Every once in a while, you’ll come across a new guard of upstart designers who are quietly creating and giving back to the community, too. Such was the case when Bazaar was serendipitously introduced non-profit brand BLSSD, founded by 38-year-old cancer survivor, Lama Riachi.
“Having gone through the exhausting emotional and physical experience of ovarian cancer, I always knew my experience had to mean something. That one day I’d ﬁnd a way to ‘make it count’,” the designer tells Bazaar. “This eye-opening and life changing experience led me on this new and unexpected path. Purpose is what got me into fashion.”
Lama has a refreshingly honest attitude about why she’s making clothing and who she’s making clothing for. “In its most fundamental form, BLSSD as a fashion brand emerged from a purpose, not the other way around. Our purpose was never conceived as a marketing angle.”
Unlike most streetwear brands, BLSSD is minimalist-minded in terms of aesthetic, with earthy palettes, wearable separates and a simple, subtle logo.
“Our Pret-A-Gratitude collection, which just showed at Arab Fashion Week, features a culmination of contrasts and dualities. Drawing crossovers between sportswear and urban luxe and telling a story that goes from streetwear to street style,” says Lama. “From unexpected juxtapositions of hard and soft, to the use of hardware with gentle fabrics, to using luxe fabrics in unexpected ways, such as sequin being the lining, giving those glimpses into inner beauty. It features stories of deconstruction and celebrations of perfection in imperfection.”
With oversized sleeves, floaty skirts, and splashes of sequins, the clothes have a romantic quality, devoid of the most of the rebelliousness or irony that we’ve become accustomed to seeing on the street style scene. Even the name has a softness to it: “BLSSD represents how blessed I have been along my path to recovery. A true sense of gratitude was the single most powerful feeling that got me through the hardest time of my life. Every single time I was reminded of the countless things and people I was grateful for, regardless of what I was going through, I found myself growing stronger and more positive.”
Beyond her impressive skills as a designer, Lama is currently Managing Partner and Creative Director at Mojo, an independent boutique advertising, design and digital agency. The Dubai-based creative is also the founder of Blessed (together), a “165-member (and growing) support group that provides emotional, educational, spiritual and ﬁnancial support to individuals whose lives have been touched by cancer.”
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