Between sweet silences and grace. A story of enchantment featuring pieces by Otkutyr, starring muse Alessandra Cossaro photographed by Marco Giuliano and styled by Anca Macavei.
Can you share with us some insight onto Otkutyr.
My name is Razan Mussallam, I am the founder, creative director and in-house line designer of Otkutyr Fashion House. At a very young age, I was privileged to have a big family that encouraged self-expression by allowing me to create my own designs and dress myself. With my business background, coupled with my appreciation for fashion and everything locally made, I was able to construct a platform that could make a difference in our popular culture and document our identity. I decided to establish a platform for local talent and advocate for local production since 2011. Otkutyr has been investing in local talent and creating brands due to the huge gap there was in the local fashion scene for self-expression and local production. While studying at Dar Al-Hekma university in Jeddah, I established my first venture called Nirvana. It was a yoga space, spa, and a tailor shop in which we mostly catered around production. It sparked my childhood passion, which then led to me sponsoring one of the university’s fashion and art events. I have recently been asked to be a part of a fashion board in the fashion and design department, as well as start an internship program for the department’s students. After obtaining my bachelors, I started working in my family’s company. As for Otkutyr, it’s not just a brand: it’s a creative hub that helps launch designer brands and talent. The fashion house’s spectrum for talent varies between fashion designers, writers, artists, models and even musicians. We take a chance and invest, as well as mentor and guide. As for the in-house line itself; it’s been humbling to watch it evolve, as we’ve experimented with each small collection, having a set concept and feel from haute couture to loungewear.
Is there a story behind the brand’s name?.
It’s actually a play on words as I am dyslexic so it’s spelt phonetically, just like it’s pronounced “haute couture”. However, we don’t only produce haute couture, and we celebrate these techniques in everything we produce, from T-shirts to ball gowns. Moreover, we produce limited pieces of each design and even one of a kind stand out pieces. This is synonymous with our ethos of slow fashion and zero waste.
You are an all around creative mind what about the design process, how do you start working on a collection?
It’s a sort of cinematic process for me. It’s whatever emotional state I am in at the time. I’ll look at several samples for a long time and based on the feel of the colours; I build a story of a character and how this character could or would deal with a certain situation and through this simple process, I build a cohesive collection that tells a story of what my hero or alter ego would wear in certain cities and situations. How they would move, feel and then I begin to focus on what details should be concentrated on and accommodated, such as switching an outfit from day to night, for example.
Can you tell us more about the inspirations behind your brand and your upcoming AW/21-22 Collection showcased here in our pictures.
It’s a very dreamy collection, with lace on lace pieces that have tefta draped in crystals, and liquid organza for 19th century inspired dresses; from nighties and gentlemen shirts, everything can be layered and styled in whichever way
This is something I concentrate a lot on, layering and the flexibility of styling, allowing the client to make the pieces their own. Dentelle fabric also makes an appearance in the collection, provided by the legendary and generational French brand: Jean Baracq, and of which we are proud ambassadors. There are also some timeless pieces, such as the leopard silk slip and the lamé wrap dress. Both are from our Ramadan/Eid lines. Finally, our oversized reversible coat is inspired from “furwah” —- a traditional Bedouin winter coat.
You state that “Otkutyr is the only fashion house of its kind in the Gulf region”, can you tell us a bit more about that and about the fashion industry there?
A fashion house dedicated to launching independent designer brands is non existent, and the concept seemed foreign when I first founded the fashion. What we do, in simple terms, is literally hold a talent’s hand from the beginning of their creative journey, offering services that range from branding to PR. It was difficult for a long time to get local production and talent to be taken seriously; since we are a region that’s known tor importing not exporting. However, today, with vision 2030, there is an official fashion industry being shaped and I am so excited and thrilled to see it bloom. It’s a very interesting time we are in now, and you can see a lot of Saudi and regional creatives producing and thriving during such difficult times. This gives me great hope and pride, to be able to be a part of it.
For the rest of the world’s understanding, fashion in the Gulf region has a strong focus on rather classic/evening wear, is there also a shift towards more alternative, contemporary markets?
This is true, we started out with haute couture brands to prêt-a-couture, and began experimenting with the in-house lines and producing lounge wear and contemporary designs. There is a big shift to alternative markets, Saudi in particular, has a very young population and a highly educated one at that. The pandemic has been shedding light on the downside of fast fashion, and the importance of supporting local businesses and artists. We can see the shift in the latest collections being more simple, genderless, comfortable and leaning towards slow fashion.
What do you aspire to do next with your brand?
Intü; is derived from the word “intuition.” It is also, my styling philosophy and method, based purely on intuition. Intü also translates to “you” in plural in Arabic, and I’m thrilled to say that this will be my next venture. The brand will be contemporary, bold and unisex. We will be joining Milan Fashion week for the second time in February, and we will also be soon launching: Otkutyr space’s online store which will be bilingual, while moving our main HQ to a brand new location. I intend to develop a modelling management blueprint, which is still in its early stages, but I feel strongly about the importance of identity and representation in fashion. Finally and most importantly, Otkutyr will continue to support and advocate for local slow production, while simultaneously reviving traditional Saudi sewing techniques, and creating our own textiles.
Dreams less sweet
Photography: Marco Giuliano / @marcogiulianoph
Styling: Anca Macavei / @ancamacavei
Fashion: Otkutyr / @otkutyrfashionhouse
Soundtrack: Kai Engel – Interception
Model: Alessandra Cossaro at Elite Models / @alessandracossaro @elitemodelworld