Saudi architect and visual artist Shamekh Al-Bluwi took fashion illustration to new innovative and creative heights with his beautiful paper cut-out dresses, which can be decorated by nature and sights on the street. We catch up with the forceful, Amman-based maestro, who talks about his success journey and shares some fashion insights, quirks and favourites.
How old were you when you realized you had a talent?
I can’t even remember! I’ve been told I started doodling since I first learned to hold pencils and crayons.
Was this something you always wanted to take up as a career?
I basically draw all day, every day, so yes, it made sense that I utilize my talent and work doing something I love.
How long did it take for you to see success? When did it become a full-time job for you?
I took things seriously around 4 years ago, and bit by bit, thanks to social media (and hard work!), success started crawling in. Suddenly, my job was all about collaborations with designers and celebrities, workshops, etc.
Who are some of your favorite fashion designers?
Christian Lacroix, Mary Katrantzou and Christopher Kane.
What is the hardest thing for you personally about being a fashion illustrator and a designer?
It’s when I have client deadlines, and I get inspired to draw something else, totally unrelated to the project I’m working on. A battle of design!
What has been some of your career's biggest highlights so far?
People’s everyday support! Also, the past period has been great; I’ve collaborated with the American Music Awards, the Golden Globe Awards and Oxfam, to mention a few.
How much do you think an outfit affects people's thoughts about others?
A lot! My favorite example here is to look at how superheroes are dressed…you’ll find that each costume reflects a personality and a special ability.
9GAG featured your work and you kind of broke the internet shortly after. What was it like to go viral (globally) almost overnight? How overwhelming was that?
My cut-out series has got so much attention, and it has been so rewarding! However, I didn’t want to get stuck right there, and that’s why I always try new techniques, for the sake of art and not popularity.
How did that affect your career?
All the positive feedback has helped boost my career, leading to more clients and projects, even not related to cut-outs!
Tell us something about yourself that people might not already know.
I can survive on desserts alone, cake to be specific!
What are your greatest passions?
Art. I’m a fanatic, and I always enjoy exploring different forms of art, to enrich my inspiration.
What causes you the most anxiety?
I’m a relatively calm person, but sometimes my stress spikes if I drink too much coffee.
What makes you laugh?
Scary pranks. Mean, but worth it!
What inspires you?
Inspiration is literally everywhere. I find inspiration in nature, architecture, music and film.
What is the best compliment you've ever received?
It was that my art is clever.
How do you define your fashion illustration/design style?
I like to consider my style as lively, detailed, yet simple. I believe it's the details that make an artwork unique and has a personality; my artwork is layered, based on contradictions that capture people's curiosity and make them wonder beyond the illustration.
Who is your favorite style icon?
Leandra Medine of Man Repeller; I really like how she’s fun and doesn’t take fashion seriously.
What are three things you can't live without?
My laptop and tablet, sketch book and pencils, and dessert!
Aside from being an illustrator-extraordinaire, what other talents do you wish you had?
Oh, thank you! Well, I wish I were a chef.
Do you enjoy fame?
I personally don’t enjoy fame, but I love it when my “famous” artwork leaves an impression in people’s minds and lives.
What is the biggest risk you've taken that you feel has paid off?
It’s deciding to be a full-time artist.
Aside from doodling, what other things do you like to do in your free time?
I like to watch movies, series and documentaries.
Are there any political or social issues you feel passionately about?
I’m a strong advocate of education for girls.
Where have you traveled? Which city has been your favorite and why?
I haven’t been to loads of cities, but Cairo is so special to me. I love the energy of its streets, its rich culture, and its genuine people.
What do you splurge on most?
Colors and art supplies.
What's on your music playlist right now?
Lately, it’s been about Tania Saleh and indie rock songs.
Next place you want to travel to? Why?
Scotland, as I’ve been fascinated by the culture, nature and scenery there.