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November 17, 2017
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Sheikha Hend al Qassemi (Source: the-polygot.blogspot.com).
 

When I first met Sheikha Hend al Qassemi through a mutual friend in Doha, she wanted to show me some of her favourite art in the city. Unfortunately, the gallery that held the art was closed, but no matter; with a few kind words and a persuasive smile, we were soon admiring the works she was so keen to share. If Hend really wants something, she makes it happen.

I was soon to discover that the art gallery incident was very small potatoes indeed - Sheikha Hend is capable of instigating huge projects and accomplishing impressive feats. A licensed architect and holder of an MA in Project Management, she has also studied Communications and Islamic Finance. She is a designer of her own range of clothing, promotes up and coming designers in her Velvet Class fashion shows, often writes articles for magazines and owns and edits her own glossy publication, Velvet magazine, which has been called "the Vogue of the Middle East". Of her many accomplishments, perhaps the most impressive is her hand in launching Doha's first ever Fashion Week, scheduled for the beginning of this November. Oh, and did I mention she also has two little boys to take care of, too?

Originally from one of the royal families in the UAE, she married a member of the royal family of Qatar, thus positioning her between Dubai and Doha. Although she is a generally very private person, she allowed The Genteel a rare glimpse into her privileged world.

How did your background help shape who you are today?

My parents were highly educated and articulate, so I was encouraged to read and aspire to be the most I can be. Everyone in my family helped make me the person I am today. As children we would create small towns in the garden with our toys, inventing and creating interesting ways of entertaining ourselves. My father was very much the traveller and would take us to our farm or around the world for long vacations. My first creations were short stories and small sketches in pencil of the natural landscapes and portraits from those times.

Which interiors designers do you most admire and why?

For each design there is a specialist, for example, I highly regard Grinling Gibbons as the master of wood carving; Hector Guimard for his Art Nouveau designs; Shiro Kuramata offers revolutionary and refreshing modern interiors; I love theatrically baroque staircases by William Kent...the list is endless.

Like [Zaha Hadid], I am a woman in control of my destiny and like her, I have my own style. She is proof enough that architecture is limitless: it is the seed of all design.

You studied architecture and count that as another passion. Who do you think are the most important architects today?

Architecture is a passion, an obsession to be honest. I cannot choose one just one important architect. A building is built to be a signature; it becomes a legend, a landmark, defining the architects' style. I enjoy Santiago Calatrava's fluidity and Zaha Hadid's futuristic designs inspire me. Like her, I am a woman in control of my destiny and like her, I have my own style. She is proof enough that architecture is limitless: it is the seed of all design.

I have also noted that with age, comes a sense of responsibility. I have grown less fond of bigger buildings and more attentive to the environment and the surrounding culture with sustainability in the back of my mind. I aspire to do PhD in Sustainable Urban Architecture; I would like to implement the ideas behind that in the Middle East, both aesthetically and contextually.

Moving on to fashion...how would you best describe your own style? Is this style reflected in your own designs?

My fashion sense is generally classic, with a bit of eccentricity to jazz up the outfit. I adore details and yet I have an extreme sense of fashion, which may be a bit hard to explain. It's simple and classy, and at the same time trendy, while keeping the respect for tradition and culture. You can tell that the designs are mine once you see them on the catwalk. I'm almost always dressed in my own designs.

 Velvet magazine.

You started the Velvet fashion shows to promote young designers. How did that come about?

In 2010, to help aspiring designers, I established a Designers Guild, incorporating 2,500 members, with over 100 fashion designers and many other collaborators. We began by creating low budget fashion shows where all the designers chipped in. It would not have worked without the teamwork that was invested by every member. Working as a team, as a single body, is a beautiful thing. The Guild is slowly picking up quite a fan base and popularity, particularly with the younger generation, and it has a wide body of international contributors and fans.

Was that also the aim of starting your fashion magazine, Velvet, or is it a showcase for something more?

I enjoy the media business, but my family was not too keen on me being a journalist. Nonetheless, Velvet celebrates its first year this October as an official magazine. Velvet is more a representation of those who are blazing a trail in the world of fashion in our region. I have grown fond of our Velvet family, and regularly cover design and fashion pioneers in every edition.

You're planning Doha's first Fashion Week. What motivated you? Which obstacles have you overcome? What can we expect to see?

The country was in a middle of an economic boom, yet there were a few things missing from the social fashion scene. The notion was born to try and cultivate the mentalities here to allow me to present an amazing fashion week in the region.

The region demanded it, the fashion, the magic of discovering the excitement of theatrical fashion shows, the living legends of style, the wonders of dressing up to see and be seen by the celebrated socialites and celebrities. Fashion shows have graced all the continents and were for a very long time limited to Europe and New York, and occasionally some cities with single shows. I wanted to create a luxurious and recognizable show in the industry, worthy of notice. The obstacles were endless, but expected. I am a stubborn girl, and I usually get what I want with persistence and a lot of hard work. You can expect to find the biggest and best of regional brands and talent. 

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