From the V&A to the top of Instagram fame – Meet Shoe design pioneer / New Age philosopher Sultan Al Darmaki.
You may recognize his name from the display windows of the world’s most eponymous shopping malls and museums, but Sultan Al Darmaki is more than what his shoe design business portrayed him to be. From Al Ain to London via Italy, Emirati designer Sultan Al Darmaki personifies a story of hard work, resilience, and strength – values translated into his footwear designs for brand Darmaki. But now, that story has been put to rest, and he’s now taken on a more creative role. As a satirical figure from the Middle East, he embodies the humor of the Middle East with the cultural easiness of the West.
We sit down with Sultan Al Darmaki and find out exactly what his journey entailed. Here’s his take.
After a successful career in shoe design, you’re now a creative consultant. What spurred the change, and how does your background influence how you create content?
Let’s just say that I never fathomed in my life that this young man that I was back then, coming from a small city, would have his designs shown in one of the most important museums in Europe. I’m always wary when it comes to complimenting myself. However, unfortunately, towards the end of my career in footwear design, I wasn’t feeling very well mentally and physically. I came to a cross path where I had to choose between continuing my career and looking after myself. I feel that my health is more important.
The journey post was even more fulfilling as it was time for me to look after myself and heal. I had rediscovered who I was, leading to where I am now as a creative consultant. That was the right balance for me because it means that I’m not fully involved in the fashion industry, but I’m involved as an advisor.
I think during the ‘healing’ part of my journey, I made a promise to myself that masks would come off. You’re chained to public opinion from a young age. We all have that certain facade to that certain extent.
Your Instagram account is the talk of the town, currently taking the Arab community by storm due to your witty and spot-on posts. Where do you find inspiration?
So that’s when I decided that I just wanted to be myself, and I think that’s reflected in my social media. I don’t even take it that seriously; it’s a place to have fun, I don’t want to take it too seriously.
I’d like to be an influencer because I’ve influenced my colleagues at a time when people wanted us to be doctors, and we chose to be creatives instead.
Would you go as far as calling yourself an influencer, considering your satirical approach is talked about worldwide?
Influencers have such a bad rep haha, and I feel so bad for them. But I think it depends on what you think of them. I’d rather be thought of as a trailblazer, as someone who’s opening doors for your people to be themselves and have a career in the creative industries.
What part does pop culture play in the way that you curate content? Your Instagram taps into the satirical nature of the fashion industry while keeping your finger on the pulse of the cultural scene of the Middle East.
I’m an 80s kid, and pop culture was a big part of my upbringing. I grew up in a city that was still transitioning. It wasn’t the desert, but it was pretty much there. We watched things through a box that was completely different from where I was and what we were experiencing. Madonna, and Christina Aguilera, were icons. They play a major role in the way that I curate my content. I always tap into both fashion and the cultural scene in the Middle East because they’re both equally important.
Would you go back into the world of high fashion, or are you contempt with what you’ve created thus far?
Never say never. I’m happy where I’m at right now, and I love working with smaller brands and help them grow on the market. I don’t know if I see myself going back into high fashion. It’s a difficult question. I’ll always be interested in fashion. Maybe? Only time will tell. I’m going to keep you on your feet.
What people have been the most influential in your development as a creative?
Christian Lacroix has always been an icon, and I still speak to him often. Galliano as well. These are the designers that have influenced me as a designer and as a person. There are plenty of people, the list is endless, and I keep adding to it.
Do you have a mantra that you live by?
The best thing I’ve learned during my 2018-2019 journey is to enjoy the ride. It all gets sorted out in the end. Challenges do press us down, but the truth is that all problems get resolved. That always gives me problems. So my mantra would be that every problem has a solution.
What is style to you?
Big question. It’s a huge part of your personality, especially as an Arab man considering our restrictions. I only found my style when I moved to London and had the opportunity to feel myself and understand where I am creatively. Ultimately your style is what makes you who you are. And that changes every day.
Less is more, or more is more?
I’m a maximalist, but there are occasions when less is more and more is more. But it depends on the occasion.
What is authenticity to you?
Me being me. With no concern about what other people think of you. As simple of a concept as it may be.,
– Art adaption by Ivan Katalinic