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Khalid AlQasimi: Fashioning himself a bright future

By Keiren Buchanan for CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Upcoming fashion designer Khalid AlQasimi talks to CNN about growing up in UAE
  • Country's history of "dressing as art is part of our culture" has inspired his designs
  • UAE's multiculturalism has given him an understanding of the wider world

(CNN) -- With designs inspired by the nomadic warriors of the Middle East, Emirati fashion designer Khalid AlQasimi is making waves in fashion circuits across Europe.

Founder and creative director of the haute couture fashion house "Qasimi," the Central St. Martins graduate has wowed critics in both London and Paris, with his bold use of colors and architecturally inspired designs.

With the likes of Lily Cole and Erin O'Connor showcasing his creations, it's been a whirlwind ride for the young designer who only established his fashion label two years ago.

Born in the emirate of Sharjah, AlQasimi moved to the United Kingdom after being awarded an art scholarship at the age of nine.

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After school, he enrolled at the Architectural Association but after a three month trip to South America decided that his true love lay in design.

Now, as AlQasimi gears up for the January launch of his menswear collection in Paris, he tells CNN how his homeland has inspired his work.

CNN: What does the UAE mean to you?

KQ: I'm from Sharjah which has a different ideology to Dubai. To me, Sharjah means calmness, peace and family.

CNN: Where do you see the UAE heading?

KQ: Sharjah is really pushing the arts. It's right at the forefront. The Sharjah Biennale has been going on for thirteen years. Sharjah's arts and culture program is growing and in the universities, so are science and technology. It's all about the new generation.

CNN: What are your favorite places to go in the UAE?

KQ: The Kasbah in Sharjah is a great place to go out in the evening. It has delicious international cuisine. The Sharjah Art Museum has a great array of contemporary art. I also love Souq al Arsha. That's one of the oldest souks in the Middle East. It's still ongoing with traditional handicraft and silverware. They have a sweet coffee shop in the middle. It shows the old way and how the old souks used to work.

CNN: How has the UAE influenced your design?

KQ: There's always this underlying influence of the UAE and Middle East in my design. The characters I design for are usually urban tribal warriors and nomadic explorers. The idea of dressing as art is part of our culture. The smoking of incense and the placement of the headdress -- there's a whole art to it.

CNN: How has the UAE shaped your personality?

KQ: Growing up in both the UK and the UAE has given me an understanding of both cultures. It's given me a thirst for knowledge and exploring and discovering other places. It's made me want to learn different languages and travel.

CNN: What are your fondest memories of the UAE?

KQ: The food, the smells, the stars at night. That's something that's really stuck with me. You can see the stars so clearly in Sharjah. I love going to the desert, lying on the dunes and watching the stars. I also miss the salty smell of the air and the light. There's an amazing quality to the light in the UAE -- the way it dazzles and bounces off the buildings.

CNN: What differences do you see between the Emirates?

KQ: Dubai is an economic hub, studded with contemporary architecture. Dubai has a bold view of where it wants to go, whereas Sharjah -- it's not necessarily retreating -- but it's concentrating more on its past. Sharjah wants to save its past. It wants to reconstruct and rebuild its old architecture.

CNN: How does it feel to be from the UAE when most people living there are from overseas?

KQ: Growing up, it was great being in such a multicultural surrounding. It gives the locals an understanding of what lies beyond the Middle East. Most people in the UAE speak multiple languages -- a minimum two and probably three and it's also given us a clearer understanding of self.