KAREN GABALLA: “IN THE MENA REGION, WE STILL PREFER VOLATILE FASHION TRENDS AND QUANTITY OVER QUALITY”
1/ What pushed you to send in your submission to this year’s FTA Prize? What do you expect from this experience?
As an emerging designer, I would always keep my eyes on all key fashion events happening in the world and specifically in the Middle East, and so I’ve been following FTA very closely since its beginning in 2019 and waiting for the right opportunity to participate. Our main aim in participating is to gain international exposure and branding awareness in the Middle East and the world, we believe in the high quality and value of our products, and we want to extend these visions to as many people as possible.
2/ What was the first object related to fashion (a piece of clothing, jewelry, an accessory…) that dazzled you when you were a kid, and why?
There isn’t a specific object as far as I remember, but since I was little, I was obsessed with the Egyptian tooled leather bags as I was quite influenced by our heritage and how the ancient Egyptians excelled in craftmanship.
3/ What was the trigger that made you realize that you wanted to be a fashion designer and nothing else?
I was born and raised in my early childhood years in Milan, where I was constantly surrounded by elegant fashion and so it grew my keen eye for detail and styling. However, I actually wanted to be an architect and proceeded to study architecture in Switzerland where I’ve been exposed to all kinds of natural materials and in particular, wood. This is when I realized I wanted to combine my two main interests somehow, which was how BOADK was born, and I found creating these pieces outgrew the passion for either topic individually.
4/ Which fashion designer, Arab or international, inspired you, and why?
Simon Porte Jacquemus. His designs are a mix of “wearable” and “conceptual” and I see that this is fundamental, because being true to the market is a must.
5/ What is the one thing you wish people would stop wearing?
If I must choose, I would say Crocs. Comfort doesn’t have to mean bulky and unflattering, there are many brands that were able to offer their customers a more comfortable fit without forsaking style, but I would say Crocs have unfortunately not mastered this skill yet, in my opinion.
6/ What was your worst fashion faux pas?
Personally, I would have to say it was the PJ suits, it was quite astonishing to see that the same runways that would show a Chanel classic suit and YSL’s ‘Le Smoking Tuxedo’ were also showcasing a PJ set as fashion’s next big thing.
7/ If you were to choose one of your looks, or that of any other designer, to wear every day for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why?
Oversized suits and blazers are an obsession of mine, if I must choose one, it would be Jacquemus blazers! I would wear them every day; they are classy and elegant while being simple and minimal, which is a perfect reflection of my personal style. You can almost never go wrong styling one of his blazers into a monochrome outfit.
8/ Who do you dream of dressing?
If I’m going to allow my mind to run wild, I would love to have the opportunity to dress Anne Hathaway, Cara Delevingne and Rihanna, that would be an absolute pleasure.
9/ What does the word “sustainability” mean to you?
“Sustainably” means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. We are a slow fashion brand, and we pride ourselves on how sustainable our bags are. In BOADK, this is mainly reflected in 3 major aspects:
1: Raw Material. All our bags have been produced from reclaimed wood from olive trees that have been cleared from local farmland. They are then mixed with EcoPox which is a safe, environmentally friendly, plant-based epoxy made from annually renewable resources, we’ve used it specifically to contribute positively to the environment and reduce BOADK’s carbon footprint. This mix is also used to maintain the reclaimed wood and to show its beauty through epoxy.
2: Packaging.Our packaging is easy to recycle, safe for the environment, plastic-free, and made from recycled materials like paper and craft which also has a minimal impact on energy consumption.
3: Production.We are a slow fashion brand, which means our contribution to sustainability is reflected in how BOADK is locally sourced and produced. We produce a maximum of 5 to 10 pieces per design and then rely on a make-to-order approach to reduce unnecessary production. Finally, BOADK releases one big collection per year and it’s usually a permanent, season-less collection that can be worn all year long. Our timeless masterpieces are made to last!
10/ What is something that makes you uncomfortable in the MENA fashion industry and that you would like to see changed?
What makes me uncomfortable is basically our lack of awareness of the slow fashion concept, we still prefer volatile fashion trends and quantity over quality. Our over stimulated palates are being overpowered by fast trends that we don’t appreciate conscious, timeless pieces.