"It’s a combination of my Syrian heritage and Southern California birth that makes me, and the brand, unique," says Ibrahim Mimou, the designer behind workwear-inspired label Openism, and oil industry entrepreneur. Whilst his fashionable venture is still in its early years, Mimou's passion for quality materials and versatlie silhouettes have helped him create a loyal fanbase in the Middle East, a market, Bazaar learns, that is a strong source of sartorial inspiration...
Harper’s Bazaar Arabia: Openism was originally a passion project for you – is that still the case?
Ibrahim Mimou: “I actually own and operate two separate businesses, Openism and All California, which is an oil company. My latest collection for S/S18 was actually inspired by my work in the oil industry and is a play on my company’s name “All California.” I started on this collection after returning from Cairo last February and had been taking notes on the different functionalities that should be featured on clothes people wear in the workforce.”
HBA: What materials do you use in your collections?
IM: “Everything is made of extremely durable olive twills, lavender linens, a French terry naturally dyed purple hoodie, and Japanese cut t-shirts, with all the fabric naturally dyed and made in Japan.”
HBA: What’s more important to you when you’re starting to create a collection - form, fashion or function?
IM: “Function is definitely the most important factor.”
HBA: How would you describe the Openism buyer?
IM: “I would say they are active and love what they do for a living. I like people who mix and match the brand with their personal wardrobe, vintage pieces, or a range of designers, because it’s all about the fit to keep you comfortable.”
HBA: The brand embodies a new wave of California cool, what aspects of LA do you find most inspirational?
IM: “Palm trees, driving to my own music, all the different people that live here which adds to our culture, the beach and the overall calm we have here in LA despite being a global metropolis.”
HBA: What are the differences – clothing and culture wise – that you love most about Dubai & LA?
IM: “The heat keeps more people inside in Dubai than in LA and that changes things up a bit. They both have a unique style, in Dubai a thobe would be considered daywear, almost casual, whereas in LA it’s all about making a statement.”
HBA: How does your Syrian heritage impact your design ethos?
IM: “I grew up with many Arabs and was able to visit Syria every summer up until 2011 when the revolution started so I have some very Arab sensibilities which provides me with a slightly different outlook and understanding of things than my fellow Americans. You can see a lot of 'shami' influences in my designs, from the loose pieces, collarless shirts, my obsession with typography and rugs among other motifs."
HBA: Millennials in the Middle East are looking for more unique, bespoke fashion lines, what items from your line are most popular in this region?
IM: “Our Japanese cut t shirts do well at general 3am (formerly Corcel) in Dubai and our linen Kamis & Tunics are also fan favourites.”
HBA: What advice would you give to up-and-coming designers about navigating the current fashion landscape?
IM: “I’m personally still eager to learn more about the industry but I would say this to any new designer starting out, make sure what you’re offering is different, pay attention to how your clothes are made and try to work with companies you admire first before branching out to start your own brand.”