Designer Waseem Khadra Talks Individuality & Power Through Fashion
A nonconformist Egyptian artist and designer, Khadra’s eccentric creations are redefining the Egyptian fashion scene’s status quo.
Fashion and creativity know no bounds. Like the endless dunes traversing Egypt's deserts, innovation in design and self-expression is fluid, dynamic, and resists confinement within rigid moulds. This spirit of boundless creativity has swept Egypt’s fashion scene, transforming it from a landscape of purely functional attire to one where designers are breaking free from tradition’s grip to manifest their avant-garde visions.
At the forefront of this artistic insurrection is the audacious Waseem Khadra, an nonconformist Egyptian designer and aesthete whose eccentric creations and bold philosophies are redefining Egyptian fashion’s status quo.
Khadra’s designs present a provocative commentary on Egyptian society, fusing disparate influences from the sophisticated elegance of the elite to the unrefined practicality of the working class into single garments. His aesthetic is as an alloy that blends luxury with the rugged, functional styling of marginalised communities.
This dialogue between two vastly different realms manifests through juxtapositions like dapper suits donned by stoic workers and farmers, or deconstructed formalwear with a streetwise edge. Khadra’s collection for Egypt Fashion Week was characterised by oversized, avant-garde suits with exaggerated silhouettes reminiscent of Kanye West’s provocative style. Yet underscoring Khadra's signature touch is the humble wooden cane - adapted across styles and carried by each model.
This eccentric philosophy stems from Khadra's own nonconformist spirit and detached outlook on social constructs. Having spent hours as a child observing the bustling crowds from his balcony perch, Khadra developed an intrigue for how attire connects to inner identity. For Khadra, fashion must resist the sway of trends and judgement, returning to the fundamentals of creative expression and comfort in one's own skin.
In this exclusive interview with SceneStyled, Khadra elaborates on his perspective and shares insights into his design process. As both his avant-garde suits and grounded philosophy reshape the fashion landscape, Khadra proves that innovation aligns not with expectations, but with the beat of one’s own rhythm.
I'm really interested in getting to know you better – your background and your passion for fashion. How did you first stumble upon your love for this craft?
I would say my fascination with fashion began as I was growing up here in Egypt. I would just watch people walk down the street from my family house’s balcony. Having been born in 1985, I’d say that era and place in time shaped who I am today. Much of my childhood was just me spending hours just watching and noticing every facet of the community go by. From that vantage point, I saw an eclectic mix of styles; the traditionally dressed woman carrying goods to the market, the upscale housewife bringing her children to school, a day laborer heading to his job site, or an office worker clad in his suit striding to his 9-5.
I experienced a certain intrigue in regards to how all these people carried themselves, how the things they wore often reflected - or sometimes even contrasted - with their day-to-day lives. I had a keen desire to probe the differences in what people wore and how that connected to their inner selves. My role in fashion is almost a requirement of my nature; I have a viewpoint I want to create and share with others and it is as natural to me as breathing.
Fashion wasn’t something I discovered, it was something innate within me. There was no decisive or ‘aha’ moment, it was something that was always there. It’s truly a passion, and a talent for the craft that I would humbly say I possess.
What's your perspective on fashion? What does the concept of fashion signify to you personally?
Fashion to me is a dynamic fusion of three distinct realms, encapsulating a multifaceted essence. Primarily, it addresses the fundamental human necessity for clothing. In this regard, fashion designers assume a role akin to architects and construction workers, crafting garments that serve both functional and aesthetic purposes. They deftly cater to the needs of society while bearing in mind the cultural and historical backdrop of a particular era and location.
Beyond mere attire, fashion becomes a canvas for the expression of identity. It functions as a means through which cultures communicate and transform, offering a window into their unique narratives and perspectives. Fashion, in its intricacy, is perhaps the only arena where the equation 1+1 equals 3. Here, the synergy of various elements, from function to identity and artistic innovation, results in a sum greater than its individual parts.
Could you share the story of how Waseem Khadra came into existence? What inspired the brand, and what's life been like since its inception?
Through my experience in the retail industry, I discovered that there are two types of brands: those that chase fashion trends, fast fashion, and others that maintain a distinct perspective regardless of what's popular. This is particularly evident in brands bearing the name of their founder.
As I realised I had a unique and genuine perspective that truly reflected me, I embarked on a new journey. The first step in executing this idea came at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. I recognised that during crises, people either come out as winners or losers, depending on how they handle the situation. I chose to emerge from the crisis as a success, emphasising the power of positive thinking over negativity.
For me, my personal and professional life are intertwined. The journey naturally involved challenges and obstacles, but when a person engages in something they love and believe in, these difficulties ultimately become enjoyable. In the end, it's a fulfilling journey with all its events, successes, and obstacles.
Can you paint a picture of your personal design style and philosophy? What messages or values do you aim to express through your creations?
People who choose to wear clothing by Waseem Khadra shouldn’t carry the burden of being evaluated. You are evaluating yourself, and you look great as long as you feel comfortable. The idea of comfort comes from two groups of people that we see all the time: underprivileged and marginalised groups in society and aristocrats. These two categories might seem extreme, but they all share one thing in common: they don’t care what other people think about what they are wearing. They are comfortable as they are, and this is the image I want to promote through my designs.
I feel that, particularly today, we have gotten away from the base purpose of fashion and have turned in a direction where fashion is about looking at the world through the eyes of how the wearer is judged. We are all interested in showing off and want to say ‘look at me’ and what I’m wearing. We’re constantly worried about the opinions of others when we should be focused on pleasing the most important person of them all – the one staring back at us in the mirror.
In my fundamental design principles, I place great importance on ensuring that each piece I create meets a specific criterion: it must be a wardrobe staple or an item I'm eager to wear. Moreover, these pieces are designed to withstand the test of time, as they are not tied to fleeting fashion trends and continue to remain relevant.
What was it like for you at Egypt Fashion Week? Did you receive the kind of response you were anticipating?
I’m so proud that Egypt had its own fashion week and I was privileged to be a part of its inaugural edition. And yes, I did indeed receive the reactions I had hoped for, especially from those within the industry.
Lots of celebrities like Ahmed Magdy and Amir El Masry have donned your designs – how does it feel seeing your suits on red carpets?
What I truly cherish is my ability to immerse myself in the complete experience before the celebrity graces the red carpet. This is something that brings me immense joy and that I am truly passionate about.
What's particularly important to me is the human connection that forms between me and the celebrity during this experience, as well as the ongoing collaboration that unfolds between both parties. It's a special aspect of the journey that I deeply value.
Looking ahead, how do you picture your future as a designer? What exciting developments can we anticipate from Waseem Khadra down the road?
I believe that my future as a fashion designer is not limited to just designing; it will also encompass a connection with various forms of art or entrepreneurship. I describe myself as an artist because it is a more comprehensive term that extends beyond being solely a fashion designer.
Since the brand's inception, are there any standout moments that hold a special place in your heart?
I would say my favourite moments would be when people recognise a Waseem Khadra piece, it truly fills me with pride especially considering that there is no logo or anything of the sort. It means people can recognize my spirit, and that that spirit truly shines through the fabric.
When a piece speaks for itself and reflects its designer’s vision, that’s how you know you’ve made it. I am living through a story the ending of which is not yet written and every day is a new adventure. Who knows what the future will bring to Waseem Khadra? All I know is that my story has only just begun, and I’m on the ride of my life with every chapter.
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Dec 03, 2023