Models present creations by Kithe Brewster on a Paris catwalk.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Kithe Brewster is an American stylist and fashion designer and founder of Kithe Brewster brand and company. Leaving for Paris at age nineteen proved to be the right cut for him, as he immediately grasped the French scene, becoming a hot stylist on the move.
After seven years in Paris, he moved to London, where music styling became his forte. While in London, he worked for magazines such as Elle, Scene, Vanity Fair, Interview, Flaunt, Chic (Dutch), French and American Jalouse and Surface, among others.
His work for these publications gained attention from the crème de la crème of fashion, as well as European and Hollywood celebrity elite. He has styled covers for Flaunt magazine with stars such as Adrien Brody, Cate Blanchett, Drew Barrymore, Selma Hayek, Winona Ryder, and many others.
His personal clients have included Halle Berry, Julianne Moore, Iman, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, Usher and Heidi Klum. He has spent a great deal of time in the Middle East, in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and the UAE. He was Creative Director of DIFW, the original Fashion Week. “I predicted on record,” he says, “that Dubai would become a major fashion capital.”
Currently in Dubai, Brewster spoke to Gulf Today
Why did you choose the fashion industry as your place of work?
I would like to think my early exposure to the arts in all aspects was definitely a deciding factor. From a very young age, I was extremely conscious of clothing and its many textures. At five or six, I truly understood the definition of beauty.
Looking back, I adored rummaging through my mother’s closets and just appreciating the quality; I was quick to notice when something missed this quality.
It was truly organic in this sense, thus I believe I was chosen. As a man of faith, there are no coincidences. I believe it is the Creator’s plan - the journey and the results.
What are the African-American sensitivities you bring to fashion?
Being African and American contributes a great deal to my creative DNA. I am balanced in rich history and tradition. As a designer, my gift is my hands, draping and manipulating fabric to create one of a kind designs. This is rich African tradition — the sense of colour and dynamic.
There is a European side of my makeup, which leads me to seek out Europe to discover this sense of style. I was a huge success as a stylist, fashion editor and celebrity stylist, because of the balance of multiple culture comprehension. In fact, it’s the understanding of all global cultures combined, that is needed to truly be a voice in fashion.
Is fashion only for celebrities or can it be shared by others?
Fashion is, in my belief, for everyone. I definitely think we all want and need the confidence of looking and then feeling good. I spend a lot of time observing the influences in modern society. I’m certain it trickles down, in some capacity, to reach everyone.
Is Faith a constraint on fashion?
I believe Faith is in no way a restraining measure in fashion. For example, my time in the UAE and other Arab countries, helped me to see the progression of High Fashion and Modesty. When I was Creative Director of Dubai Fashion Week, I helped to discover the amazing talent of Rabia Z.
I had the huge pleasure to nurture her and to push her vision of modesty and the Muslim woman. At that time, twelve years ago, we made history with her first show in Dubai. I get goose bumps when I think back and hear the live drums and the first entrance of the first model.
We proved successfully that within modesty, one can be fashion forward and completely true to one’s faith, respecting the modesty it is built upon. I cried like a baby that night, when she received a true standing ovation. We had managed to inspire Muslim women. It was a historic moment and I have watched a global progression in High Fashion inspired by the modesty of Muslim women. Let’s not forget my first ever collection was inspired by Emirati women.
Is there a distinction between expat fashion and Emirati fashion? If so, what are their defining features?
There is a difference between expat fashion and Emirati fashion. There is a merging of sophistication and class in Emirati fashion. Expat fashion tends to hinge upon trends from Europe, yet slight behind. As an expat I say this in an opinion-based manner. What’s beautiful is when all of the incredible high fashion intertwines with traditional and modest apparel.
Why did you think Dubai could be a fashion centre of the world?
I felt twelve years ago that Dubai would become a fashion capital because I saw the vision of Sheikh Mohammed and the impact of the year that I spent coming back and forwards from New York. The buildings were going up all around me. I saw it happening.
I felt the hunger for this country’s own place within the fashion makeup. I pushed so hard to catch them up to the rest of the world. A funny note, I got rid of the raised runways and had the models walk on the floor. It caused a huge uproar: it was in the papers. But when the rest of the world saw the shows that came out of Dubai, they were blown away. I convinced American Elle magazine to cover Fashion Week. It was a huge step that was aligned with Sheikh Mohammed’s vision.
How will you define your style?
Maison Kithe Brewster will define its style by being discerning and not by over capitalising or over exposing the brand. By always being consistent in style. By not selling the same thing to hundreds of clients. By quality and personal attention to every client. By never running out of ideas, and creating original excellence.
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