Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi of Qasimi on Navigating Fashion in a Time of Crisis
As the world slowly returns to a ‘new normal’, the pressure of covid-19 could prove a catalyst for change that ultimately makes for a better outcome after the pandemic. We’ve seen a lot of change and we’re hopeful that it’s for the better.
We spoke to Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi of Qasimi about her time at the helm of brand. She took over from her late brother, Sheikh Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi, after his passing just short of a year ago, in order to preserve and further Khalid’s legacy
GQME: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve made in your daily life to adjust to the situation we’re currently facing?
Hoor Al Qasimi: Not being able to travel has been the biggest change for me.
How are you keeping in touch with your friends and family during this time?
Most of my work and personal communication happens through WhatsApp. I’m also relying a lot on Zoom these days.
Do you feel that your creative expression has been influenced or altered during this time and how?
In some ways, I have been able to take this time to work, read and learn which I haven’t always had time to do in the past but in other ways I feel detached from my work, my everyday: the people and the human exchange. It’s vital for my line of work.
How have you steered team dynamics during this time where everyone had to work from home?
Even before the official lockdown announcement we tried to plan ahead and put systems in place for everyone to remain connected so that they were all well prepared. I believe that routine communication between teams has been a key factor in maintaining the dynamic amongst colleagues, once that barrier is resolved rest is more or less straightforward.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing as a business during this time?
As a fashion business working with mostly Italian suppliers it has been very challenging this season. SS/21 was already in full swing when lockdown occurred so rather than cancelling our fabric orders, we adapted what we had and supported our Italian mills; we reduced our collection size in line with production capacity at our manufactures. We wanted to support our partners in times of economic strife but at the same time also take into consideration the overall impact of fashion on the environment.
What is one thing you’ve learned from this experience in social distancing?
The importance of others and the treasured connections I share with them.
With physical stores having to close their doors, how has this affected the roll-out of the Qasimi SS20 collection?
We completed a majority of our SS/20 deliveries by the end of January so most stores got a chance to bring the collection on to the shop floor before the lockdown started.
You were supposed to present your fist solo collection at the helm of Qasimi in June, are you planning on presenting a SS/21 collection for the brand? If so, what does that landscape look like right now?
We are still planning to show in mid-July but are taking this opportunity to explore different ways of presenting a collection. This is a unique chance to question the current process and try out new things. We are compiling a short film loosely based around the components of a show (a set, a backdrop, a modified catwalk, etc.) but playing with the different elements to create something new and visually enticing.
Have you seen a change in the buying structure/model during this time and how do you think it’ll look like in the future?
Yes! As clients will not be travelling as much for the showrooms this season, we have moved to an online digital platform to sell our collection. This has meant modifying the way we present to our clients and emphasises the need for clarity and detail in order to paradoxically convey garments virtually in a realistic way. So, the model has certainly changed. I would imagine that buying structures will have to change with it. I do believe that this will have an impact on the future of travel within the business requiring fashion editors, journalists and buyers to travel less.
Given how much the current pandemic has restricted international movement, do you think we will start to see a move towards more sustainable and locally sourced menswear over the coming seasons?
I hope so but as people hurry to make-up for lost time, things might return to their pre-pandemic capacities. I do believe however that this pandemic will create a trend in people seeking to re-connect with their local communities, businesses and at a macro-level, their own culture and traditions.
What’s the most exciting thing that came out of this experience for you and what are you looking forward to post Covid-19?
I am working on so many projects simultaneously. I guess the most exciting thing will be to see these come to fruition!