How do you define your practice?
As an artist of color who works in a global environment, a key reference in my work has always been understanding contemporary masculinity. That’s a very interesting subject matter to me, to see how masculinity is defined in different places, and how global masculinity is influenced by pop culture; what is macho and what is not.
You are very excited to collaborate on the ‘Wear The Right Thing‘ exhibition at The Gallery at VCUarts Qatar. What is your definition of a good collaboration?
I have been working very much by myself for quite a while now. I don’t like the idea of collaborating for the sake of collaborating but I am always open to collaboration if I feel that the sum will be greater than an individual effort. I feel very secure about who I am as a designer and I understand what I can bring to a creative process. I like to think that the best collaboration is always the one that is coming next.
Are you working with other collaborators right now?
I am currently co-developing a collective platform ‘Le Fool’ through which we hope to bring together diverse perspectives to inspire and promote critical thinking as well as engage in meaningful collaborations that are fruitful to everyone involved. I’m excited about that and I really invite everyone to come and be part of it.
What are the rules you design or create by?
I don’t like the idea of categorizing things or defining structure for your work – I think it limits the potential to what can be done with an idea. As long as an idea can hold my attention for a long enough time, then it is worth developing regardless of any preconceived rules.
Would you say that it takes courage to be yourself and to follow your own path in the fashion world?
There is no other choice but to be yourself. What we create as an artist is directly related to the life we lead, so we don’t have a choice but to muster the courage to express what is true to us. There’s no authenticity otherwise.
How can you embrace your own singularity as creative in today’s context?
There is too much copying and pasting happening in the fashion industry and the art world these days. I mean, we are at a point where even fine art is borrowing more and more of the fashion business model. Collaborations, exclusive drops etc., all in the name of driving growth. I think in fashion we are coming full circle having gone through the cycle of mass production. We must borrow the fine art concept and get back to originality and uniqueness – embrace the singularity of one special piece.
Should this uniqueness apply to the fashion consumers as well?
I think one of the main functions of fashion is to make us feel special and as a designer you can’t lose sight of that. The luxury industry is all set up on a dream. Without a dream, it becomes just another high-quality product, and copying and pasting kills that dream, slowly but surely. I understand that trends are important but it shouldn’t be a chunky sneaker for the sake of a chunky sneaker. It has to stand for something more. Otherwise GAP does perfectly fine white T-shirts.
Lastly, any recommendation about designers or trends to follow?
It’s an interesting time for designers out of Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai, with so many becoming influential in global trends. A few to watch out for in the coming years: Kozaburu, Balmung, and Sreu, for their great potential and forward-thinking aesthetic.
In His Own Words
An Inspiring Moment at The Gallery
... A Personal Memory to Share
So, when I was a kid I used to ask my mom to buy T-shirts and Polo shirts all the time. And I would paint and turn them into sports jerseys to wear. At the time, there was not a big concept of sports jerseys. They were hard to find and I would usually not like the design so I would always design my own. When I look back, I can see that I was always into doing something with fashion. I can see myself in what’s happening today with the merging of fashion and sportswear. Through my evolution as a designer, that memory has always stayed with me.
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Ali Khan is a Doha-based Luxury and Fashion Consultant with a diversified experience that includes, design, forecasting, merchandising, retail and academics and uniquely encompasses a mix of high-end luxury and street fashion.
His academic affiliations include such prestigious schools as HEC Paris, the Royal College of Art London, FIT New York and VCUarts Qatar, where is an Associate Professor of Fashion.
His award-winning works have been showcased consistently in New York and London and are part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Art in Nelson, New Zealand. He is regularly invited to fashion weeks around the globe as an influencer, publishing his reviews and photography in various academic journals and fashion magazines as well presenting his research at design conferences around the world.
The Alumni Factor