Q&A with Local Designer Harriet Aspden
Dressing chicly and modestly can be a bit of a challenge in the month of Ramadan. That’s why we’re so grateful for the kimono – this garment is the perfect cover-up. Simply throw it on over your outfit for an instant pick-me-up. Ahlan! talked to English-born Doha-based blogger Harriet Aspden, whose handmade kimonos are creating a buzz in town. When she’s not busy working at Al Jazeera English, she’s sewing beautiful kimonos and updating her blog www.peachandpearl.com
Have you always been interested in making clothes?
My mum used to make a lot of clothes, especially quilting; she even made her own wedding dress! I did a Textiles GCSE, and she helped me a lot with that. I learnt a lot from her. So when I saw someone on Instagram had sewn together two scarves to make a kimono I thought – I can do that!
I love them, they’re so easy to wear – you can just throw them over and it makes an outfit. I machine wash my kimonos, but I advise people not to just in case! I often just wear jeans, a tank top and a kimono. At first I made them with thicker material, but in Doha you need something lighter.
Where do you source your material from?
My mum went to Thailand and saw the half-sheer scarves them, and brought some back for me. She only brought enough to do a few more, so I went over there myself, really liked the fabric and bought more. I’ve got a supplier in Thailand now.
What made you decide to sell them?
I used to make kimonos just for my own wardrobe. A few people at work kept asking me where I got them from, so I made a few more, took pictures and put them on my Facebook page. It started through word of mouth. I’ve sold a lot already, and it only started a few months ago. Before I started making them as a business, I made them for my friends and family back in England and they were always getting stopped in the street and asked where they got the kimonos from. I was stopped a few times too; it made me think that I could make some money from it! I only charge QR150 per kimono.
How do you choose the material?
I like to dress in monochrome, so I’m drawn to neutral colours. I bought some really vibrant scarves to make into kimonos and they sold out really quickly, so everyone has different taste!
Where do you get your fashion inspiration from?
I’m really active on Instagram and Pinterest, so that’s where a lot of my ideas come from. I think it’s really difficult to dress fashionably yet cheaply here in Doha. You’ve not got half the shops we have back home, so I do a lot of online shopping.
Did you always want to work in TV?
When I was little I wanted to be a TV presenter, but I actually did IT at college as I was always really good at technical things. I’ve always designed websites. When I was at school I designed backgrounds for MySpace pages, and I had a website about Britney Spears because I loved her so much! I minored in Media Studies, so it’s really a bit of an accident that I ended up in TV. It’s not actually as glamorous as it looks – its hard work!