x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

UAE, get ready for fashion designer Osman Yousefzada

Osman Yousefzada hopes his highly-coveted collections for women will soon be swinging from the rails of the UAE's most exclusive boutiques.

Osman Yousefzada's highly coveted collections for women will soon be swinging from the rails of the UAE's most exclusive boutiques if the 38-year-old Afghani-British designer has his way.

"We're looking for a partner," he says. "Normally, people approach me as I don't actively look - being a bit of a one man army. But I would say definitely within the next 12 months."

With his classic, clean lines admired by fans from Thandie Newton and Cate Blanchett to Lady Gaga, Yousefzada is quietly confident his style will appeal to fashion conscious women of the region.

"I've never been to the UAE but I know Middle East fashion," he says, "and I think Emirati women respond very well to the pared back drama of my silhouettes."

"It's amazing when a beautiful woman wears your clothes, it's great! I have a very nice following and there are lots of women I would love to dress - like Tilda Swinton. I think she has a presence and carries clothes quite well. But slowly, slowly."

Born and bred in Birmingham where his mother ran a couture dress making business, Yousefzada studied Fashion Design at Central Saint Martins in London. After receiving the NEWGEN sponsorship prize for burgeoning designers at London Fashion Week, which funded his work for three seasons, in 2005 Yousefzada launched his first collection for spring/summer under the "Osman" label. Two years later, he was nominated for the annual Designs of Year award at the Design Museum and saw one of his dresses showcased between the flamboyant creations of John Galliano and the imposing structures of architect Zaha Hadid at the exhibition in London's South Bank.

"My mother would tell me my clothes are too minimal sometimes," he laughs. "But she loves them, she's very proud actually."

In 2008, he collaborated with high-street retailer Mango for the 'Osman Yousefzada's Little Black Dress Collection' - a line that was sold in more than 200 stores and in 35 countries worldwide. Just a year later, doyen of vintage couture Didier Ludot placed Yousefzada's designs centre-stage in the window of his venerated Palais Royal boutique in Paris. It wasn't long before the young designer's creative skills were identified by the big league and he was shortlisted for the British Fashion Council/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund last year.

"I would describe my style as a mix of everything really; elements of ethnicity and futurism," he says. "It's just the purity of line that I always try to achieve."

Yousefzada's career continues to travel on an upwards trajectory and his most recent 2012 autumn/winter collection was shown at London Fashion Week to rave reviews. The colour palette was monochrome, punctuated with jewel red and moss green - while lime and fuchsia brocades brought black bases to life.

Yousefzada's collection was inspired by the autochrome plates of ethnographer Albert Kahn, the French millionaire banker and philanthropist who embarked upon an ambitious project to create a photographic record of people worldwide in 1909. He documented the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the last traditional Celtic villages in Ireland and soldiers in the trenches of the First World War.

"There's a series of Kahn's photographs of the Balkans and fall of the Ottoman Empire, they were the starting point for my collection," says Yousefzada. "There's about four or five fabrics that I used - over dyed herringbones, luxurious leathers - oversized embroideries. I'm also using very rich and technical fabrics - hand loomed brocades. Hopefully I have managed to combine a pared back minimalism with a sense of opulence with this collection.

"I do structure, but draping will always be a big part of my style and I don't always put the drapery on the catwalk. There's an element of peplums in this collection, too; I think they can be very flattering, you just need to know how to do them really. I always do them and have been for ages."

Yousefzada has spoken openly in the past about how he struggled to make his way financially in the cut-throat world of fashion as a fresh graduate.

"I think the industry is growing and moving in the right direction," he says, "but it is quite 'tough times' at the moment."

Crunching the numbers is far less Yousefzada's concern these days and he's resolved to letting his creativity see him through any challenging periods that may lie ahead.

"Fundamentally," he muses, "if you do something beautiful, people will always come and see it."

rduane@thenational.ae