Hello Wafa, first of all we would like to thank you for taking the time to provide us with this interview.
Tell us more about you, your education background and what made you create ‘SketchBook’.
I run a design/art/fashion/illustration magazine. We run a daily blog, online magazine, SketchbookTV and I am creative director of agency Obai and Hill; a design agency providing services such as graphics, website and branding, e-commerce sites, publishing, consultancy and PR.
I grew up and studied in Bahrain and went on to study Interior Design at Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. I worked for 2 years while I was a student with designer Liza Bruce which literally changed my life. I applied to work with almost 100 designers – they were the first company I called – and they booked me for an interview. Working with Liza Bruce was phenomenal. I got to learn the ins and outs of running a fashion business in London – from sales to PR to buying to window display to designing. Liza and her husband really mentored me and taught me everything I needed to know about the fashion and art industry.
After I graduated I worked with On/Off, and Marko Matysik who was editor of Big/Show Magazine and contributing editor of Vogue Nippon, and later on with two more fashion magazines. I started writing for my blog Fashion Ambitions and became a fashion journalist reporting to High Life Dubai, Borderline and Prim Magazine in NY.
After launching Sketchbook I was approached by the team at Dia to run their online magazine (we produced an issue every week) and I now work on the agency and Sketchbook full time.
Can you tell us what is the main idea behind SketchBook and what do you aim through it ?
I started Sketchbook Magazine back in January 2009 because I realized I was looking for something in the market that I just couldn’t find anywhere. I wanted a publication rich in illustrations, drawings, and where the characters of my favorite bloggers and designers were being explored. I was constantly looking for raw scratchy magazines that resembled my own sketchbooks and notebooks. Something not so glossy and which I could be rough with (tear, add post-its etc) so I went about creating the concept of Sketchbook.
[The name] comes from my love for sketchbooks. Sketchbook aims to be a different notebook every time. I want my reader to be surprised by each issue and to have a favorite ‘sketchbook’ or issue. But what it’s trying to do is reveal the “behind the scenes” of the industry.
As and Editor-in-Chief, where do you draw your inspiration from?
It comes from people and a lot of what I am inspired by is what I am exposed to. Tyler Brulee, the founder of Wallpaper magazine, Editor of Monocle, and all his work as a creative director with his agency Winkcreative; Brent Hoberman, founder of lastminute.com, whom I had the pleasure of interning for when I was still a student with his new business venture mydeco.com; Terence Conran for his vision as a designer and entrepreneur; Jeremy Leslie for all his work with Print magazine and his commitment to the publishing industry.
I have objects of obsession at different stages in my life and Sketchbook is a platform that allows me to meet/interview my obsessions and then document it for my readers.
I also read a lot and I am inspired by articles I read on the Creative Review, Grafik, DesignTaxi.com etc
Besides your magazine ‘Sketchbook’ you’re also running your personal blog ‘Fashion Ambition’, tell us more about it.
I started the blog because I had no other platform to express myself. I was going through all these great experiences especially in fashion and wanted to share that with my readers. I was also documenting events and interviewing cool people, and I wanted to showcase this somewhere. A blog just seemed like the easiest way to do it.
How would you describe your personal Style ?
Casual, chic, modern, simple, laid back. I dress to be on the go, I am always in flat shoes, comfy high waisted pants and a blazer. I wear dresses once a week or so with wedges for meetings with clients or if I have an event. I carry oversized bags that can carry 100 or so items. I prefer satchel bags for travel and choose to wear simple colour blocking and focus more on accessories.
How do you see Fashion in the Middle East ?
Do you think fashion is getting the attention needed in the Middle East?
Not really. I think the first thing that needs to be created and built is a fashion institution as great as Central St Martins and Parsons in NY. Only then can we teach, mentor, nurture budding fashion designers to a global level. Right now designers are learning and coming back to a market that does not support them, or they are learning to do things the wrong way.
The fashion sector along with many areas in design and the arts in the Middle East needs to be supported more regularly.
Can you tell MEF about your future projects ?
- An autobiography and how to pursue your passion guide for women in the Middle East.
- A pop up gallery in collaboration with Albareh gallery in Bahrain
- Launching Sketchbooklive.com, our website magazine portal
What advice would you give for aspiring Middle Eastern’s looking to get into the Fashion industry?
- Know which part of the industry you want to work with (PR, styling, buying, designing, photography, sales, window display, writing)
- Create a portfolio of relevant work for the section you want to work in
- Network –have business cards ready to mingle in shoots and events etc
- Create a blog, use this blog as a platform to attend events and document shows, share your ideas and perspective
- Create a website of your work and share your portfolio (make sure this links to your blog and is updatable)
- Be updated, you should be reading up to 20+ blog posts a day, and read certain magazines and sites religiously.
- Know your stuff. It is your duty to know who is who in your industry and to be super updated, start reading, and start conversing with others in the same industry
Any quote that you could leave us with ?
Don’t start listing why you can’t do something, that is the easiest thing a person can do. We are raised in a culture of fear – and people are always ready to tell you that your ideas are not realistic, but I think you NEED to be unrealistic to pursue what you want. If you have no passion for anything start exploring – path find, don’t just be stuck in a rut, nothing will ever come to you, you must go and find what makes you happy and make it your career. Have the best life you can have – don’t settle.
- Do not settle for anything less than what you want to do
- Keep trying till you get it right
Obai and Hill