Historians may view moderate luxury fashion as a game-changer for the new millennium like the way Dior’s New Look or punk style changed the style of the 20th century. Although it thrives on consumers of all religious backgrounds, its popularity attracts the attention of the aristocratic architects who work in many different styles, redefining glamor, and rewriting the ready-to-wear digital version of the digital generation of fashionistas. Nowhere is the impact of different fashions on social development more noticeable than in Saudi Arabia. A growing economy and a growing number of young people have opened up the world to the world. Saudi buyers and investors actively create an art market (such as the historic Salvator Mundi’s purchase of Louvre Abu Dhabi), the London real estate market and other cultural capitals, and the first high-tech platform.
Not all marriages are equally successful. Going back to 2019 on the tour of Instagram promoters is an example of unproductive PR. On the other hand, fashion diplomacy is very dominant. Saudi consumers have long been consumers of luxury. Elite fashion labels were among the first international brands to be accepted in the State market.
Now it is time for Saudi designers to take the middle ground. Saudi-American designer Balqees AlQadeeb holds the award-winning wedding line and couture La’Beso in his studio in Riyadh. It is one of the most powerful Saudi brands gaining international attention. AlQadeeb also has an amazing story: from working as a radiologist to managing a leading fashion house. I had the pleasure of contacting the designer. How does one handle major job changes? What are the bad habits that are good for business? Our conversation covered several interesting areas.
What is your definition of luxury?
Comfort is a feeling of confidence. What is luxury without someone who shows that? The material side of luxury is just an extension of this system. Luxury design is like writing poetry. You read between the lines, get emotions in the folds and cracks. A dress can speak well if you know its language. For example, for me, the key is always the fabric. If you have the right fabrics with good textures and colors, they can make your make-up better or worse by 1000%. The secret to the comfort of a dress lies in the fabric.
You have had an unpleasant start to fashion …
Yes, but it probably just seems that way. After graduating from radiology, I worked as an MRI specialist. Somehow, even my medical science job was about looking at different pictures and reassembling them, re-translating them to understand their meaning.
How do you take your faith from the hospital to the airport?
One day we were talking with a colleague at the hospital. Someone asked what we would do if we did not work in the medical field. I said I wanted to have my fashion brand. Had nothing to do with fashion at the time. I had a strong sense of my style. I remember feeling like saying it aloud for the first time and experiencing this strange feeling, like a flash of the future. Shortly afterward, I began teaching at a medical university. It was a good job, but I did not enjoy being a teacher. The dream was expensive.
One does not just throw away everything and start designing couture clothes …
True! [Laughs] My first step was to understand the fashion business side. I can allocate $ 2600 in my savings to see how it goes. In 2011, e-commerce had just begun. Brought clothes and jewelry online from products we could not find at local stores. I rented a place for the show and organized it into a pop-up shop. I wanted to learn about customers. What do they look for when they come in? What are they asking? It was very eye-opening and by the end of five days, I had $ 3466 in my hands. I vividly remember that number, for I realized that I could not only recoup my fashion money but also make a profit. Next, I taught myself to design, make patterns, sew, everything.
How was your first fashion collection received?
Want to know the truth? [Laughs] My first collection was not sold. In the end, I decided I enjoyed the process, the result didn’t disappoint me. If I loved to do something, I would do it better! So, I focused on getting better.
What makes the difference in launching your product successfully?
One of my friends told me about a new forum… It was Instagram. We did a photoshoot and started sharing our designs on social media. This advice completely changed the product. More and more people were following us and asking about the designs. The following collection is only for sale on social media! We grew up slowly in that. In 2015, we held our first runway show in London at Westfield with the support of the Women’s Growth and Success Foundation (WGSF) under the auspices of Baroness Karren Brady of Knightsbridge. Next, fashion magazine editions followed international discussions. I hired my first full-time staff to meet the need. In 2019, our atelier and grocery store opened in Riyadh. La’Beso now has six production workers and two salesmen. It has been a challenging journey, but I am proud of it.
Who is the La’Beso woman? How would you describe Saudi fashion today?
We say you are a modern person. You know exactly what you want to look like and you choose the right clothes to achieve that. He knows the rapid changes in fashion. Therefore, he is not bored and he is never bored when it comes to expressing his style. Initially, women came out of curiosity. They found that they could get what they wanted: something attractive, attractive, but traditional. Their confidence grew. We now have women coming to visit our grocery store from all over Saudi Arabia. It is a great feeling to be able to unite women in fashion.
How do you deal with the pressures of building a competitive fashion business?
I find solace in having my family, playing with my daughter. Meditation is another daily activity that calms my mind and helps me to keep going. Whenever I go, I try to skip the yoga class in my routine so that I can stay physically active and focused. I am a big fan of spas. It is one of my holy places where I can renew physically and spiritually. Enjoying a large cup of coffee can be your private moment in a busy day.
What are the basics of your diet? Any favorite bad habit?
I am a very bad person who can try any food as I am “addicted” to sweets. My fingers fell into that with good genetics on my side and moderate exercise I was able to maintain my good health. When it comes to “bad habits”, I think mine is really good! [Laughs]. It will be very sleepy when everyone else is asleep. I enjoy the silence of the night.
What is the most important question that you have on your mind right now?
Looking back at ten years, I wonder where La’Beso will be ten years from now? From imagination to pleasure. How lucky can a person be to find that in life? This marathon is endless. It’s a small success story, but a success story yet!