Minutes before his fall 2023 show opened, designer Omar Salam sat in the photographer’s pit. Dressed simply in a navy sweater, dark pants, and a white button-up, he was perched on the edge of an apple crate, his phone held at his knee as he watched and recorded the final rehearsal for the latest collection from his brand Sukeina. A smile crept onto his face as Coco Rocha appeared at the back of the runway. With old-school, dramatic swirls and flourishes, she swanned up the catwalk, tossing the long black train of her skirt from side to side before striking a few dynamic poses. About 20 minutes later, Salam’s smile was replaced by gasps, his phone multiplied multiple times over as the audience took in the sight of Rocha, a longtime collaborator of the 11-year-old brand, adding her own bit of verve to the procession of models. It was a surprising end to a solid outing from the designer, selected as a CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist in 2022.
Salam sourced inspiration in you for the Sukeina fall 2023 collection. You in the collective sense — all of “the you’s.”
“We started with the story of a little boy called Pebble and a little girl called Seagrass that are talking about you,” Salam tells ESSENCE after the show as attendees like friend and client Joy-Ann Reid, Bethann Hardison, and Jay Manuel mill around. “Not your you, but their you of you. So they are talking about you being in the room and the light that you bring. How you inspire them, but you have no idea of it.”
The collection was, in effect, about every individual’s influence that goes unacknowledged. How your hairstyle might inspire a musician who sees you on the train or how the way you’re walking down the street could influence a painter. It is often seeming mundanity that gives way to creative expression. And it was from here that Salam designed.
“Let’s get this straight: nobody inspiring inspires me — no designer inspires me,” he says. “The people who think they are normal, I think they are majestic, it’s just that no one has told them. So I spy on them, I watch them on the train, and they think they have a completely normal life, not knowing that anything that is great is being inspired by that ‘regular,’ crazy dandy woman.”
This might explain the use of something so ordinary as an oversized gold zipper as a motif of the collection. It came as a trimming on the collars of smart, structured outerwear and a design flourish on a series of stand-out, curve-hugging dresses and skirts with handkerchief hemlines. The brand’s signature origami-like folding technique was used sparingly while the silk neoprene fabric returned in force.
The show is his first since being a part of the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund, where he received financial funds to help support his business and industry mentorship.
“It was amazing,” he says of the experience. “I tell people to imagine Mariah Carey in the middle of Central Park trying to sing, as gorgeous as her voice is but not having any amplifiers. She would scream so loud that it would probably start to distort and deteriorate her vocal cords. I didn’t know the importance of having people [with a platform], and that could say, ‘you don’t have to yell, you don’t have to scream. Just speak your truth’ and still have people hear that. This is really the lesson that I learned.”
See a selection of the Fall Winter 23′ collection ahead.