By Eva Fydrych
When I think about describing Sulaimi Brookman, a fashion designer from the UK, the first things that come to my mind are: extremely talented and ambitious, determined and passionate about his profession.
I first met Sulaimi in his native land, Singapore - one of my favourite countries in South-East Asia. Passion for design and the fashion industry are what brought him all the way to the UK, where he has already established his brand and is currently working on international recognition.
In an interview for Fashion Studio, Sulaimi talks about his designing experience, his attitude towards fashion and his future plans. He also shares with us some interesting styling ideas and his source of inspiration. Read the whole interview below.
Occupation: Fashion Designer
City: Birmingham, UK
FASHION STUDIO: When did you realize that fashion was your passion and that you wanted to design clothes?
SULAIMI: When I was a child, I used to play with paperdolls where you could mix & match the clothes. Then my parents took me to Toys R Us and I was intrigued by Barbie and her beautiful clothes. Instead of watching Disney when I was 8 years old, I preferred watching fashion programmes and always got sent to my room as it’s rather inappropriate to watch those at my age.
When I saw fashion-related images which I especially liked, I tried drawing it. Also I remember reading magazines such as Vogue, Elle etc, tore the fashion pages and paste them in my 'fashion' scrap book.
I was constantly surrounded by creative people and most of my cousins and relatives are in the beauty & fashion industry and that's when I realized fashion is for me.
FASHION STUDIO: You are originally from Singapore. Why did you decide to move to the UK?
SULAIMI: I can be more creative in the designing aspects as UK have four seasons which Singapore doesn't. Also I can work with fabrics such as wool, leather and velvets which are so beautiful to work with. Also in the UK, there are lots of 'big events' and more demand for glamourous dresses and outfits. People in the UK are more 'adventurous' with fashion.. They are willing to make 'mistakes' and have fun with fashion.
SULAIMI: I've found an investor who was willing to get me started. Then I took a lease on a studio in Birmingham's iconic Custard Factory and bought the necessary tools that are suitable for the fashion business i.e. cutting table, sewing machine, overlocking machine. In May 2008, I launched my new label called Sulaimi Brookman in Birmingham.
FASHION STUDIO: How have different cultures affected your designs?
SULAIMI: Though I've been brought up in Singapore, my designing style has always been very 'international'. I swear by my fashion magazines ( Vogue, Elle, Harpers Bazaar ) as I need to keep myself well informed of what's happening in the fashion industry. In reality, I do have an advantage of mixing east and west in some of my designs.
FASHION STUDIO: How would you describe your signature style?
SULAIMI: Bright, bold and beautiful. I love colours as well as prints and I appreciate detail (pleats, gathers, ruchings etc.). I adore elegant, classic and ladylike pieces in luxurious & opulent fabrics.
FASHION STUDIO: Fashion is...
SULAIMI: ... quite simply, a freedom of expression. For me, when I'm in a happy mood, I adore wearing lots of prints and colours. For my clients, it is all about making them feel and look good.
FASHION STUDIO: What kind of fabrics do you use?
SULAIMI: Delicate laces, elegant duchess satins, luscious silks, flowing chiffons and organzas. Also, I use lots of beaded and sequined fabrics for the ultra-glamour looks.
FASHION STUDIO: What inspires you?
SULAIMI: Travel, holidays, magazines, books, music, movies, architecture.
FASHION STUDIO: Why do you design only for women?
SULAIMI: I personally feel with womenswear, I can get really creative. I love working with delicate fabrics (e.g laces, chiffons, satins etc) which certainly is less possible with menswear. I’m not saying menswear is less interesting, but I do feel that one needs to be really sensitive when designing for a woman and this is something I find creatively challenging.
FASHION STUDIO: Which famous people would you like to dress?
SULAIMI: Natalie Portman and Carla Bruni (First Lady of France). In my opinion, both of these ladies are really talented, beautiful and glamorous.
FASHION STUDIO: What is the sign of a stylish woman?
SULAIMI: Someone who is never afraid to take chances in terms of combining colors, textures, and shapes to create her own, personal style.
FASHION STUDIO: Who is the most stylish woman you know?
She embraces femininity, often mixing in a dash of masculine inspiration with tailored jackets and trousers. She is superb at creating her own style.
FASHION STUDIO: What challenges do you face as a designer?
SULAIMI: Getting my brand established is my biggest challenge. I am competing against many established brands and getting my work known has proved to be extremely difficult.
FASHION STUDIO: What do you consider your biggest success so far?
SULAIMI: My 2009 collection which was really well-received in Birmingham and helped to establish my name as a UK fashion designer.
FASHION STUDIO: How would you describe street style in Birmingham?
SULAIMI: Skinny jeans with embellishments; printed leggings, lace leggings; boots, high heels; printed logo tops with embellishments; accessories, earrings, chains and bangles, with a touch of bling.
FASHION STUDIO: Best shopping spots in the city...
SULAIMI: The Mailbox and the Bull Ring. These are relatively modern shopping malls incorporating names like Harvey Nichols and Selfridges.
FASHION STUDIO: What is the best fashion advice you've ever heard and who gave it to you?
SULAIMI: My former PR agent told me to keep as much of the manufacture as possible in-house to keep costs low. This is particularly important during the start-up phase.
FASHION STUDIO: What is your favourite accessory for a woman to wear?
SULAIMI: Shoes. From wedges to killer heels to ballerina flats. With designers constantly coming up with 'unique' styles, a woman can never have enough shoes. A nice pair of shoes can enhance most outfits. Of course it is important that shoes are comfortable.
FASHION STUDIO: Expert tips on how to dress to a party?
1. Choose an outfit that best reflects your personality, remembering that comfort is key.
2. Make sure your selection flatters your figure and enhances your features.
3. Do your homework by reading fashion magazines so you will be up-to-date on the latest prints, styles, colors, accessories etc.
FASHION STUDIO: What are your plans for the future?
SULAIMI: I would like to go international, ultimately, with a small chain of exclusive high-class boutiques in the major fashion centres of the world (Milan, Paris, New York etc.). I would like to see my designs worn by rich and famous women across the globe.
FASHION STUDIO: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us and good luck with taking your brand to the next level!
By Eva Fydrych
All photos courtesy of Sulaimi Brookman
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Official website: Sulaimi Brookman
Sulaimi Brookman (Fashion Designer) & Eva Fydrych
(Fashion Studio Founder) - Singapore