When Sukeina’s Omar Salam, presenting an anthracite tweed coat tailored to reveal a glimpse of its floral lining, said that he was aiming “to really create this feeling of flowers growing out of rocks,” the image that instantly came to my mind was not that of an artful ikebana but of a scrappy plant pushing its way through cracked concrete. This had nothing to do with the design, which was extremely sophisticated, and everything to do with the state of New York and the world. Both feel dangerous and backwards—who could believe that women’s right to control what happens to their own bodies would be threatened in 2022?
Salam’s persistent optimism and long-sightedness could provide an antidote to anxiety. His covered-up and space-taking clothes are empowering; his tailoring requires an adjustment in posture to a confident stance. But he doesn’t aim to be all things to all women: “We promised ourselves that if we go into fashion, we will not do one thing that is being done by anyone else,” he said.
To that end he’s focused on two specialties, an origami tailoring technique and exquisite knotting. It’s that latter that came to the fore here. The exaggerated and graphic curves of his tweeds carve into the negative space around them and sculpt the body. Unlike Christian Dior’s New Look curves, which were created through inner supports that reformed a body to suit the dress, in Salam’s inventive patterns boning becomes part of the outerseaming. The result is that when a woman pulls on these clothes, she takes on the shape of the garment rather than submitting to its form.
With a miniskirt and cropped jacket in a furry texture Salam achieved his goal of bringing hard and soft together. He did so as well with a pair of beautifully cut cropped pants made of a substantial wool that allowed for movement. A floral sheath felt like an outlier save for its boatneck, a motif that ran throughout the collection. “It’s very difficult for us to detach ourselves from balance,” Salam said. The neckline was a way of “getting to a place of peace; that straight neckline just felt clean and cleansing to us.”
Boatnecks aside, what’s most consistent in Salam’s work is his origami technique. He describes these folds as being like fortune cookies, which is an interesting metaphor that might be applied to the brand as a whole. Sukeina creates garments that allow women to carve out their own space in the world.