Streetwear brings many ideas to mind: distinct colors, sharp branding, consumerism and hordes of teens wrapped around city blocks, vying to get their hands on the latest releases. The streetwear industry is currently valued at $185 billion based sales alone, meaning it comprises “10% of the entire global apparel and footwear market.” Streetwear explores the relationship between commodity, luxury and societal perceptions of the boundaries of these goods’ values.
Emerging from this space is the young Kuwaiti designer Layan Al-Dabbous. A student of Parsons School of Design, she launched Claudette The Brand. She focuses on bright colors and messages surrounding mental health. Stars like Megan Fox, P. Diddy, Machine Gun Kelly and model Sarah Lysander have all been spotted wearing her clothes. Layan is a young and innovative face, stepping into the arena of streetwear with a defined look and lesson for buyers and industry peers.
Layan discussed her background, vision and her upcoming collection.
How did you get interested in design?
I always loved putting together outfits and picking pieces that made me stand out growing up. I also loved drawing and painting, so merging my love for fashion and art came naturally and pushed me to start designing for the brand. I loved this creative world and wanted to be a part of it.
How did you start your brand?
The idea came to me while I was a student at The New School in New York for my masters. I was playing around with some of the Adobe software and randomly drew out the character which now acts as the logo for the brand. When I drew the character the name “Claudette “ kinda just came to me and so I went with it…a gut feeling you could say.
What kind of steps did you have to take and how did you have the means to do so?
After I created the logo and came up with the name, I drew the character on jackets, t-shirts, and hoodies I had in my apartment. I would give them to friends and family to wear around. I even would draw Claudette on different objects and hand them out for free in different parts of the city. The feedback was really positive and it motivated me to continue building the brand.
Does your background in Kuwait influence your work?
Yes, I think it definitely does. A ton of the graphics I draw come from my deep love for Kuwait . I always draw out cartoon palm trees, ocean waves, sun rises, and sunsets. Kuwait is sunny all year round and we have beautiful beaches and islands, so I think I’m definitely inspired by all those elements.
How do you balance school and your brand?
School was definitely a priority so I always made sure to attend all my classes, but would find time in my day to focus on the brand as well. I think time management is most important when it comes to this. Now that I’ve graduated I can put all my focus into growing Claudette.
Have you run into any issues being a young woman in the industry?
I have run into issues, but I personally wouldn’t say it had something to do with being a woman. It was hard navigating the fashion world because it wasn’t what I went to school for, so I had to learn everything through trial and error. I also had a few mentors that taught me new things about the industry.
How do you design your collections? What is your process like?
Every collection starts with a doodle. I draw out different ideas on paper, canvases, and my ipad. I’ll brainstorm for days and sit alone to feel the emotions I’m going through (at that time). I like my graphics to express how I’m feeling, and then create almost a story line. Every piece I create has a deep meaning behind it.
How would you describe the clothing you make?
Right now, I’m focusing on streetwear. I love incorporating different colors and graphics into all of my designs. Like I mentioned in the previous question every piece tells a story.
How do you compete with the ever growing streetwear market?
I think innovating as you grow is crucial. I don’t like stressing too much about what’s going on around me and kind of put all my energy into what I feel is right. I try to be true to myself and my emotions and show that through my work.
What does it feel like to see big celebrities wearing your clothing?
It means a lot because all those people are innovators who have accomplished so much. It’s crazy seeing the doodle I created now being worn by some of the biggest names in the industry, it just shows you that anything is possible.
Would you ever branch out into other areas of fashion?
At the moment, I’m super focused on elevating within the streetwear industry, but perhaps in the future!
What is the importance of pop up events to you?
I love meeting new people and seeing our online community come to life. Human connection is so important and I feel like the pop ups are a way of bringing like minded people together because we all feed off the amazing energy. Everyone always leaves the pop ups on a high.
How do you coordinate them?
It all starts with picking the right location and coming up with a theme. For example, the last one I did in Kuwait was designed so it felt like you were stepping into Claudette’s high school bedroom. Once the theme and location are determined everything else falls into place.
What was it like working with [style expert] Miranda Holder?
It was so much fun. She was so warm and had such amazing energy.
Would you ever like to go into personal styling?
Never say never, but right now it’s not something I’m thinking about.
What is the message you’re trying to spread and what is the importance of tackling discussions about mental health, to you?
I drew the character out whilst just messing around, but after it was drawn out I knew I had something. I wanted Claudette to be the logo for the brand because it’s really up for interpretation and I loved that. Some people think Claudette looks like a woman, and others think Claudette looks like a man, and others are like (well) we’re not entirely sure, but that’s the beauty in it.
Claudette is whoever or whatever you want it to be depending on your mood or interpretation. The character is meant to act as a blank canvas for you to create your own story.
What can people look forward to from upcoming collections?
They can definitely look forward to a new story line with fresh graphics and colors!
You can shop the new collection here now!
Feature image courtesy of Garden State Hiphop PR