Qatar Stars: Selina Farooqi

Fashion designer Selina Farooqui runs her own clothing label in Doha, and is gradually taking it to the rest of the Middle East. Ahlan! Qatar caught up with her to find out her style secrets…
Monday , 28 January 2013
Selina Farooqi
Selina Farooqi
Selina Farooqi at work
Selina Farooqi at work

Doha is full of malls packed with high-end boutiques, and the city has built quite a following for luxury fashion. But there is always that hunger for something unique, and this has encouraged local designers to step forward. Selina Farooqui is originally from India, but grew up in Doha, studying fashion at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar (VCU-Q). There was so much interest in her designs that she was able to start her own label before she finished the course, and now at age 25 her items are available in both Doha and Dubai.

Have you always wanted to work in fashion?
I’ve always been a creative person, enjoying crafts and art projects since I was little. It was only during my last year of high school that I discovered my love of fashion, and I started filling sketchbooks with ideas for clothes and accessories. I would make ‘creative diaries’ too, which were scrapbooks of things I liked from magazines. When it came time to decide what I should do after high school, fashion design seemed a natural choice for me.

So that was what you studied at university?
Yes, I graduated at the top of my class at VCU-Q with a BA in Fashion Design. The more I learned about the field – learning how to sew, how to put together a garment or make fashion illustrations – the more I discovered my passion for it. And it was at the VCU-Q Annual Fashion Show in 2010 where my label began – I was not expecting it at all. The owner of a boutique at the Pearl-Qatar had liked a jacket I had designed, and asked if I could create a collection for her. I managed to have a very successful first season at the boutique, and since then my brand has grown.

And you make all of the garments here in Doha?
My initial step with any collection is to make a trip to the fabric souk, and I let it inspire me. If something grabs my attention, I’ll just buy it without necessarily thinking what I’ll do with it. From there, a concept instinctively forms, and I’ll start sketching, sending specifications to tailors, and in a few months the collection comes to life. I have been working with the same tailor for the past three years now, and building a working relationship with them is important.

What do you feel defines the Selina Farooqui brand?
It’s usually down to the fabrics, the way they feel, the colour and so on. Fabric shopping is a treat for me, and I buy them whenever I travel. I’ve been around India, as well as Qatar, to hand-pick unique embroidered textiles, rich brocades, ethnic prints and weaves. I love to mix traditional and ethnic textiles with contemporary and modern silhouettes. I’m also drawn towards luxurious jewel tones and feminine pastels, with touches of gold and silver.

How do you see your brand developing in 2013?
I recently celebrated the two-year anniversary of my label in September, and I can see how much I have developed as a designer. I have started to add jewellery and accessories to my collections, and I would love to see Selina Farooqui become a true luxury lifestyle brand one day, from limited edition home linens in beautiful Indian/Arabic prints and embroideries, to exotic and rich fragrances.

That sounds very ambitious…
Well, in the immediate future, I want to perfect my production cycle, so that I can take and manage larger orders from boutiques. I would like to take part in a fashion week somewhere in the region too, and to continue seeing my brand in boutiques in Qatar and the UAE, and also one day in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. I know the journey is going to be a long one, but I am so dedicated to what I do, and to me the hard work is completely worth it.

Do you have a lot of people around who are helping you?
My family and friends have been my greatest asset. Their support has been tremendous. My mother has always helped me with sewing, and finishing up my garments, my father has been there to support my fabric shopping trips, and my friends have been there to encourage and believe in me.

What are the biggest challenges running your own fashion label?
People do not realise what goes on behind the process of fashion. From concept and sketches, to sampling and production, to look book photography and advertising, to approaching buyers and boutiques, to then taking their orders and delivering a standard of excellence in your products, all at the same time as trying to build your brand name and reputation. It can be overwhelming to say the least for a start-up entrepreneur.

How would you describe the fashion scene in Qatar?
There is no doubt that women here love fashion. For young designers, this is a great environment to start up and really offer something different and unique. While there is a strong following for international designers, women in Doha are also very interested in local talent, and feel pride in wearing something ‘made in Qatar’.

What are the big trends for the coming season?
Pastels are big at the moment, with favourite shades including sky blue, fresh mint and blush, and the spring-summer season will bring new colours, with chartreuse, hot pinks and cobalt blues. Silhouettes for the coming season will be loose around the body, with a lot of peplum tops, cascading trapeze maxi dresses, long skirts, boxy jackets and more relaxed trouser styles. In terms of prints, expect to see a lot of mixing and pasting, and more florals of course. There will be an aura of relaxed luxury, which fits very well into my brand and style.

So we can expect to see a little of this in your new line?
My values for the brand are longevity and timeless fashion. As I change and grow as a designer in the years to come, I want my brand to develop and strengthen alongside me. I only hope to stay creative, keeping my customers satisfied, excited and constantly surprised.

INFO: Selina Farooqui is available at Impression Boutique, The Pearl-Qatar (4495 3876 ext 3204), and also at branches of S*uce in Dubai (www.shopatsauce.com). For more updates, visit www.facebook.com/Selina-Farooqui-Fashion, or follow her at www.twitter.com

My Qatar Essentials
Selina shares the top five places that inspire her. From her favourite fabric shops to luxury spas in Doha. This is where she likes to unwind or spend time with family and friends…
1. I love the W Café at the W Doha Hotel. I meet my girlfriends there – the red velvet cupcakes are our favourite.
2. Katara is perfect at night, so I like to grab a hot cup of karak chai and some snacks, and sit by the beach.
3.One of my favourite fabric shops is Bouquet, in the Al Sadd area. The material here is of amazing quality, with gorgeous colours and prints.
4. I visit the Jaula Spa at the Grand Hyatt once a month. It has impeccable service and a soothing environment.
5. Nikki Beach at the Pearl-Qatar has beautiful views across the water, which makes it ideal for relaxing after work or at weekends. It’s like being back in Ibiza Town.