The project was an ambitious one right from the word go. The idea, although simple, was massive in its scope: to reinvigorate a dire and rather stale local fashion and art landscape (in this case, that of Kuwait), and infuse it with much-needed pep. Whilst style staples such as Villa Moda had dominated the local fashion scene for years, the multi-brand boutique department store (the first to bring the Gucci’s, Dolce & Gabbana’s and Yves Saint Laurent’s to the region) had in recent years outdated and outmoded itself. And, with a local client base now well-versed in what to expect when going out shopping (one of two main pastimes in the region, the other one being cruising), time was ripe for someone with a new vision to step in and take matters into his own hands.
In steps local entrepreneur and all-round creative strongman Ebrahim Al-Qassab, the brainchild behind FA Gallery, a potent but, most importantly, timely mix of art and fashion. Housed in a historical building overlooking the Gulf of Kuwait, the new space is astutely divided into three distinct entities: an art gallery on the ground floor, a style emporium on the first floor and a VIP/personal shopping space on the top floor (complete with a private terrace offering dramatic views of the sea). Adding to the boutique-come-boudoir feeling, the style section is divided into four distinct universes: menswear, womenswear, shoes and scents (the latter, 100% natural). With the sole purpose of providing discerning and hard-to-please regional shoppers with a singular retail experience, one which fitted their increasingly demanding lifestyles and changing retail therapy needs, the vision was evidently a clear one from the start.
The fashion on offer is nothing short of revolutionary for the region, with countries such as Brazil and Colombia being given centre stage instead of the usual Paris-Milan-London-New York quartet. Top of our wish list is Osklen’s distressed, loosely-shaped and seemingly unfinished collection of hoodies, jackets and coats as well as Native’s colourful array of perforated rubber shoes. The art gallery, intended as a showcase for regional as well as international artists (the first show is of Syrian artist Nizar Sabour), also presents Al-Qassab’s Echo collection, a poetic, refined and elegant series of tables inspired by the Arabic alphabet as well as, in the words of the designer himself, by ‘the beauty of the Arabic language’.
Beyond the eye-opening nature of the trip (I was lucky enough to be invited out there for six days), the boutique in itself is testament to the region’s coming-of-age when it comes to the type of retail experiences on offer, and provides as good a view as possible of the shape of things to come.