The 24 hour life of an Urban Nomad.
Vingt Quatre is a Dubai and New York City based clothing brand, launched in January 2018, by founders Sumaiyah, Humairah, and Tehmina Akhtar. Three sisters whose quest to harness the urban nomad persona through clothing, inspired them to build a label that speaks volumes on third culture kids and transatlantic lifestyles. We spoke to Sumaiyah on the thought process, concepts and ideas that come into play in the process of building a brand like Vingt Quatre.
Who is the typical Vingt Quatre female/male?
The Urban Nomad embodies a lifestyle characterized by exploring one’s identity in different environments. We live in a society where concepts of self and community are constantly changing and the challenge lies in staying true to oneself. The exploration of identity is personified through clothing, which enable individuals to construct and express themselves through culturally coded visual communication.
The VQ person is multifaceted and dynamic with the ability to balance the corporate/entrepreneurial, social, familial, personal and introspective worlds whilst representing themselves through a visual statement.
What is the main source of inspiration behind your brand? How do you incorporate different cultural backgrounds into your garments?
The brand concept is derived from a personal narrative and its DNA comprises two distinct elements. The first part of this concept is identity and how that relates to the multicultural individual. I was born in Kuwait, raised in Oman and the UAE (which I call home) and then moved to New York for school, and ended up staying there. Both cities (Dubai and New York) are a dominant part of who I am, and over the years have shaped my experiences and thought process. I'm constantly back and forth between both places and the duality of the two cities/cultures requires a flexible intercultural approach. Remaining true to your own identity, whilst assimilating is a concept that I’ve been exploring since I worked on my undergraduate thesis collection at Parsons School of Design. I see fashion as a form of self-expression as it enables the construction of one’s identity through choices in clothing. The brand essentially became an extension of exploring this concept further.
The second part of the DNA is the concept of time, which is how the brand name evolved. Vingt Quatre (meaning the number 24 in French), is an ode to each individuals' 24 hour realm. We live in a fast paced world where time is at a premium. We’re constantly moving and interacting with different spaces and environments through our daily lives. Vingt Quatre's narrative focuses on the Urban Nomad transitioning between cultures and spaces.
Series 1 was a nod to New York’s signature edgy, yet effortless aesthetic. We referenced ubiquitous contemporary silhouettes and redefined them with a luxe/elevated feel. Our design philosophy focuses on form with functionality and how each piece enables individuals to transition through different environments. Every detail is designed with purpose and intent, and through the various iterations of the design process I always question how and where the piece is worn.
For inspiration, I turn to these elements - Architecture, Interiors, Art & Design, Travel, Cultures. I love to meet and speak to new people from all parts of the world, because everyone has a different point of view, and being able to see things from other people’s perspectives, adds dimension to my thought and design process. When I meet new people and hear about their stories, where they come from, what they do, and what they need, it helps me to bridge the gap for them and informs my design process.
What was the theme for your Series 1 collection?
We create seasonless capsule lines called “Series”, that function as a curated edit of wardrobe essentials. Each series released, functions as a layer built upon the previous one. We aim to build out a wardrobe that can take you through seasons and different places. At the time when I was designing Series 1, I had spent a lot of time in New York and was inspired by the 'Urban Nomad' persona that I was building the brand around. An element of this persona was its enigmatic nature and led me to explore the idea of decoding how identity is constructed through clothing. In a very literal manner, I started researching various codes with symbols that have evolved over time, and found that morse code resonated the most with me. I extracted the structural foundation of the line and the dot from morse code, and used the visual line breaks as a base to play with stitch details that became a running theme in Series 1.
When creating content or shooting your garments, any specific message you wish to convey through these images?
There are various elements that come into play when I’m art directing a shoot. I’m a very visual person, and I’ll usually have an idea of what I want the final result to look like. I am, however, very particular about conveying the multifaceted nature of the Urban Nomad and the different facets of being dynamic, versatile, adventurous, enigmatic, etc. I think it always goes back to capturing the Urban Nomad within their inner and outer spaces, and being able to tell their story, wherever that may be.