Anyone that has been to fashion week will tell you that there is fashion news and then there is fake fashion news…Walid Al Damirji is as real as it gets. As I walk from Place Vendôme to Le Marais to meet Walid the fashion on the street changes from fabricated street style to authentic fashion lover. As I think to myself “If only they knew that trying too hard is about as bad as trying too little” I am alerted to someone calling out to me, “You’re late!” there stands the wonderful British-Iraqi fashion designer emanating warmth and excitement. Dressed in his usual coat and cropped pants, there is an uncanny resemblance to Azzedine Alaia. Just to clarify, Walid is taller than Alaia but they have the same genuine dedication to their trade, unaffected by the media circus around them, they are the original fashionistas.
By Walid designer, Walid Al Damirji has been on my bucket list for a while now. I am mesmerized by the vintage fabrics he skillfully manipulates to create his latest unique piece. As he ushers me into his Parisian showroom I feel myself walking into a treasure trove of creation. Rococo silks rubbing shoulders with ancient cashmeres and 1920s linens, relics of past lives re-born into a By Walid masterpiece. But wait, there is more, digital printing has now made its way into his designs. When a fabric is too precious to cut up they print it instead. This is a clear example of Walid’s pragmatism. He is not one to be constrained by the company’s unique approach to fashion, merely inspired by it.
As I ask him about his social media presence and his latest press release, he gently reminds me that he is not that kind of company. As we watch fashion labels spend a king’s ransom on publicity, Walid Al Damirji prefers to invest in the fabrics that are the backbone of his label. His genuine desire to create beautiful pieces has built a solid business foundation with fashion boutique buyers from as far a field as Japan keen to get their hands on the brand.
Hang on a minute, let me guess you are just about to turn your device off and rush to place an order for By Walid’s next collection. Dream on or just get in line, there is a waiting list !You heard right, as fashion brands desperately churn out clothing in the hope of someone buying their wares, Walid takes his time creating, and the world will patiently wait their turn… It needs to be the perfect melange of fabrics, it can’t be forced. It has taken some well known establishments 3 years to carry By Walid.He shares, “I dislike the circus of disposable fashion; my pieces are for people who have moved beyond that. It is affordable luxury; and every piece is unique.”
But isn’t this what the future fashion all about, slowing down?The conundrum is that what makes us raise our eyebrows in wonderment at his survival without an over zealous PR machine is what is actually catapulting him firmly into the future of fashion.
If there is one word that describes the By Walid label it is the term, meaningful. Writer and fashion historian Judith Watt aptly explains,
What Walid has done is to recreate the bond that used to exist between a customer and a designer, dressmaker or tailor.
As this gentleman takes time out of his busy schedule to sit down with me, I am drawn to his larger than life personality, one that is carefully shrouded in a gauze of privacy.His spirit is generous but his friendships, just like his creations takes time to acquire.For those privileged few, it was worth the wait both the coat and friendship will last a lifetime…