The name behind Kuwait-based label ‘Bazza Alzouman’ tells us that she was undeniably interested in fashion from an early age, but never really considered it a career until she got to college. Enrolling in community classes over weekends, she learnt how to sew and follow patterns, exploring and experimenting with different patterns to fit a design she had in mind, searching for the right fabric and materials gave her a sense of serenity unlike something she had ever felt before. Bazza knew this is what she really wanted to do and to be, this felt right.
Jumping off the Corporate Ladder Landing into the Fashion Industry
Bazza began to explore fashion as a career by initially self-educating herself, outside of her corporate job, which led to fine tuning her skills by joining a summer class. All these explorations further cemented her conviction that fashion design is what she wanted to do full time. While she liked the corporate world to a certain extent, the dynamic and challenging nature of the fashion industry suited Bazza’s personality. She decided to attain a Degree in Fashion Design from Parsons in New York City. A short while after graduating, her label, Bazza Alzouman, was launched.
A lot of local talent is being suppressed in the region as there aren’t enough resources. What are your thoughts on this issue?
I think that being the first movers in any industry poses a lot of challenges, risks, but also opportunity. The fashion industry as a whole is always changing and trying to meet the needs of the consumers, and as designers, we must do the same. As the world is becoming a global marketplace, this gives young designers the opportunity to sell worldwide, produce worldwide, source worldwide, so as for the many problems there might be, there are that many more solutions. It’s all about being creative and patient and being persevering to find out what works for your business and your client. The fashion industry requires a lot of hard work and commitment, but if you have the passion for it, then hopefully you pave the way. The flip side of all the challenges is that there is demand for regional designers who know their client inside and out, that is an advantage that other people can’t compete with. Especially given the fact that the Middle East and Arab world are such large consumers of fashion and particularly luxury fashion. So, there is demand, and there is cash, it’s all about knowing your customer and your strengths and weaknesses as an organization and maximizing that potential.
As a designer, what are the key things you focus on before heading to the drawing board?
I think that design is a very organic process and needs to be authentic, I need to make sure that I feel what I am making. From a business perspective (maybe also because I have a business background during undergrad) I try to keep in mind what worked in the past, what customers are buying, what they’re asking for, what can I do better than my competition? I also try to start with a theme or anything that has inspired me recently, and after I develop the first style for the collection, everything falls into place. I also think it’s important for me to stay true to who I am as a designer and use that voice, there’s a lot of noise in the market, so I’m careful about what fashion I follow and even more careful about what I don’t follow. But at the end of the day, I’m always thinking about the woman who is going to wear the piece and how she wants to feel.
What inspires you? Cliché we know, but we couldn’t help but ask!
It really depends! I can be inspired by just about anything, I think my collections are a reflection of my life in some way, but, most of all, I like to experiment with non-traditional evening wear elements but in a super feminine way.
Starting out, what was the key piece that put your name out there?
For me it was more about the journey as a whole. I would say the turning point was during Fall Winter 2017 collection, I had decided to go all out and really display myself as a designer, and there was a particular black and white tea length gazar gown that was really reflective to my aesthetic. We did a look book shoot with Djinane Alsuwayeh and styled by Yousif Abdulsaid. Djinane later submitted it to Vogue Arabia and it was published online, and I think that collection and that look book was a turning point for me for so many reasons.
Tell us about your most recent collection, the inspiration, and theme behind it all.
For Autumn Winter 18 I was inspired by my birthplace Charleston, S.C. and the feeling of the old south, the velvet, and the dark weeping willow trees and plantations. The setting is reminiscent of a midnight garden party like the book “Midnight in the garden of good and evil”. There is a mysterious vintage mood, but it’s also really elegant and refined. The velvet really added so much to the gowns, it’s a really delicate fabric to work with but it reflects light in such an interesting manner. I really fell in love with it during the process. Velvet also has such a distinct look, you can make any simple design in velvet and it completely transforms the aesthetic.
Who do you picture wearing your designs? Before customizing a piece, what do you need to know about the client to start designing the perfect piece for them?
I feel like the woman that wears my designs is confident and adventurous and is knowledgeable in fashion while having her own sense of style and is willing to take risks. I would like to see Queen Rania and Sheikha Moza in my designs, and really all women who feel they identify with it, it’s always a big compliment to be worn by a client and is a really validating feeling. Customizing a design is such a tricky process, we designate a whole appointment just to talk about inspirations, likes/dislikes, things they’ve worn in the past that they’ve really identified with, what colors they gravitate towards, etc. It’s really important to get a feel for the client and their style before you start a custom design. The most difficult part, in my opinion, is developing the design, because you want to make sure you really understand them and what they’re going for while staying true to your aesthetic as a brand. Executing and fittings afterwards are just a matter of technicality and time.
What are three things that never leave your purse?
My phone, my wallet, and lipstick leftover from the night before.
What piece of advice would you offer talented girls in the region about starting out in the fashion industry?
I would say ‘be patient’, try to get an internship with a designer to understand how things work from the inside of a fashion brand (even briefly). You need to have business awareness as well and manage cash flows as the fashion industry is a very cash intensive business. I would also tell them to be weary of people that try to profit off of them. Starting a small business in the region you sometimes end up a target of firms that want to offer services without adding any real value and wasting a lot of your much-needed resources. Build a community, yes fashion is competitive but can also be collaborative, it’s nice to share information, like where do you source zippers, or a production facility that you found that you think does a good job, it benefits everyone to share knowledge and helps support the growing fashion ecosystem we have. Focus on knowing and understanding your customer, and offering a genuinely unique and quality product, because the consumer is very discerning.