'Fashion has always been my shelter, the place I find a home in whether I feel happy, uneasy, sad, or even-keeled. When it is time to express myself, fashion is the vocabulary that I use.'
- Omar Salaam
Born in Dakar, in the Republic of Senegal, Salaam spent his childhood travelling to various countries across Europe. The name of his brand, Sukeina, was also the name of his mother, and Sukeina means bright light.
"Her spirit and light has been an inspiration, and driving force in all that I do, especially in my designs,' Salaam tells Flair.
A Parsons School of Design graduate, Salaam started working for world renowned French fashion designer Madame Sonia Rykiel. Starting off in sales, he would later be promoted to merchandising, and finally visual director for the New York City branch. He spent seven years with Madame Rykiel. He recalls this experience with great respect and love, especially for the extraordinary designer, who once told a manager to "let Omar play ... . It should remain a game".
In 2008, Salaam decided to tempt fate, by spreading his wings and establishing his own fashion house - Sukeina.
The colours are vivid, while the fabrics are delicate, lush and elegant. His creations are not made to highlight himself, but rather to celebrate what everyone enjoys about their bodies and life.
He will be visiting Jamaica for the first time to showcase his Spring/Summer 2014 collection on the runway at The Collection MoDa in September. The Flair caught up with the designer last week, and this is what he had to say:
Describe the Sukeina woman
A: I must be honest. I want to dress people as they want to be. My clothes are made to move with you. Without a body in them, they are nothing.
What is your biggest inspiration?
A: My musings don't always come from happy places, in fact, my biggest inspiration is sadness, tears, and melancholy, things that are sad but whole. These visions send my mind to a place I almost wish I could escape; it's there I can fantasise about building a life, putting visions together. That's when the craftsmanship of a collection really comes together.
How does Sukeina represent or tie in with fashion?
A: To me, Sukeina is the medium through which things come to a reality. Sukeina is a currency; it's a point of view; it's a vocabulary designed for all women to express themselves. I envision Sukeina on the street, in every woman's closet, on her body. I want it to be worn, to be related to, to become a new language, a new vocabulary. I want women to wear Sukeina because it makes them feel beautiful, empowered, but also comfortable at any given time in their lives.
Did you always dream of becoming a designer?
A: Going to bed with an idea, and waking up with a burning desire to see it crystalised, has gone from a child's dream to a necessity, a disposition, a way of life. The opportunity to be the voice that women will use to express what they are, where they are at, who they are and what they are feeling, is what we give words to, for her to tell her unique story.
For those of you who would like to see his collection, The Gleaner will be live streaming from The Collection MoDa runway, so you can watch the show LIVE at http://jamaica-gleaner.com/pages/collection-moda.