Knowledge, dedication and an explosion of creativity could be some of many words to describe fashion stylist and creative director Kawa H Pour. Based in Dubai, Kawa has worked for top fashion magazines Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Marie Claire, Interview, Numéro and Schön. He has styled some of our favorite editorials and covers. Kawa notes that his career has been a journey with many lessons learned, attesting that nothing comes easily. He can teach us all a thing or two about chasing our goals and creating our own path in the fashion industry.
How did you start working in fashion?
I studied Art school as my interest in painting and sculpture was very intense at the time. I had a spare key and would go to school often at nights and weekends because I had a second job in construction and wasn’t able to attend classes. I was often alone and would work on projects that spoke to me in a creative way without the need of putting label on what I was creating. At one point my teachers found all the projects I had done at my station desk. At first I thought they would get mad at me, because I missed classes and wasn’t focused at the actual subject we were directed to do, but they were very impressed with my work. Mainly in form of sketches, drawings of what I had imagined and liked… They were surprised by my hidden talent and basically ”ordered me” to go to fashion school and not waste my talent. So, I listened.
When did you realize you wanted to be part of the fashion world?
I never had any intention to be a part of the fashion world but as I got deeper in studying fashion and design, while always working on my own passion projects, interest and curiosity grow by the minute and an incredible journey of good and bad started.
How did your career develop from that point?
I have been my own biggest project. And by that I mean my personal development. I came from a Kurdish farmer background, growing up in a small village, while my father was in an anti-government resistant group. Our country was at war and poverty and limited knowledge of an Islamic world dominated our upbringing. So the fascination of creating beauty and expressing yourself freely, your vision and emotions in an artistic way was liberating. I evolved, as school taught me how to use certain tools to bring them into physical form… I started as assistant for local stylists. Watched and studied everything and anyone that spoke to me in the fashion industry. I was doing my own projects independently and managed to build a portfolio to represent my style and vision, while still having another job as a building constructor.
Harper’s Bazaar Arabia; Photographer – Pelle Lannefors; Fashion Editor/Stylist – Kawa H Pour; Makeup Artist – Marisol Steward; Model – Karolina Waz
Is internship important?
Yes, definitely. Any chance of putting yourself out there in relevant workplace to evolve is good. The more you engage, observe and the more you are curious and present, the more you learn. Also, it is a great way to get insight and take part in the community of the fashion industry and see how different artists and companies work.
How relevant is having an agent?
Nowadays with a constant growing industry it is considered important to be represented by an agency. But that relationship is like any other- you have good ones and bad ones. I always hear my friends speak either very well or have no attachment towards the agencies they are signed with. Agencies are very different and they all work in different ways but definitely as a serious photographer, stylist or make-up artist it is good to be represented. At the same time, I do enjoy having my freedom.
Take us through your workflow.
I am working mainly creative directing and styling. I am very much involved in the early stages of each project. I usually already have a specific idea for each individual project depending on how it speaks to me and on a client’s desire. While in all stages new sources of inspiration come based on circumstances. Of course, during the creative process with a team a finished story comes to form. I’ve already have in mind with which creative group I’d like to work and eventually, when client and I are on the same page, we get into production. I believe, just like the fingerprints, there is an unique individual mark in each project.
Interview Russia; Photographer – Pelle Lannefors; Art Director – Kawa H Pour; Fashion Editor/Stylist – Kawa H Pour; Makeup Artist – Marisol Steward; Model – Asia Piwka
How important is communication between yourself and the photographer that you’ll be working with?
As I mentioned above, communication is everything. The final images depend on so many elements such as: mood, location, props, models, clothing, message, feeling etc. You must have a successful and effective way of communication and understanding with a photographer for the sake of the result. I consider myself as an extra eye for a photographer and spokesman for a client. I work to deliver what is promised.
What is the most satisfying part of styling for you?
Since I think of myself as an artist, styling gives me opportunity to express myself and my feelings. You communicate with people by creating a certain style using textile, colors, props, models, environment. I take inspiration from people around me that play important roles but often they are not in the spotlight, such as assistants, producers, PRs and showroom managers, clients and editors.
What kind of projects are you primarily passionate about?
I don’t work on anything that doesn’t speak to me. I don’t have a particular project in mind. I am passionate about my everyday life and my work, individuality of each is beautiful.
What has been your favorite work so far?
As I have been lucky to work a lot lately as creative director of many projects, I love the freedom of being able to expand and enforce my full visions, and, of course, styling.
A fashion rule you always follow is…
Is to have no rule, to be YOU. If you choose a certain fashion and stay with it, you are in the comfort zone. Having confidence means that you are fabulous and you go with what makes your heart sing. What’s more beautiful than that? I don’t follow trends and rules, I create my own.
Elle Denmark; Photographer – Jonas Jensen; Fashion Editor/Stylist – Kawa H Pour; Model – May Andersen
The fashion week season is behind us. What show was the best? Whose after-party was the best? Has anyone surprised you?
Its been an interesting time indeed with many new designers and many new translations and expressions of history of the houses. I am very impressed with the new Dior‘s designer Maria Grazia Chiuri, who’s actually doing what Coco Chanel started. She is taking a fight for empowering women. I sense a hidden political message in her work, for women to stay true to themselves and be strong and beautiful the way they are created. Today’s young women are in a way slaves of the plastic surgery and heavy make-up trend. They are stepping away from self acceptance as they are being fed by social media every second. Because, all these beauty treatments are big business. It seems to be hard for those decent role models, women to get through and be known as a voice of reason and self acceptance. Maria is brave enough to make such a statement in her very first collection, which is beautiful and sensual. I am also a big fan of Marni and Comme des Garçons.
New York, Paris, London or Milan?
Milan for pizza and pasta. London for photographers. Paris for wine, lovely ladies and fashion. New York for the city and models.
Name top three designers.
That’s a hard one, there are to many. But I can say I admire the most Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto and John Galliano.
Who is the most inspiring person you have ever met in the fashion industry?
My mum for sure. Even thought she is not in the fashion industry, she is my biggest source of inspiration and the greatest person I’ve ever met. Besides her and rest of my large family, I would say mister Yamamoto is a living legend and a great person in every way.
Describe your style in three words.
Modern, elegant and sensual.
Why do you always wear black?
I think it just happened that you’ve seen me most of the time in black. I love color but then again black is black.
One piece you’re buying for winter to update your look?
A ticket to Thailand! (laughs) My family says I need a tan.
What is the biggest misconception about the fashion industry? Is it as glamorous as it seems?
I believe that fashion is more important and influential than many people give credit for. While the fashion industry is growing to be almost as important as the food industry, with big industries comes big problems and people getting blinded by focusing on making money. I think the ”fast fashion industry” is as dangerous for us as fast food. With that I mean damaging existence of the art of fashion and integrity of taking the time and putting the heart into making clothes. Lots of poor people in the third world countries are put into work as children and they never get a chance to do anything but coloring our 4 Euro T-shirt and get robbed from having a life. And we accept this part. I think this is the biggest misconception about fashion industry, seeing only the fancy side.
What advice would you give to the young people seeking a job in the fashion industry?
Believe in yourself, be willing to work hard, be patient, observant, find something positive in the times of struggle and have a plan. Don’t stop when it gets tough. Step by step and you will reach your goals.
Schön Magazine; Photographer – Patricia Reyes; Art Director – Kawa H Pour; Fashion Editor/Stylist – Kawa H Pour; Makeup Artist – Helen Borg; Model – Mia Stass
How big are your ambitions?
My ambition is my driving force and passion. If I want something, I am determinated to do my best to get it, no matter how, no matter where, without hurting others of course. Always be kind, gentle and friendly. No need to turn yourself into an inhuman monster just because you are good at what you do or you want something really bad. I believe what goes around comes around.
Vesna Filipovic for Fashionela