Nataal shoots the London-based Sudanese designer’s latest collection and asks what drives his intelligent approach to fashion
Omer Asim’s SS17 presentation was a refreshingly cerebral palette cleanser during the hubbub of London Fashion Week. Entitled Reversed Sensory, his models stood aloft plinths with black charcoal besmirching their fingers and feet while on their backs were simple tunics, waistcoats and shorts covered in painterly marks. Some pieces were suspended from the body, others held close by solid breastplates. Copper mouth stoppers, rods and ear spheres, by jewellery designer and long-time collaborator Maya Antoun, added to the raw and minimal atmosphere. “I not an inspiration designer, I’m more process driven. Pattern making is integral to my designs and the aesthetic is somewhat a by-product of the garment making process,” Asim says. “But perhaps my moods seep into my collections. Recently, I've been interested in the parallels between African and Viking, I feel the two cultures draw from a primal human pool.”
The designer has continued to push these musings with his Pre AW17 womenswear and AW17 menswear collections. Keeping to his signature palette of black, white and neutrals has allowed him to concentrate on textural fabrications and finishes including pleating and raw edges, and the formation of long, lean silhouettes with discrete volumes, drapes and corseted constrictions. His abstract, pure forms are simultaneously sculpted and dishevelled, forgetting trends in favour of intuitive constructions.
Born in Khartoum in 1978, Asim moved to London to study architecture at The Bartlett UCL and did his postgraduate in organisational and social psychology at the London School of Economics. He then started to be drawn to psychoanalysis and visual anthropology, which lead him on to fashion. “I became fascinated with the relationship between mind and body: the mind lives within a body, and the body lives within the cloth.” He worked for Maurice Sedwell on Savile Row, Norwegian designer Kristian Aadnevik and Vivienne Westwood while developing his own approach to pattern cutting and debuted his label for SS10 at London Fashion Week with a range of oblique garments cut from circle-like patterns.
Subsequent collections explored ways to make clothing from a single piece of uncut cloth, not unlike the Sudanese Thoub, which is tied, knotted and wrapped around the body. “It’s a basic yet endlessly complex, elegant and progressive way of dressing when applied to modern day expectations of functionality, which I achieved through sewing, zips and lightweight corsetry.” Since then he has continued to hone his uncompromising designs for all sexes. “A-gender appeals to me because I've always been interested in garments as cultural objects, and culture is not gender conscious, culture is culture. However, I do think gender delineation has its purposes,” he says. “My customer is someone who is more in tune with their instincts and humanity, than they are with The Kardashians.”
Kim’s loss has been Laura Mvula’s gain. Asim recently made a piece for the singer. He’s also worked with Sudanese model Grace Bol and had his pieces worn by fellow model Ajak Deng. So what does the future hold for this enigmatic soul? “I don’t like to plan too much; I prefer to respond to the times. I think the question is: what is 2017 planning for me?”
All clothes Omer Asim SS17