Under the Radar is Highsnobiety’s weekly celebration of upcoming talent. Each week, we’re spotlighting an emerging brand that’s bringing something new to the worlds of streetwear and fashion.
Qasimi has been around for a while, having been founded in 2008 before a relaunch with a brand new menswear line in 2016 after a hiatus. Eponym designer and Central Saint Martins graduate Khalid Qasimi's luxe collections employ Middle Eastern style influences, measured sociopolitical commentary, and a consideration for the urban nomad.
A key aspect of Qasimi's designs are the oversized shapes, with an emphasis on movability and durable fabrics rendered in a mostly rust/dust/tan color palette (with pops of safety-cone orange for SS19). The luxe aspect should be no surprise, given Khalid hails from an Emirati royal family. He tells us his roots — born in the UAE but growing up in the UK from age nine — inspired him to locate his designs around the needs of the modern traveler, always on the move through myriad environments, from a dusty desert road to an airport departure lounge.
For SS19, Qasimi's urban traveler is bound for the Mediterranean shores of North Africa, giving rise to the sandy colorways and beach-bound, unbuttoned, carefree styling seen above. The collection contains super-loose drawstring pants, printed two-pieces, utility vests (also in denim), slouchy V-neck knitwear, leather jackets, and the ultimate travel necessity: a cozy oversized hoodie.
The hoodie, which comes in gray and camel, is printed with Arabic text that reads "The End," a sentiment Khalid tells us is a nod to the collection's romantic side. "It's like the end of a relationship," he says, a concept furthered by slogans on T-shirts that read "We Are So Different Now" and "The Heart Remembers." Some of Qasimi's shapes — billowing, draped — can be traced back to Khalid's background in architecture. "I always feel that architecture and fashion are very much related," he says. "You're dealing with proportions, with construction. Architecture is kind of the same thing, but [fashion is] using the body as the landscape." The architecture-fashion connection is a more common phenomenon than many would imagine, with designers such as Tom Ford and Virgil Abloh having graduated in architecture before segueing into fashion design.
While Qasimi has tapered off the socio-political element of its design in recent seasons, one piece from a few a years ago stands out: the "DON'T SHOOT" T-shirt from FW17. "This T-shirt was something very personal to me," Khalid says. "It was a T-shirt reworked from the original Beirut 1982, during the war between Lebanon and Israel. It was a T-shirt that was given to the press. We've reworked it to highlight issues of the Middle East and what's happening in the Middle East at the moment."
The FW18 collection had a different vibe. A useful tool when looking at a menswear brand is to see what it does with its shirts. A shirt is a standard, seasonless item that all people wear, but with enormous scope in terms of style, size, and print. This makes shirts a pretty accurate litmus test of a brand's creativity. Fittingly, then, one of the standouts in Qasimi's FW18 collection was the brown nature-print shirt featuring a hare, desert mouse, and hawk huddled together against a brown check background.
Back in June, there was a certain dissonance and uncertainty during London's SS19 menswear shows, as collections danced around which trend to lean into — maximalism, luxury streetwear, fetish-wear, logomania (still going!). By contrast, Qasimi felt clear, clean, and with a solid understanding of what it wants to do. It wants you to get out into the world and look the absolute shit while doing so.
Qasimi is available to buy at Liberty London, United Arrows in Japan, Harvey Nichols in Dubai and Hong Kong, and via the brand's webstore.