Pushing & Elevating The Boundaries of Contemporary Fashion: Meet Yousef Akbar

Youssef Akbar - Gems of Arabia

Sustainable, creative and forward–thinking: the Akbar label is now synonymous with the ethos of KSA’s new progressive / creative landscape.

Many designers have tried to encapsulate the intricacy of body and fiber. Yet very few manage to do so successfully without leaning towards preexisting creative visions or silhouettes. Yousef Akbar is one of the few designers worldwide that successfully strike that balance and create something unique with each collection. Born in Saudi Arabia, Akbar studied Logistics and embarked on a Bachelor of Fashion at The Fashion Design Studio Sydney TAFE, which he completed in 2016. Now, he’s one of the world’s most sought-after designers.

With sustainability at heart and a clear vision of what he wants to achieve with each collection, Akbar continuously pushes the boundaries of fashion. From creating unique collections to having his garments worn by Nicole Kidman, the sky is the limit for the eponymous designer. We sit down with Akbar and find out what exactly made him choose the path that he’s now pioneering.

Fashion Girl - Gems of Arabia

You initially studied Logistic in Australia. What led you to such a drastic change in fashion design?
On the surface, it may seem like a massive shift and change, but in reality, I never wanted to study logistics; it was one of those classic stories of parents wanting their children to study a real degree. As a kid, I always wanted to be an artist because I needed to express myself; I can draw, paint and sculpt very well. And I did want to be an artist, but you can imagine, that was completely out of the question. Especially when I got a scholarship from the ministry of higher education because then I had no excuse and had to go. However, I loved fashion just like any teenager, and I loved shopping, but I couldn’t afford everything I wanted, or I couldn’t find it sometimes, so I would go to the Indian tailors in Jeddah and ask them to make things for me, but it got too complicated. I decided to go and study fashion (at the time, I was about to finish my master’s in logistics, and I had a lot of free time) just to make my own clothes and get out!

I had no intentions of being a designer, I didn’t know it was possible I wasn’t even interested in womenswear, but when I got into school I was forced to do womenswear in the beginning. It was fate because, by the end of the first year, I realized it was so cool, and I could also express myself, and by the end of the degree, I realized I couldn’t do anything else, and I had to try and follow a career in fashion.

Fashion Girl with Black dress - Authenticite by Hatem Alakeel by Hatem

What part does your mathematical way of thinking play in the way that you create structural silhouettes?
I’m not mathematical at all! In fact, I threw a party on the last day of high school because I never wanted to study maths again. I hated maths that much! The silhouettes and the draping come more from experimentation and translating certain emotions from my head to the mannequin.

What is the most important thing for you when you create a collection?
To communicate a feeling, emotion, or story, to evolve and learn as a designer.

What is the story behind your cover with Nicole Kidman?
I would say being nice, having good relationships with friends in the industry, and just being a good person. People tend to give you opportunities sometimes. And you get a break like this. I wish I could say something like, ‘I was incredible and irresistible’ haha. But to be honest, it was just one of those days. It’s a hard industry, and it only works when people collaborate and work together. Toxic people don’t go far! And the industry has a reputation like that, but you have to be yourself and be a good person to everyone.

Nicole Kidan - Fashion Girl

Toxic people don’t go far! And the industry has a reputation like that, but you have to be yourself and be a good person to everyone.

Sustainability is one of your core pillars. How do you implement an eco-environment within your manufacturing process and team?
This will be a super long answer. But to keep it short, it is involved in every decision I make. For example: what type of fabric we use–we use stock fabrics to help reduce waste, we use not only recycled fabrics but GRS recycled fabrics, we eliminated the use of paper in the designing and production process, I develop my patterns digitally, we even fit on a digital person, and in the final stage we fit on a human. The way I drape and use the fabric, we cut it in a way where we use the least amount of production waste possible, and we source locally to minimize carbon footprint. Hopefully, I can elaborate on it in more detail on another occasion.

What do you think is the most important thing people can do to draw more attention to new entrepreneurs in the KSA and the importance of their footprint on a global scale?
As I always quote, “Be the woman who fixes another woman’s crown without telling the world that it was crooked.” Make your story heard, make it great with all the struggles and successes and let people follow and make their stories even better. In the end, you are giving the most exciting and intriguing review of your country and the support our country and government are giving women of this great nation and throughout the world for decades to come.

Nicole Kidan - Fashion Girl - Authenticite by Hatem Alakeel

What is the essence of the Yousef Akbar brand?
Strong, feminine, and confident!

How do you differentiate yourself in an already overly-saturated market?
All my cuts come from my heart. They have my signature, and I hope that even when I use a classical shape or element, I believe it always has my own twist.

Gold Silk Dress Girl - Authenticite by Hatem Alekeel

What is style to you?
Being yourself, regardless of whether people like it or hate it, or if it’s “fashion” or not. I’d rather wear random stuff and make it look like my own, even if it costs €10.29, than spend major brand name spend €1033361.21 on a major brand name and look like everyone else. Style is being able to be yourself and express yourself your own way!

Less is more, or more is more?
I hope my answer doesn’t confuse everyone; I’m a more is more kind of person, but my approach to more is more is in a “less is more” kind of way!

What is authenticity to you?
Being yourself, staying true to yourself, and not worrying about what others think or say. There is nothing more original way than being yourself and staying true to yourself.

– Art adaptation is by Ivan Katalanic