Emirati Sumayyah Al Suwai di has a strong aesthetic in her work. She has carved out a name for herself as a home-grown talent with an effortless affinity for digital art and is continuing to create enticing pieces where she blurs the traditional parameters between fashion and art…
Digital technology has taken over the art world – and Abu Dhabi, being a prime spot for all things technology, has welcomed this new wave of innovation. Sumayyah Al Suwaidi is the first Emirati female digital artist, curator, entrepreneur and fashion designer. She is a well known name in the arts community and has curated many successful art exhibitions personally and professionally. She’s been running her own business since 2004 (Grafika) a multi brand boutique in Abu Dhabi and is the founder and creative director of SEEN, a luxury fashion brand. Among her string of credits, she’s been the recipient of the best fashion designer for the L’officiel Arab Woman Awards Abu Dhabi in 2013 as well as being a judge at the Abu Dhabi Expo Designer of the Year.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
My daily life inspires me, as I juggle so many things in one day – I come across many situations – some are good and some are bad, being a mother also has a huge impact on me, so my way to exhale is to create art. I never saw myself working in a company for my whole life, I truly enjoy being my own boss so in 2004 I decided to open my own business and hopefully in the future my children will be running it. Finally, I enjoy fashion, it’s what I wear and how I want people to see me, so I try my best to always be unique at what I choose to wear and that inspired me to launch my own fashion line.
How did your career in the arts come about?
1996 was the year which transformed my entire life. My cousin had enrolled in college majoring in Graphic Design, and watching her work on her computer got me so excited and I had to have a computer too, so then I made sure that art programs were installed. I had a lot of fun and when I got to major in college I chose Graphic Design knowing how much I loved it. With time Graphic Design was not enough, but I discovered Digital Art existed which was the total opposite of Graphic Design, no guidelines, no restrictions, complete freedom. I looked at so many digital artists’ websites and read many magazines and finally my first collection was in 2001 and the artworks sold out.
Tell us about some highlight exhibitions?
My first exhibition was in 2003 at Beach Rotana Hotel in Abu Dhabi with a group of pioneering Emirati Artists. In 2007 I had my first solo art exhibition at Ghaf Art Gallery in Abu Dhabi, I loved setting up my own show and all the pressure that came with it and thought I should curate shows where other artists could also join, so then I began curating open call art exhibitions giving every artist in the UAE an opportunity to showcase and sell their art. One of the most famous exhibitions is the Ramadan Art Bazaar, an annual exhibition where artists sell their work during the entire month of Ramadan for no more than 4000Dhs giving people the opportunity to be art collectors and to own original artworks.
What do you want people to feel when they see your work?
I want them to relate my work to their daily life as it does to me. I would like my work to have a strong impact on people – good or bad.
Where did fashion come into all this?
Since I was a little girl, I’ve been fascinated by fashion. I was raised by my aunt who was the only artist in the family, she drew, painted, designed clothes and was an interior decorator so having her influence in my life made me the artist and fashion designer I am today. I grew up watching her work, and she would take me with her everywhere so I learned how to deal with tailors, where to buy fabrics. Each time she made me a dress I would be with her throughout the entire process, from sketching to execution and now as a mother I do the same for my daughters until I launched Grafika and felt that I had to have my own line in the store too. SEEN was launched in February 2011 and since then it has been on the rise. SEEN was part of Harper’s Bazaar World of Fashion Arabian Nights at the Mall of the Emirates in 2011, where I was also invited to showcase a selection of 18 dresses for the Red Carpet Oriental Fashion Show at Dubai Ladies Club 2011. Internationally SEEN was invited during London Fashion Week by A La Mode International Catwalk Show 2012 to showcase 20 outfits and in Miami for Miami Beach International Fashion Week 2013.
How do you see the arts scene in Abu Dhabi at the moment?
Abu Dhabi is growing and the love of art is growing with it by its people and residents and Saadiyat Island is proof of that.
What have you got going on in the coming months?
During May I will have Dress The Mannequin and Abu Dhabi Fashion Days (ADFD) Closets happening and in June it will be the time for the Ramadan Art Bazaar and the main ADFD.