Qatar’s first men’s fashion designer is leading cultural change and inspiring a generation

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SCENES shines the spotlight on young people around the world who are breaking down barriers and creating change. The character-driven shorts will inspire and amaze as these young changemakers tell their remarkable stories.

Fahad Al Obaidly is creative in the literal sense of the term. The fashion designer-mentor speaks the language of creativity and expresses himself through art in his native country, Qatar. Fahad’s passion can be seen in every step of his comprehensive portfolio of work.

A curiosity for fashion

“My passion for fashion started when I was very young,” Fahad tells Scenes. He remembers the influence of television on his mother, which caused her to be more creative with her designs. “We were all obsessed with Mexican TV shows, and my mom was really fascinated by the dresses,” Fahad explains. “I remember her sitting down and sketching each dress very quickly so she could make it locally.”

This process would spark a creative curiosity in Fahad. He wondered why his mother made so much effort for his clothes. “Creating these dresses is her own way of expressing her identity as a woman.” This gave Fahad the inspiration to learn more. “For me, it was important to study fashion and really develop my skills from a technical point of view.”

After his fashion studies, Fahad needed work experience. Unfortunately, there are no male fashion designers in Qatar. “Our region was complicated to integrate,” recalls Fahad of his early career.

Lacking other options, he was forced to leave Qatar and move to Europe. For six years, he traveled through Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Turkey and Paris. His last stop was at the Marangoni Institute in Milan, one of the most influential fashion schools in the country, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Design.

As an unknown designer in Europe, Fahad had to start from scratch. “I started in Malta. I was organizing fashion shows there, not as an organizer, but as an assistant.”

Learn the basics

Once inside the industry, the hard work began. Fahad was able to better understand how international fashion works. “Working with a workshop as a pattern maker has really helped me push myself and develop my professionalism,” says Fahad.

Fahad returned to Qatar in 2014 and launched his menswear brand “Fahad Al Obaidly”, also known as FAO. Having to make a living as an up-and-coming designer came with challenges. However, he always focused on what he loved. “I saved my money to live or buy fabric,” says Fahad. “It really helped me when I came back to Doha to understand that this industry is purely commercial and not a luxury and lifestyle industry,” he adds.

“I did my first fashion show without even having a label, not even a logo,” says Fahad. Although he didn’t have a business plan or a digital portfolio, he was determined to make the show a success. “I just showed them my collection, and said I wanted to do a show, and the community was really supportive of me.” It was the lucky break he needed. “I saw that the market was very positive about my collection,” recalls Fahad. Today, he designs clothing that celebrates traditional Qatari clothing with a modern, contemporary twist for men and women.

M7

At M7, a fashion and design incubation center, Fahad is responsible for public programs, where he shares his knowledge and experience with young Qataris and residents to help them start their own businesses. “I think what makes my position here at M7 unique is that I come from the same market that these designers are hoping to establish their brands,” says Fahad.

Created under the leadership of the President of Qatar Museums, HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, M7 is the latest initiative developed and funded by Qatar Museums to help build a strong creative hub in Doha. “M7 is not just a building, it’s an ecosystem,” explains Fahad. Through comprehensive programs, M7 equips aspiring creative entrepreneurs with the skills and know-how to realize their business ambitions.

The establishment offers training, workshops, incubation spaces, a public café on the ground floor; a concept store; a co-working space and two exhibition galleries. “So what we’ve done is create an environment where all of these creatives can be successful,” says Fahad. “Thanks to Studio 7, we have approximately 41 brands celebrating their creation, doing well and selling.”

Fully funded by the Qatari government, the creative hub supports local designer brands ready to export internationally. “When I see the government investing with me, they say they believe in us. They believe we can be the new voices of the creative economy here in Doha,” he says.

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