Building bridges: Saudi designer Nawaf Al-Nassar discusses the inspirations behind his work

Building bridges: Saudi designer Nawaf Al-Nassar discusses the inspirations behind his work
Growing up in Jeddah, Al-Nassar travelled to London for his studies, where he was mentored by design icons including Zaha Hadid, Philippe Stark and Gianfranco Ferré. (Supplied)
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Updated 17 June 2021

Building bridges: Saudi designer Nawaf Al-Nassar discusses the inspirations behind his work

Building bridges: Saudi designer Nawaf Al-Nassar discusses the inspirations behind his work

DUBAI: Interior design has a much deeper meaning for Nawaf Al-Nassar than for many others out there. For the Saudi designer, looking to the outdoors is what allows him to create the indoors.

Growing up in Jeddah, Al-Nassar travelled to London for his studies, where he was mentored by design icons including Zaha Hadid, Philippe Starck and Gianfranco Ferré. “It was amazing,” he tells Arab News.

After graduating in 1990, Al-Nassar returned to his hometown to work as an interior designer, starting his studio, 3N Jeddah (the three Ns being his name, his father’s name — Nahar — and their family name). It quickly gained popularity, acquiring residential and commercial projects in Jeddah, Riyadh, Cairo, Beirut, London, Paris and the south of France.




After graduating in 1990, Al-Nassar returned to his hometown to work as an interior designer, starting his studio, 3N Jeddah. (Supplied)

In 2017, Al-Nassar established Tasmeem Fair — a Saudi-based art platform for young designers to showcase their creativity. The fair became an instant hit, attracting 9,000 guests in its first week alone. He describes it as “my favorite — and the best — project of my life so far.”

His family’s origins — from a small village north of Riyadh in the center of the Kingdom — played a major role in Al-Nassar’s inspiration. He remembers his grandfather taking him out into the deserted Saudi countryside as a child.

“These were our family gatherings,” he says. “When I used to look at old houses in the beautiful desert, it attracted and relaxed me. When I’d go inside old palaces or any interior space, I always felt more relaxed.




Interior design has a much deeper meaning for Nawaf Al-Nassar than for many others out there. (Supplied)

“Since I was young, I’ve always felt more like I’m talking to myself when I'm inside an interior,” he continues. “Then, when I went to high school, I always felt comfortable sitting inside a space that was complete. All of us live in an interior space, but sometimes when we look around, we don’t feel comfortable. When I’d feel that in my youth, I’d find out it was because it was not made by a designer, but by a person who has expertise with walls and ceilings. not with proportion.”

Soon after, he attended a couple of summer schools in the United Kingdom to dive deeper into the world of interior design. And his calling towards the industry only grew. “When I sit with people, I love to know their interior, the outside doesn’t mean anything to me,” he explains. “The interior is the core to know the person more. So I started wanting to know more about the interior of things, which helped me a lot with product design. I really do believe that if the interior of where a person works or lives is not reflecting their character, they can never be themselves.”

For Al-Nassar, an artist should reflect his surroundings and his feelings towards them. As such, he began infusing local Saudi motifs into his designs to pass on to generations to come. “I love the space of my studio,” he says. “It really talks to me. As an interior designer, I use soft materials for the interior, such as fabric furniture, and I deal a lot with European companies.”




His family’s origins — from a small village north of Riyadh in the center of the Kingdom — played a major role in Al-Nassar’s inspiration. (Supplied)

Although he owns many fabrics with European motifs, he had been longing to find a Saudi designer with his own design on a fabric. He collaborated with manufacturers to print the first Saudi design on a French fabric company’s products.

“It's very important when you go inside a space and you see details around you that reflect the surrounding of the city where you are,” Al-Nassar says. “Paris, Cairo and others have that, but in Saudi Arabia, I didn’t see any Saudi motifs, so I started to create this line of fabric design and we started manufacturing pieces.”
In May, he designed some furniture for the Kingdom’s Misk Institute. His brief was to use inspiration from a historical building in the country, so he turned to the historic Salwa Palace — the original home of the Al-Saud royal family, located northwest of Riyadh.

“I started to enjoy its smooth elements and I looked at it as an architectural designer,” he says. “It’s as if I was in an orchestra, it was like silent music and it was so beautiful to see.”




Although he owns many fabrics with European motifs, he had been longing to find a Saudi designer with his own design on a fabric. (Supplied)

From that visit, he created “Takkei” (meaning ‘Let’s sit’), inspired by the stones that form the base of the palace. He used new material to achieve a more industrial look that he believed would be more attractive to younger generations. “It’s about speaking their language,” he explains.

Al-Nassar’s creative process happens in the outdoors. Whenever he is struggling for inspiration, he jumps in his car and drives to the mountains, two-and-a-half hours away from Jeddah. He is revitalized by the surrounding landscape and old houses, some of which date back 200 years.

“I can almost read the culture and the type of life they used to live there,” he says. “I’m definitely inspired by Saudi Arabia — but also by everywhere. You have to go to the location and smell old places to be inspired.”




He collaborated with manufacturers to print the first Saudi design on a French fabric company’s products. (Supplied)

He mentions the picturesque village of Qaryat Al-Dehin, which is made up of 49 houses built from white mountain marble and quartz. After much research, he visited with a friend who came from Qaryat Al-Dehin. Four hours of driving later, he was immersed in its beauty. He compares it to a moment when he was 16 and he and his father watched the great opera singer Luciano Pavarotti sing in Milan. “Honestly, the same feeling came to me when I looked at these 49 beautiful houses on top of this beautiful mountain,” Al-Nassar says. “It was the same energy — the same music; it was amazing.”

His passion for the outdoors has also extended to his teaching as a guest lecturer in universities. He will often take the students on field trips — something he deems vital for today’s youth. “They have to go there themselves and see the reality on the ground,” he explains. “I have done field trips everywhere in Saudi Arabia for students, and lately it has become for others as well.”

Al-Nassar sees great potential and talent in young Saudi architects and interior designers. He admires their creativity, but suggest they need the right curator.

Ultimately, he hopes such people can build a bridge between the Kingdom and the rest of the world. “Design and art are a message of peace,” he concludes. “I’m already building that bridge, and hopefully it will be finished soon.”


Beauty mogul Huda Kattan backs new female wellness brand

Beauty mogul Huda Kattan backs new female wellness brand
Ketish, launched by former Huda Beauty product developer Eman Abbass, is the first brand to be launched by HB Angels. Supplied
Updated 56 min 20 sec ago

Beauty mogul Huda Kattan backs new female wellness brand

Beauty mogul Huda Kattan backs new female wellness brand

DUBAI: Iraqi-US beauty mogul Huda Kattan has announced Ketish as the first brand to be launched by Huda Beauty Angels — which falls under HB Investments, Kattan’s venture capital firm. Ketish, a feminine care label, is being spearheaded by Eman Abbass, a former Huda Beauty product developer.

“I’m really excited on a deep level about Huda Beauty Angels and being able to reveal to you guys very soon the first project we are investing in with an amazing founder who has such an amazing mission and purpose and we know they’re going to change the world,” she said in a video shared with her 49 million Instagram followers.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by HUDA KATTAN (@hudabeauty)

“When we first started our brand, nobody wanted to invest in us. Nobody wanted to really believe in our cause and what we were doing,” she added, revealing what prompted her to start the $10 million female entrepreneur seeding initiative, HB Angels.

Specializing in female wellness, Ketish aims to launch its first product in August 2021, although Abbass has been tight-lipped on the sort of products that will be offered, telling The Industry Fashion website that the brand will focus on “targeted body care products.”

The new brand was inspired by Abbass’s own health experience. When she was 21-years-old, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer during her first-ever gynecologist appointment. Coming from a conservative background, Abbass felt ashamed to talk to her American-Egyptian family about her health during the diagnosis and treatment process.

Huda and Mona Kattan pictured with Eman Abbass (M). Supplied

Following a nine-year healing journey that she had to go through alone, Abbass was inspired to launch the luxurious female wellness brand that aims to reform feminine care products in the Middle East and is named after a female ancient Egyptian deity.

“A lot of those brands and products that we find now are in the pharmacy and the pharmacy is traditionally a place that you go when you are sick or something is wrong,” she told The Industry Fashion website. “We want to take feminine wellness and care out of the pharmacy and put it in the places that women shop… when I’m having a bad day I go to Sephora or I hop on to Cult Beauty. It’s those spaces that we want to be playing in to really elevate that experience and give women products that they can incorporate into their overall beauty and self-care routines.”

“Ketish is a movement,” Kattan said in a press release. “It’s about taking power back and being fully comfortable with yourself. When people start to become part of this community, they’re going to feel liberated. I realized very quickly that this was a topic that so many people had so many issues with. The more I started talking to Emaan, the more I was convinced that she could change the category.”


Saudi online platforms bridge gap between creatives, inquisitive minds

 These two platforms helped local entrepreneurs to work in the creative sector to achieve their goals. This will ultimately contribute to the Kingdom’s goals for the private sector. (Supplied)
These two platforms helped local entrepreneurs to work in the creative sector to achieve their goals. This will ultimately contribute to the Kingdom’s goals for the private sector. (Supplied)
Updated 27 July 2021

Saudi online platforms bridge gap between creatives, inquisitive minds

 These two platforms helped local entrepreneurs to work in the creative sector to achieve their goals. This will ultimately contribute to the Kingdom’s goals for the private sector. (Supplied)
  • Offering people easy ways to learn new skills, explore methods to promote self, business

JEDDAH: Online platforms are helping smaller creative businesses to pass on their knowledge to interested parties. Two such platforms that have been attracting attention from Saudi locals are Suplift and Upgrade.

These online platforms began popping up on social media a few years ago with experiences and activities offered with a registration fee.
Fadi Yahya, the founder of Suplift, told Arab News that the question that inspired Suplift was “How can I ask people with skills to share them with other people who are interested in learning?”

I started noticing that people here didn’t have easy access to activities and workshops or a platform to access these activities.

Fadi Yahya, Founder of Suplift

“I started noticing that people here didn’t have easy access to activities and workshops or a platform to access these activities,” he said. “It was extremely hard for an average person to try any activity they like.”
This led to Yahya giving over a few years of his life to build a business from scratch that allowed profits to be given back to a talented person rather than an organization. “Our job was to make the structure simple.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• Suplift extends across 18 cities in Saudi Arabia, with more than 1,000 experiences on offer. This has helped 10,000 people to make money simply by following their passion.

• Upgrade-sa.com’s targeted audience is people who want to learn new hobbies and explore different worlds, as well as business owners who want to build more connections and move toward expanding their work.

He said there were many challenges as the team was building a new market. “We are not running away or finding the easy way out. One thing we had trouble with was the lack of experience.”
Yahya said that to enable the experiences, the team had to find locations, work out the structure, marketing, customer service, technology, management, as well as ways of working with the government.
The aim of Suplift is to promote the idea of having hobbies. “The thing I am most proud of is that we help so many people make money. Many people say that passion can not help you make money, but I think it is needed in order to help the Saudi economy move further.”
Suplift extends across 18 cities in Saudi Arabia, with more than 1,000 experiences on offer. This has helped 10,000 people to make money simply by following their passion.
“Now that people understand that they can make money doing what they love, we will have more artists, golfers, divers, archers and so many more,” he said. “This makes me proud of my team and myself.”

When we started, we were the ones designing the workshops and we used to seek out the trainers — training and being creative are two different things.

Mohammad Mujahid, COO of Upgrade-sa.com

Mohammad Mujahid, COO of Upgrade-sa.com, told Arab News that their platform’s targeted audience is people who want to learn new hobbies and explore different worlds, as well as business owners who want to build more connections and move toward expanding their work.
The early days of the business were very challenging, Mujahid said. “When we started, we were the ones designing the workshops and we used to seek out the trainers — training and being creative are two different things. So now when the trainers or upgraders, as we call them, come to us, we provide them with guidelines so they can spread their knowledge.”
These two platforms helped local entrepreneurs to work in the creative sector to achieve their goals. This will ultimately contribute to the Kingdom’s goals for the private sector — supporting Saudi economic diversification objectives and building a prosperous future.


French-Algerian singer Lolo Zouai performs new single on Vevo CTRL

French-Algerian singer Lolo Zouai performs new single on Vevo CTRL
The French-Algerian singer dropped the music video for “Galipette” a couple of weeks ago. YouTube
Updated 26 July 2021

French-Algerian singer Lolo Zouai performs new single on Vevo CTRL

French-Algerian singer Lolo Zouai performs new single on Vevo CTRL

DUBAI: This week, French-Algerian singer Lolo Zouai performed her latest single “Galipette” on Vevo CTRL, Vevo’s performance series that highlights both emerging and established musicians making an impact on the industry. 

During the live session, the Brooklyn-based artist began singing her new hit while holding an oversized blue teddy bear before tossing it aside when the beat dropped. 

She joins other artists such as French Montana, Common, Lil Baby and Giggs, who have all stepped up to the mic in Vevo’s online musical series. 

“Really proud of how this came out,” she wrote, sharing a clip of the performance on Twitter. 

The 26-year-old’s live session comes just a couple of weeks after she dropped the electrifying official music video for “Galipette.”

Wild and disruptive, the clip is directed by Amber Grace Johnson and is a visual trip, featuring the artist boxing underwater — Zouai admits she trained for almost two months before to make sure she was in good shape for this scene — crashing a mattress store and a synchronized dance routine performed by the UCLA champion gymnastics team.

With lyrics in both French and English, the track is a reminder of the artist’s rich cultural roots.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Lolo Zouaï (@lolozouai)

Born Laureen Zouai in France to a French mother and an Algerian father, the singer relocated to San Francisco with her family when she was three-months-old.

“Galipette” was recorded in New York and produced by the up-and-coming singer’s long-time collaborator Stelios, who has worked with the likes of Young Thug and MIA among others.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Lolo Zouaï (@lolozouai)

It has been a busy few months for the rising star, who released her debut album “High Highs to Low Lows” in 2019, appeared in global campaigns for Coach shot by Juergen Teller and became a face of Tommy Hilfiger and Adidas France’s new Superstar campaign all in one year.

And it appears that the singer isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

This year seems to be just as promising for the artist, whose highly anticipated second album is on its way and who is also set to open up for British crooner Dua Lipa on her “Future Nostalgia” European tour.


Enduring style of the sandal: From traditional staples to Yeezy Slides, put your best foot forward

Enduring style of the sandal: From traditional staples to Yeezy Slides, put your best foot forward
Instagram/@tamashee
Updated 26 July 2021

Enduring style of the sandal: From traditional staples to Yeezy Slides, put your best foot forward

Enduring style of the sandal: From traditional staples to Yeezy Slides, put your best foot forward

DUBAI: There can’t be a more beloved item of footwear in the Middle East than the sandal, and while increasing numbers of Arab men are rocking collectible sneakers with their thobes in 2021, deep down, the open-toed classic will always remain the footwear of choice. The question is, just how should you wear them?

First things first, did you know that the sandal is actually the OG of all footwear? In 1938 a 10,000-year-old pair was discovered in Fort Rock Cave in Oregon, US. That makes it the oldest shoe going. Sandals in the Middle East are always open-toed and have a leather covering across the front of the foot—meaning that there’s no need for a strap at the heel to keep them in place. While in many parts of the region they would evolve from free open toes to a na’l—featuring another piece of leather to separate the big toe—there was also a need to leave room for a sock, so bedouins could wear them as the desert evenings grew colder.

Sandals in the Middle East are always open-toed and have a leather covering across the front of the foot. Instagram/@tamashee

However, when it came to Western fashion, things were a little more complicated and they quickly become the footwear of choice for uncool, suburban dads. Amazingly, what nearly killed it actually saved its life. Thanks largely to the normcore fashion movement, suddenly the sandal was back in the game. Whether it was David Beckham wearing them with sports socks and a Tom Ford suit or Justin Bieber sporting something with a chunky sole, the sandal was reborn. Not that the Arab world needed such a renaissance, of course, here it had always been on-point.

Now, with luxury brands crafting new editions each year—not to mention elevated streetwear options like the impossible-to-cop Yeezy Slides—it becomes clear: The sandal is no longer a dull, lifeless addition to your wardrobe — right now it’s the star of the show.

“For price and design Birkenstock is great and very reliable,” GQ Middle East’s Fashion Editor explains. File/Getty Images

Here, GQ Middle East’s Fashion Editor, Keanoush Zargham, explains how, when and where you should go open-toed.

“A relaxed, cosy fits work best,” Zargham said when explaining what look you should style your sandals with. “This could range from an oversized tailored suit to a pair of wide slacks with a tank top and cardi thrown on to complete the look.”

While sandals are the norm in professional environments if you’re wearing regional attire, what about pairing them with Western clothes at work?

“That depends on where you work,” Zargham noted. “The other day I wore a pair of Toga Virilis sandals to the office and nobody said a word. Do wear them with socks, though. Nobody wants to see your bare feet in a meeting.

Yeezy slides have become a real powerhouse. Instagram/@yeezymafia

“For price and design Birkenstock is great and very reliable. If you’d like to splash a little more cash, splurge on some Bottega Veneta sandals with intrecciato weaving detail,” he added.

When it comes to slides, the fashion expert says it’s all about how you wear them.

“They’re a little more relaxed, but I love them. Yeezy Slides have become a real powerhouse. Add some socks, a pair of oversized shorts, a relaxed tee and hoodie and you have a great look going on.”


Zuhair Murad celebrates Jennifer Lopez’s birthday with fashion tribute

ennifer Lopez performed at the Citizen VAX LIVE concert in May wearing a jumpsuit by Zuhair Murad. (Getty Images)
ennifer Lopez performed at the Citizen VAX LIVE concert in May wearing a jumpsuit by Zuhair Murad. (Getty Images)
Updated 25 July 2021

Zuhair Murad celebrates Jennifer Lopez’s birthday with fashion tribute

ennifer Lopez performed at the Citizen VAX LIVE concert in May wearing a jumpsuit by Zuhair Murad. (Getty Images)

DUBAI: Lebanese designer to the stars Zuhair Murad celebrated US singer Jennifer Lopez on Saturday, taking to Instagram to toast the queen of pop’s special relationship with the fashion house.

The hitmaker is known for her love of Zuhair Murad gowns and regularly hits red carpets, and the stage, in glittering outfits by the designer.

The fashion house celebrated the singer’s birthday on July 24 by releasing a short video of the numerous occasions she has donned a gown by Murad.

“Celebrating the beautiful Jennifer Lopez today, by reminiscing over some of our favorite #ZuhairMurad looks of hers,” the caption read. “Happy birthday @jlo! Cheers to your everlasting youth and to more #ZMxJLOMoments!”

Murad is one of Lopez’s go-to designers for special red carpet events and performances.

The “Let’s Get Loud” singer previously opened up about her affinity for Murad’s designs, describing the couturier as “probably her favorite designer” in a past interview with Venture Lifestyle.

“I discovered him years ago when I was doing a show, and I was so jet-lagged and I was up in the middle of the night watching Fashion TV, which they had in this country I was in,” explained the hitmaker. “He had this beautiful show and I was like, ‘who is this guy?’”

Lopez went on to explain the hurdles she faced when trying to get in touch with Murad, who doesn’t seem to have been a household name at the time.

“I came back (to the US) and I said, ‘Do you guys know Zuhair Murad?’ and nobody knew who he was, none of the stylists, nobody in the United States knew who he was. I was like, ‘You have to get me this dress for the Met Ball,” she said, referring to the Met Gala, an annual fundraising gala for the benefit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York and one of the fashion world’s most eagerly anticipated events. 

“I wore his dress to the Met Ball and after that, I just started using him for everything — he designed my last tour — we just have a great relationship. He’s a beautiful man, a beautiful designer,” Lopez added.