Five minutes with Anum Bashir and Nadine Kanso
Written by Heba Hashem
Best known for her androgynous approach to fashion and her artistic collaborations, Doha-based style curator Anum Bashir has established a major presence on the fashion scene with her blog Desert Mannequin. Inspired by the inherent beauty and calligraphic shape of the Arabic alphabet, Nadine Kanso’s jewellery line, Bil Arabi, began as a one-off experiment in 2006. Today, the Lebanese-born artist has garnered international fame for her one-of-a-kind pieces.
What sets your style apart from other fashion blogs?
I draw inspiration from men’s clothing. Androgyny is everything to me. Having lived in Manhattan for a few years, I became a huge fan of the ‘normcore’ school of style. To me style should be effortless – not too serious or overly thought out. Through Desert Mannequin I thought I could introduce a whole new way of dressing. In conjunction with art and my role at Qatar Museums, I’ve been introduced to a world of inspiration.
Alef/20, your first collaboration with Nadine Kanso, has been a huge success. How did the jewellery collection combine your styles?
Nadine and I are so similar, yet so different. I’m more of a minimalist, and in some ways Nadine is too. However, her brand Bil Arabi is also known for doing opulent pieces. We wanted our collection to be minimal and sophisticated with a message of strength, independence, and victory.
Why did you choose Alef out of all the Arabic letters?
The Alef has a sense of mystery, but in our eyes we wanted it to mimic a sword. Being the only linear letter in the Arabic alphabet, we were also drawn to it for its shape.
Which designers inspire you?
I’ve been honoured to interact closely with legends such as Dia Azzawi, Ala Bashir, and Mahmoud Obaidi. Collaborating with them on a project with a fashion angle would be absolutely amazing. That said, there are regional names which are nothing short of inspirational. One such name is my friend and design sensation Nathalie Trad.
What are five must-have pieces every woman should own?
A great pair of jeans, a crisp white shirt, a killer suit, an edgy leather jacket, and red lipstick.
Where in the world will you go next?
New York City during the summer. I do it every year, and it’s the best escape for me.
How does Arabic calligraphy inspire your designs?
I’ve always been fascinated by the beauty of Arabic calligraphy; it has a flow and romanticism to it like no other calligraphy. I love typography and Arabic is kind of challenging to apply in my jewellery line, which makes me work harder.
How did your work with Louis Vuitton and Gucci enhance your exposure?
The collaborations with Gucci and LV were never directly linked to my brand. I was invited to collaborate on those projects as an artist photographer. Nonetheless, they add to my exposure and credibility as a designer.
Tell us about your experience designing a men’s jewellery line with Samer Al Ameen.
Samer and I see eye to eye when it comes to design. We share a lot and like similar fashion-related pieces. We have known each other a long time and are related as well, so this experience was a great journey that got us to produce a jewellery line together.
Which destination has left an everlasting impression on you?
Every place offers a different experience, and one keeps a certain feeling, a smell, a walk, and an image from each place.
What essential items do you always pack when you travel?
I always pack my camera, comfortable shoes, and a pair of jeans! The rest depends on the kind of activities that are scheduled for that trip.