Yousef Akbar Silk Georgette Dress seen in Condé Nast Traveller Middle East. Source: Yousef Akbar Official.

Fashion Designers in Focus: Yousef Akbar

From ten-pin bowling championships, a logistics degree and meetings with the Saudi Royal family, Australian Fashion Week seemed a far cry from aspiring fashion designer, Yousef Akbar.

Fast forward to now, he has debuted his collections at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia, Powerhouse Museum Fashion Exhibition display 2014 and boasts a plethora of awards including a FLAIR Best tailoring and Best Designer of the Year and fashion graduate of the year.

Akbar’s fascination stems from the art of the interaction of cloth and the body.

Akbar grew up in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he enjoyed an esteemed career as a ten-pin bowling champion. Even after moving to Australia, fashion was initially not on the cards. Akbar began a degree in logistics and supply chain management at the University of Sydney.

However, his love for fashion and design remained unwavering.

Before I begin designing, I don’t really think about designing clothes, but I think about creating something beautiful. To me this is truly beyond just a profession, it is something I deeply connect with and feel it gives me a sense of purpose.

Yousef Akbar

Following completion of his bachelor’s and master’s degree, Akbar undertook a Bachelor’s degree in fashion and apparel design from TAFE. A year after his bachelor’s degree, Akbar launched his brand in 2017. He aims to evoke a narrative from his collections, weaving stories through garments.

Akbar strives to challenge fashion conventions whilst consistently maintaining elegance and femininity. In an interview with Grazia Magazine, Akbar describes inspiration stemming from French paintings of 16th Century Oriental fashion conventions.

It was interesting to see every day moments and subjects from my history and culture captured by a French painter. It made me feel a strong sense of nostalgia about my culture and home. I was seeing part of my identity, that I can still connect with today. And I wanted to express that.

Yousef Akbar for Grazia Magazine.

Soon, his garments were making high profile appearances, worn by Chrissy Tiegen, Jessica Mauboy and Kelly Rowland. However, the ride was not all smooth. After dealings with a dodgy PR agent and stylist, Akbar had to pull his brand out of Australian Fashion Week in 2017.

Chrissy Teigen wears a dress designed by Yousef Akbar to the AMA’s in 2016. Source: Pinterest

Left with nothing, he returned to Saudi Arabia and fell back into his ten-pin bowling career, the only foreseeable way to make enough money to restart his brand.

A stroke of luck at a ten-pin championship meant Akbar found himself in front of the Saudi King. The one thing he asked for? A scholarship to study fashion in Australia. Akbar was whisked on a plane and found himself at the Fashion Design Studio in Australia, boasting alumni inclusive of Dion Lee, Zimmerman and Akira.

Today, his label capitalises on recycling and up-cycling materials to produce ethically made fashion. He pays homage to his Saudi roots, supporting artisans in communities across the Middle East. Akbar’s brand remains committed to sustainable fashion, animal welfare and transparent supply chain processes.

A dress from Akbar’s Blood Witness Collection. “This collection is a celebration of all women and their courage and strength through times of adversity. Growing up in the middle east and having witnessed first hand women being oppressed in a male dominated society has had a huge impact on me.” Source: Not Just a Label.

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