Hala Kaiksow, the 25-year-old Bahraini designer who was recently recognised at London Fashion Week, talks inspiration and armour for everyday living.
Which school did you attend in Bahrain and have you always been artistically inclined?
I was in Bayan most of my life, and transferred to Bahrain School for the last two years of high school. I’ve always been interested in making and working with my hands; I would knit, paint, sculpt from a very young age.
How old were you when you first knew you wanted to go into fashion?
When I was around eight years old, I fell in love with the world of fashion through my eternal style icon – my mom. I then learned to knit at the age of 10 from my grandmother. I love working and expressing myself with my hands, and I did art before I came into the world of fashion, so I’ve always been inclined to express myself through creative means.
How long have you been designing?
Since I was very young but in more of a professional context since 2012. I went to Marangoni in Paris to do an intensive fashion course after completing my BFA at the School of Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University in Boston. I then continued on to get my masters in fashion design at Polimoda in Italy mid last year, which is where I produced my first collection.
What are your favourite materials to use?
I love using materials in their raw state and also contrasting them with man-made materials. So, for instance, my knit coat is made from a chunky merino wool and the thoub under is made of latex with mother-of-pearl embroidery. I also am really interested in constructing my own textiles, so I did a lot of hand weaving. I love the human touch in textiles and garments; I think it’s deeply lacking in clothing today because of the immense market of mass production.
Who is the Hala woman, what’s her lifestyle like and how are your clothes designed to affect her?
I think of my clothing as a woman’s armor for everyday living, which is why I like experimenting with hard and soft materials. They both protect her and give her an identity much like uniforms did in the early 1900s.
From where do you find your inspiration?
I draw inspiration from a lot of different cultures, traditions and histories. For this collection I took inspiration from historical workwear, as well as cultural garments, and tried to bring them into the modern context of dressing today. For instance, the jumpsuit in my collection started from the thoub il nashil pattern, which I developed into a jumpsuit and modernised by playing with materiality.
You’re now living outside Bahrain, what are you up to?
I am currently based in London; I’m interning for a company called Toogood. I really wanted to get a good understanding of how a clothing company works before I began my own line.
You were recently recognised at London Fashion Week, that must have felt like a huge achievement. How will it affect your career?
It was an amazing opportunity and platform to be a part of. I got to interact and connect with people from all over the world. The fact that I won the best designer award was just so humbling – to see people’s understanding and reception of your work was so positive and accepting was extremely gratifying.
What would you say to other young Bahrainis wanting to pursue this path?
It’s not a glamorous job; it’s a lot of hard work and sleepless nights. But it’s worth it when you see the end result and you can see how far your garments can travel on their own, without you even having to speak. I think fashion is a beautiful thing; a mixture of art and sculpture that is moving around the body and showing itself differently every day.