Designer brand to know: KHYELI
The London-based label KHYELI is most certainly the emerging brand to know, having showed last month at London Fashion Week.
Recognized for combining the very best of form, fit and drape, the line was founded by Ahmed Alkhyeli – who originally studied architecture, which is evident through the lines and construction of the clothing.
There’s no doubting that the line is for the elegant and the strong-willed, admittedly, “the KHYELI woman is strong, educated and successful while retaining a strong sense of her femininity.”
I sat down with Ahmed to get the full low down on her luxury fashion brand.
Where did you learn your trade?
I’m self-taught. I studied architecture for my bachelor degree. I was always drawn to fashion, and architecture helped me develop more than an appreciation for the beauty of it but also an appreciation for the craftsmanship and thought that goes behind it. By the last two years of my studies, I started teaching myself how to drape and construct garments through books and any video tutorial I can find. My curiosity grew the more I learnt and so did my hunger for knowledge not only in the creative aspect of the job but also the business aspect of what it takes to build a successful fashion house. When I graduated from architecture, I took a short course at Instituto Marangoni in Paris called ‘the business of Fashion’. I realised throughout that course that with all its challenges, I had a curiosity and love for the fashion industry that I would not be able to give to any other profession and that the accumulation of knowledge and discovery did not feel like work but was something I did out of a natural desire to know more. In turn, I knew that this would be the career I would want to pursue.
What was on your reference board for this season?
This Autumn/winter 2018 collection is called Duchess Satin Refugees. It all started by thinking about boarders and boundaries created between different nationalities. With my job, I work with many international professionals from different backgrounds who I think are equally talented and gifted, and perfectly wonderful human beings. However, some face much more difficulty travelling solely due to where they are from. One of my best friends happens to be Syrian, she also is the first girl I ever made a dress for, she comes from a wonderful family, has a Harvard degree yet had to live through the fear of being banned from returning to the US due to the passport she holds. This prompted me to think of all the Syrians and many more nationalities around the world that used to have wonderful lives, some doctors, architects, engineers whose lives transformed overnight. They one day woke up to become outcasts, unwanted due to circumstances beyond their control. This collection is a reflection on that.
Where do you draw your inspiration from? Describe your aesthetic…
It differs from when I’m working on a collection to when I’m working on a bespoke design for a client. For collections, I start with an idea I would like to express. This idea serves as a source of inspiration. For example, my previous collection was about the openness to possibility and liberation from limitations of convention. This directed me towards the focus on conventional, classic pieces of clothing with traditional ways of construction that transition throughout the collection from very constructed garments made of heavy weight fabrics, to a much lighter weight transparent fabrics which seem to be effortlessly wrapped around the body and incorporating feathered dresses so light they float on your body to symbolise liberation. Whereas when it is a bespoke design, the client is the source of inspiration. I like to learn about them, their culture, the occasion they are dressing for to deliver something truly unique and personal.
Ultimately, the most important thing for me is to frame the woman. I believe she should be the center of attention not the dress she wears. I think the biggest compliment to a designer is for a woman to be told today you look exceptionally beautiful rather than that dress is beautiful. Often a dress that has a lot going on can take over and end up being a distraction from the true reason it is worn, which is to complement the woman wearing it and draw attention to her inherent beauty. As for my design principles, I derive a lot of them from my architectural background. I put a lot of emphasis on materiality, form, and construction. We only use the highest quality of fabrics, we always try to have form be dictated by the way a dress is constructed. Most dresses will look like they were not touched very much and drape organically when in fact a lot skill and craftsmanship went into the pattern-cutting and construction of the garment.
Who is your customer?
My customer can be of any age, and can come from any part of the world. She is confident, educated and powerful while retaining a strong sense of her femininity. In her fragility, she finds compassion and in her strength she finds the power to defend what she believes in. Above all she understands that her value doesn’t lie in what she wears, but that what she wears expresses a sophisticated sensibility and a love for fine fabrics and details of cut that emphasise her individual beauty. She understands that garments are meant to frame you rather than be framed by you.
What you lean towards, suiting or dresses?
I have decided to focus on dressing at the time being. The first garment I created was a ball gown for one of my best friends. It was made up of a silk shantung fitted pencil skirt with an extra six meters of the silk shantung asymmetrically draped off the side and attached to a long sleeved intricately beaded top all in a light shade of grey. After that dress I started receiving requests for dresses and that I think marked the birth of KHYELI, even before my intention to build the company. Hence, I want to focus on what was the company’s starting point, providing more selections of ball gowns before expanding to other offerings such as suiting.
Why did you decide to have your presentation in Mayfair?
We recently moved into a new Private Salon, a beautiful space in a graded building where our clients can see the collections and have their fittings done. I decided the presentation of our new collection would be the best way to give our guests the first glimpse into the fine world we created for our clients.
View more of the collection here: khyeli.com