Amelia’s Magazine | An evening with REEM

“Charlie says…

Fierce, distressed, unstructured tailoring affixed with hints of military insignia.
Ravaged reconstructed tailed parkas,
bowlers, bowties and boots,
gnarled and weathered,
eroded and battered.
Bespoke maxi dresses skewed with rough, unrefined tailored suggestions.
Jackets and accessories crafted from worn leather gloves
mimic sentiments of time forlorn.
Striking feather adorned dresses and collars awash with
cascading archaic handmade lace.
Ravishing black, petrol blue, and soft tea with hints of gleaming lustrous bead work, speckled with an aged golden whisper.”

If Reem Alasadi hadn’t become a fashion designer, she would probably be a poet. The collection from the Iraq-born, British-raised newcomer, staged at The Royal Academy as part of On|Off – can quickly be summed up as something between Ann Demeulemeester, Bora Aksu, Oxfam and, of course, Charlie Chaplin; “Because of his clothes’ ragged tailoring, uneven hemlines and the fact that he was accepted into society as long as he wore a suit – even if it was dirty.”


But instead of putting on a traditional LFW show during which you usually only get a quick glimpse of the garments from far away, often having to wait for half an hour (or two hours, if we remember the big Menkes vs. Jacobs fallout last year), Reem opted for a more up-close-and-personal presentation of her collection. Located in the RA’s west wing, the salon-style presentation included an installation, screening (of the actual show in Tokyo in November) and party all in one. Rather than the usual squeeze onto narrow tiered benches, guests were placed under a tent where we could hang out, network and talk about exciting future project launches (all zipped – sorry…) on beautiful vintage garden chairs surrounded by Greek-style columns, flowers and chandeliers – while of course topping up sufficiently on white wine.



However, it wasn’t just the presentation that was unique. Everything Reem produces is 100% organic, naturally hand-dyed and -crafted in factories that are ethical and up to trade standards – all of which is not used as a selling point since Reem thinks that this is just normal and goes without saying. Feathers, leather and fur come from ethically conscious farming; mink, wild foxes and fur from other endangered species isn’t used at all.


Moreover, instead of giving in to the impossibly speedy fashion production cycle, Reem always shows two seasons in one. “I have never met a journalist, buyer or designer that does not complain about the relentlessness of Spring/Summer-Autumn/Winter season round,” she says. “Imagine the collective impact of our fashion carbon foot print if every designer worked this way – I actually predict this will happen as the recession bites.

Reem’s story so far: Instead of taking up her place at Central St. Martins, 37-year-old Reem Alasadi has been selling reworked vintage clothes on Portobello Market (junction Acklam Road) for the last 10 years. Discovered by a tiny few of the fashion cognoscenti who had been shopping at her stall, she later started working in trend forecasting and brand consulting for the likes of Stella McCartney, Robert Carey-Williams and John Richmond, which introduced her to the fashion circle. In 2002, she finally did her first catwalk collection (“based on vintage, not made from it!”), which she showed as part of Tokyo Fashion Week in collaboration with hip department store Laforet in Harajuku. The move to London followed in 2007. She now plans to set up a factory abroad; “To look after women and their children. So not only will you be able to buy a beautiful Reem garment, you will also be contributing to the quality of life for the workers from Third World countries.”

One of my favourites pieces from the installation was a crème/brown skirt made of weathered lace, tulle and corsets, feathers and rusted underskirt wire, all poetically re-constructed, back-to-front, inside-out, to a 21st-century crinoline that architecturally plays with texture, volume and proportions. On top, a black and white perfectly tailored gilet and oversized bowtie that balance out the frilly skirt, giving it an androgynous edge. Also fascinating were the supersized Amish-cum-military hats with feathers and sequins dangling down the edges. And the racerback dress with the glove shoulder piece on one side. And the colourful charm neckpieces. And the asymmetrical skirts, Cul-de-Paris-style. And …

Reem is gonna be big!



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