Thursday, April 1, 2021


By Eva Fydrych

Sustainable & Ethical Couture

Photo courtesy of Yousef Akbar


"The only thing consistent in fashion and in life is change." - Yousef Akbar

In our ongoing "8 Questions With..." interview series, we feature the most interesting and creative designers who bring something new and unique into the competitive world of fashion. Today, we are talking to Yousef Akbar, one of the finalist of the 2020 Vogue Arabia Fashion Prize.

Based between Sydney and Jeddah, Yousef creates sustainable and ethical pieces that are timeless, sophisticated, and ultrafeminine. In our exclusive interview, the designer talks about his creative process, the importance of telling stories, being unique, and staying away from temporary fashion trends. Enjoy!

FASHION STUDIO: What attracted you to the fashion world in the first place? What fashion means to you?

YOUSEF: From as early as I could remember, I was always the artist and designer in the family. I would paint and draw, and have designed my own clothes from a very young age. It was how I expressed myself and my way of telling a story. Fashion to me is the ultimate form of self-expression, and an extension of our identity.

Designer at work (Photo courtesy of Yousef Akbar)

Collection 1 (Photo courtesy of Yousef Akbar)

FASHION STUDIO: How long ago did you start designing? Please tell us about your beginnings in more detail.

YOUSEF: As I mentioned previously, I always loved art and fashion. But living in Saudi Arabia, in a very strict culture at the time, and being raised in a very strict family, becoming an artist or a designer was absolutely impossible. I was forced to study something that my parents felt would make them proud.

I was always a good student and I got a scholarship to study in Australia; I graduated with a Bachelor and Masters of Logistics. I never liked buying fast-fashion and I could not afford to shop. While I was studying, I used to design collections for myself because that way I could wear exactly what I wanted. I would give the designs to local tailors and they would make the clothes for me. 

In 2012, towards the end of my studies, I thought that I owed it to myself to do something that I love, so I enrolled in a fashion school just to learn how to make my own clothes. During my studies, I discovered that the fashion creative process and creating clothes were the best way for me to express myself and to tell my story. At that moment, I felt my life has changed. And in 2017 I launched my brand officially. 

Collection 2 (Photo courtesy of Yousef Akbar)

Photo courtesy of Yousef Akbar

FASHION STUDIO: Please tell us more about your brand and the philosophy behind it. What is your main source of inspiration? What makes you unique? What are your strongest points? Who do you design for?

YOUSEF: My brand philosophy is all about telling a story, about the craftsmanship and to create high quality garments in the most sustainable and ethical ways available to us. Clothes that are timeless, versatile, and that would be passed on to generations to come.

My brand is very personal to me, it is all about expressing what I feel and about telling stories that matter to me, this is the main inspiration behind every collection.

I try to tell stories about things I deeply care about or things that make me emotional. Later on, I translate that inspiration into the cuts and construction of my clothes where we use our own experimental ways of cutting and construction. I guess that’s what makes our designs unique—they are very personal and come from within; they are not influenced by anything from the outside.

The Yousef Akbar woman is passionate, confident, sexy and powerful. She is taking charge of her life and she wants to wear clothes that reflect that.

Photo courtesy of Yousef Akbar (Click to enlarge)

Photo courtesy of Yousef Akbar

Photo courtesy of Yousef Akbar

Photo courtesy of Yousef Akbar

FASHION STUDIO: How does your typical day look like? How is it to live in the city where you are based? Could you share some fashionable places to visit over there?

YOUSEF: A typical day for me starts early, at 05:30 am, I normally start my day by going on a 50 km cycle.

  • 07:30 am I have breakfast and get ready to go to the studio.
  • At 08:00 am Once I have arrived at the studio, I check my emails and go over my schedule to see what meetings I have for the day. 
  • 08:30 am During time of the collections—start working on the collections (which can involve sketching, draping or even experimenting with fabrics). Or I would be working on client orders or researching new collections.
  • 12:30 pm Lunch
  • 01:30 to 06:00 pm Continue working in the studio on the collections, however we regularly have fitting with a model in the afternoon. It is really important to me to see the garment on a person and see how the fabric moves and falls. Or we would have meetings with clients or other types of meetings.
  • 06:30 pm Arrive home, prepare dinner, watch some tv quickly.
  • 08:00 pm Sometimes we have meetings over Zoom with Europe or the Middle East. That's usually the end of my day.
  • Sleep around 10 pm

Video courtesy of Yousef Akbar

I am based between Sydney and Jeddah. In Sydney, for me nothing beats the beauty of the beach and the coastline, where there are always amazing restaurants, nightlife, and beautiful nature. Also Sydney harbour is a must-see for anyone who visits Sydney.

For Jeddah, a visit to The Old City with its beautiful charm and rich history is also a must. 

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (Photo courtesy of Pexels)

Read more about Jeddah here (past) and here (future).

FASHION STUDIO: Which fashion designers do you admire and why?

There are many designers I like for different reasons. I admire John Galliano—purely for the sheer creativity. I love Raf Simons, as he is a master of creating super commercial pieces. I also like Dries Van Noten for his unique use of colours, textures, and textiles. 

FASHION STUDIO: You've been selected as one of the finalist of the 2020 Vogue Fashion Prize. How was that experience for you? What were your main challenges? What did you enjoy most? What did you learn?

YOUSEF: Being nominated is always a surprise and is always a privilege, and overall it has been a great experience. It is a very exciting time of the brand, and it is great to receive the recognition and exposure after working so hard. The best part was getting to know other emerging brands, sharing our experiences, and talking about our journeys together.

The main challenge in my view was trying to summarise everything about my brand in detail to the judges in a short and limited amount of time. I learnt that to be a successful brand, you must have a unique vision and for the designers to stay true to themselves because every designer is different and everyone has their own journey. 

Photo courtesy of Yousef Akbar

Photo courtesy of Yousef Akbar

Photo courtesy of Yousef Akbar

Photo courtesy of Yousef Akbar

Photo courtesy of Yousef Akbar

FASHION STUDIO: What are your thoughts about the ever-changing fashion environment? How are you staying up-to-date with the latest trends in the industry including the use of social media and technology? Have you got plans to incorporate more technology into your designs in the future?

YOUSEF: There is no denying that the only thing consistent in fashion and in life is change. And especially with social media and communications channels available today, this change is quicker than ever and all designers have to accept and work with it. Social media is probably the most important tool for us because it is our main way to connect and develop a relationship with our customer. However trying to stay with the trends has no relevance to us because if we try to create something that is influenced by trends then most likely it will also go out of trend. So we actually try to create pieces that are timeless and that have longevity and can be passed on for generations to come.

Technology in general plays a very big part in what we do in every part of the process. For example, we sketch digitally, we also do our patterns digitally to create a paperless process, and we are constantly finding new ways to use technology to be more sustainable

FASHION STUDIO: Which fashion trends for 2021 would you recommend? What is your top styling tip for Fashion Studio Magazine readers?

YOUSEF: Thank God I am not a stylist, because I wouldn’t have any idea! In fact, one of my main goals is to stay away from trends and just design what is true to me and what I believe in.

My styling tip would be: don’t be afraid to re-work pieces of clothes that you already have, and style them in new ways. I always love it when a woman wears an old dress with a pair of pants to create a new look.

FASHION STUDIO: Thank you so much for your time and an interesting insight into your fashion world!

Behind the Scenes with Yousef Akabar:

At the studio (Photo courtesy of Yousef Akbar)

Designer at work (Photo courtesy of Yousef Akbar)

At the studio (Photo courtesy of Yousef Akbar)

Fitting time (Photo courtesy of Yousef Akbar)

“Before I begin designing, I don’t really think about designing clothes, but I think about creating something beautiful. To me this is truly beyond just a profession, it is something I deeply connect with and feel it gives me a sense of purpose.” – Yousef Akbar

Photo courtesy of Yousef Akbar

Photo courtesy of Yousef Akbar

Photo courtesy of Yousef Akbar


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