"I feel that the GCC is reaching an innovative peek. People from all countries, including, of course, Qatar are expressing their love for the arts in a prestigious way," says Mohamed.
Qatar is one of the countries that can inspire the dynamic fashion markets and also, get inspired by them. There is room for growth, innovation and creative minds.
Mohammed Rabi was born and raised in Dubai before moving abroad; first Montreal where he obtained a diploma in design and set prop, and then to San Fransisco to study education and get a minor in sculpting.
His high-end leather jackets are a new take on a classic piece and are now coveted for their fashion sense and quality. Let's take a peek into the life of the man who is becoming well known throughout the region and beyond.
He started his own fashion brand, The Letter, as an ode to the personal experiences he had throughout his life – past and present. “It is an ongoing letter that I write to myself mentally on what my next step towards my business, my social life, my personal life will be. Since we all are forever students in this world, the quest to wanting to know more never ends.” he says.
The making of a designer; early years, studies and inspiration
Growing up in an artistic home with an interior designer sister and a brother with a business background and a fashion sense, it was inevitable he would also follow a similar career.
Studying in California taught him a lot; he blended in with the locals, made friends with a plethora of people which ultimately, helped him gain a perspective on how to live in another person’s shoes and better understand their fashion sense. California was his main source of inspiration for his key fashion piece; the leather jacket. “I always loved the overall aurora of a leather jacket and how it can complete any wardrobe whether classy or casual and the confidence it can give the individual who is wearing it.” he says.
His inspiration comes from pop culture; the movies and the musicians he grew up watching and listening to. What mesmerizes him the most, is the psychological effect a fictitious can have on a designer; how it inspires him on how he wants his designs to be worn from the customer. “Art reflects life” he says “and it’s the experiences we have that we can incorporate to our designs;” that’s his main motto.
Inside the mind of a creative genius - from a sketch to a masterpiece
And what about his creative process? The journey from inspiration to design and creation is a fascinating one. “It starts with a sketch of what I want the jacket to look like, then what color palette would suit this specific design the most, followed by the minor components such as buttons, zipper, additional designs such as paintwork or studs and how we could fit the pieces all together.” he says and continues with the selection of leather samples, quality check and lastly, the creation, “since it’s all been made by hand by highly qualified artisans, we make the sample and observe the fit and once all those components have been green lit, we are all set for a final product.”
His definition of fashion is stylish yet comfortable; confidence and comfort can be combined together to create a perfect piece that will tell a story of the person who is wearing it. And a little controversy doesn’t harm, “It’s like looking at an art piece in a gallery, everyone has their own opinion on what they’re seeing” he adds.
Entrepreneurship and the pandemic's effect on fashion
Being an entrepreneur in 2021 and owning a business during a global health crisis is definitely challenging, “marketing your brand within a limited budget is definitely the hardest part of having your own business. Dealing with different suppliers, logistic companies and making sure all is going smoothly is definitely aspects to the game that bring out the challenge in you” he says about creating his own fashion brand.
The pandemic has affected the fashion industry and forced the brands to adapt to new standards and rules - “at first, it was scary due to not knowing where we were headed but gradually things got better” he says about the pandemic. Mohammed Rabi underlines the necessity of expanding the brand’s designs in order to give his customers something different, “I introduced customized duffel bags. Since people couldn’t travel a lot of bags were purchased for their staycations that they were having regularly.”
The pandemic has affected the increasing consumer consciousness and recognition that independent designers have grown to know lately. Designers are appreciated more he says but advocating the hard work they put in their brands has been a struggle since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Fashion and brands in the age of social media
Another big issue over the past few years is brand awareness and ethics in the fashion industry. Quality is first and foremost for him, that’s what drives customer satisfaction. Customer service – from responding to questions and messages, sticking to deadlines and admitting any mistakes made, comes after that in his opinion.
The past few years social media play a major role in the success of a fashion brand and Rabi knows that; as he points out “sales can be made through a DM message sent to you on Instagram. In fact, if I were to count, I think I’ve made more sales through Instagram than I have through any other online platform.”
The future of "The Letter"
As for his plans for the future? His long-term goal “is to go from being an independent fashion label to having grown to establishing a fashion house. I aim to make a name for the brand in an as many countries as I possibly can” he says. First and foremost, he will always remain a student of the craft. Traveling and gaining inspiration from the places and people he meets is an ongoing goal for him.
His latest collection is out now with his favourite piece being the limited piece set of duffel bags he designed during the global pandemic as well as the leather dresses and jumpsuits he designed because as he says “it’s a new step for me, I want to explore more on how to make a leather piece look raw and elegant simultaneously.”