Flying The Flag: Bloomingdale's Launches in Kuwait

BY Maddison Glendinning / Mar 14 2017 / 13:19 PM

Kuwait's fashion landscape is about to change, Bazaar meets two of the country's most fashionable faces to discuss the future of the city's style and sartorial spirit

Flying The Flag: Bloomingdale's Launches in Kuwait
Tina Change
Asma (left) wears: Earrings, Kwd75, Zuccini. Top, Kwd200, Jourden. Jumpsuit, Kwd158, Cinq à Sept. Shoes, Kwd308, Saint Laurent. All at Bloomingdale’s Kuwait. May (right) wears: Top, Kwd23; jacket, Kwd175, both Rag & Bone. Skirt, Kwd142, Cinq à Sept. All at Bloomingdale’s Kuwait. Shoes, her own.

May Al Qassar

31, Kuwaiti, Designer of May Jewellery

The fashion scene here in Kuwait is very experimental and up-to-date,” May Al Qassar, the 31-year-old designer behind Kuwait-based jewellery brand May Jewellery tells Bazaar. Describing her own style as “simple yet feminine,” May explains that she dresses depending on the occasion.

“When I’m working I go for casual chic, wearing statement pieces that are also comfortable, which is important. On the weekends, I’m more relaxed, usually wearing a simple T-shirt and jeans. Going out at night is when I dress up a little and add a pair of heels.”

May says that fashion plays a big role in her career, “because as a jewellery designer I create pieces that can suit certain styles of clothing.” During the shoot, May confesses to never taking off her necklace as it’s one of her most treasured items and says that she couldn’t live without skinny jeans. It’s no surprise then that the classically stylish Audrey Hepburn is her fashion icon. “I love how she wore skinny jeans or pants with simple shirts but still managed to look elegant and sophisticated.”

May Al Qassar

Earrings, Kwd45, Marcia Moran. Sweater, Kwd65, Bailey 44. Trousers, Kwd125, Cinq à Sept. All at Bloomingdale’s Kuwait. Shoes, her own.

The designer doesn’t like to take her fashion too seriously – “To me, fashion is a lifestyle and it should be fun” – and she likes to get her sartorial inspiration straight from the source. “I like to follow fashion designers,” she says, adding that her all-time favourite is Helmut Lang. She’s looking forward to being able to shop the designer once Bloomingdale’s opens its doors as well as having a selection of labels to choose from.“What I like about Bloomingdale’s is its variety of brands that I can mix and match to create different outfits.”

After completing a degree in graphic design in Brooklyn, May launched her jewellery line in 2010 and she’s never looked back. “I had always been into art and design and I have a passion for unique jewellery designs. Studying in New York made me realise that I could be whatever I wanted without borders so once I got back to Kuwait, I started to design jewellery for myself and my family and friends before I decided to make it my career.” Over the past six years, she has designed three collections – Al Harf, Bain Al Harf and Bidoun Harf – and says, “I mostly customise pieces for clients so that they’re very personal to them, and my collections are inspired by the elements and shapes of Arabic letters.”

May Al Qassar

Jacket, Kwd204, Cinq à Sept. Jeans, Kwd60, DL1961. Shoes, Kwd303, Saint Laurent. All at Bloomingdale’s Kuwait

After starting small – “I tested the water and gauged as many opinions as possible before expanding my social media presence, which is the best marketing tool here in Kuwait” – May’s popularity grew through word of mouth and via the power of social media. Now, in addition to having clients across the globe, she is also stocked in Qirdala Boutique in Kuwait, and she has worked on exclusive collaborations with Revolution Boutique and Paper & Nest, designing a necklace for each that is only available in their stores. “This has been great for my business as it’s introduced new clients to my work and given me greater exposure,” she explains. The highlight of her career is “seeing people wearing my jewellery in public and not knowing who they are.” As for why she chose jewellery, May said it was the power that certain pieces can manifest. “As a woman, I’ve been wearing jewellery for as long as I can remember. Jewellery makes me feel feminine yet powerful, knowing that I’m wearing pieces that are very valuable. My jewellery is a reflection of who I am as a person.”

Asma AlMulla

29, Kuwaiti, Engineer/Fashion Blogger

Asma AlMulla is a busy woman. An engineer by day, and a fashion blogger in her spare time, she’s always on-the-go and her personal style changes between her two jobs. “I’d describe my usual style as somewhere in between classic and dramatic with a little edge,” she says. “At work, it’s the exact opposite. I’m very minimal, classic and formal.” What about the weekends? “I am more relaxed and casual. When I go out, I like to make sure I’m on trend.” As for who she looks up to in the style stakes, Asma says, “Sarah Jessica Parker – she is different every day.”

Asma has been employed as an engineer for the Ministry of Public Works for the past six years, and she is currently working on one of the biggest projects in recent Kuwaiti history. “I’m involved in building the Mubarak Al Kabeer port in Kuwait, which is a huge project and a very big opportunity for any engineer. It’s a once in a lifetime kind of thing because usually
a country only builds a port every 50 years. It’s a national project, one of the biggest, that will help to change the economy in the coming years and something that the country is investing in. I am so proud to be able to work on it,” she tells Bazaar, adding that there are some challenges she faces being a career woman. “Being a working woman is always hard as you have to commit all your time and effort in a competitive world, and be willing to sacrifice things.”

Asma AlMulla

Top, Kwd24, Rag & Bone. Skirt, Kwd204, Marques Almeida. Boots, Kwd528, Alexander McQueen. All at Bloomingdale’s Kuwait

She began her blog Vintage Baza three years ago “when social media started becoming popular in the Middle East,” and she says, “I have always loved fashion. Ever since I was a little girl I would dress up in my older sisters’ clothes and accessories. I had always wanted to be a part of the industry and now, fashion is my career. It’s what I love to do and what I would love to be doing for the rest of my life.” The highlight so far? “Being invited to Fashion Week,” she says, and right after our shoot, Asma was jetting off to New York to attend the Tory Burch, Zadig & Voltaire and Sachin + Babi catwalk shows.

Given her daily exposure to designers (Givenchy is her favourite “because it’s stylish, edgy and elegant”), Asma says she’s excited for the arrival of Bloomingdale’s. “I love to find new and up-and-coming designers through department stores,” noting that she and her fashion-forward friends are “all too excited to have Bloomingdale’s bring more designers and brands to Kuwait.”

It’s a city that’s brimming with sartorial inspiration Asma tells Bazaar, explaining, “Kuwait has always been very stylish. The Kuwait streets are so inspiring when it comes to style. This is where I get my fashion inspiration from. Whenever I go out for lunch or even for a coffee, I get inspired.”

Asma AlMulla

Asma wears: Choker, Kwd67, Mers. Top, Kwd145, Rag & Bone. Trousers, Kwd63, Joie. All at Bloomingdale’s Kuwait. Shoes, her own

Despite all of the designer clothing she gets to wear on a daily basis, there is one item that Asma cannot live without – the humble white T-shirt. “I think I have more than 60 of them currently,” she admits. “I have a whole section in my cupboard just for white shirts and tops.”

Nowadays, Asma is one of the most fashionable women in Kuwait but she says her journey to becoming a style icon was one of constant learning and that it took her some time to find what was right for her. “I tried many different styles until I found my voice and I realised that true style is all about personality and being yourself.”

Watch Now: See behind-the-scenes of the shoot and hear Asma and May discuss their style inspirations here.

All fashion available at Bloomingdale’s Kuwait and Dubai. Photography: Tina Chang at Things By People. Fashion Editor: Gemma Deeks. Hair and nails: View 14. Make-up: Anosha Make-up in collaboration with View 14. With thanks to Jumeirah Messilah Beach Hotel and Spa.