So I think, be open and honest with them and explain that creative careers are just as viable as becoming a doctor or engineer. The only way we can change old ways of thinking is by opening a dialogue and speaking freely about everything, whether it's your career, emotions, relationships or anything in life, we have to talk more.
3. What pushes you and motivates you to keep going?
I love to tell stories and create collections to represent them and like I said earlier, you have to be all in if you want to make it in this industry and it truly is my passion and my obsession. I think it’s important to have a strong message and a voice. If I can inspire or even educate some people with what I’m trying to say then that’s enough to motivate me. Also, I have the most supportive wife who pushes and drives me to be better, not just in my career but in life, she is a big inspiration to me.
4. How do you seek inspiration?
I don’t ever go looking for inspiration because it can feel forced and that will always show in your work. Most of my inspiration comes from my background, heritage and culture.
Storytelling has always been a form of education; when I was younger, my dad would often teach me things through a story so naturally it now plays a big part in my work. I also like to read and learn whenever I can, and recently I have been reading books by authors such as Omar Saif Ghobash and Zachary Karabell who’s work has inspired me and opened my mind to new questions.