An afternoon with Salim.
With a newly launched FW23 collection replete with emotion, a return to Fashion Trust Arabia, and store launches in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United States, Salim has had a busy couple of months. I dropped by his workspace to talk fashion, life, and beyond.
It’s the little things
What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
I get out of bed to heat the water kettle and prepare the maté set. Maté always comes first.
Sipping on it is when I feel most at peace – sheltered from life's distractions. It became much more than a drink to me; the morning ritual of sitting alone with it in my hands has become sacred to me.
What is a piece of jewelry without which you cannot leave the house?
The evil eye necklace I've had since I was a child. But it's never alone. It's always in the company of my mom's jewelry, or other necklaces I've bought or been gifted by my sister Lilian.
What's your go-to music genre, and who’s your favorite artist?
I come from a place where people listen to all kinds of music – and I was born in the UAE, grew up in the Chouf mountains, and then studied in Canada, so I enjoy listening to different things.
The music I dance to isn’t the same music from which I draw inspiration. Whenever I find myself daydreaming about the brand or our team’s craft, there's likely always contemporary or indie Arabic music playing in the background.
I'm currently obsessed with Lynn Adib.
If you could reincarnate into any animal, which animal would it be?
I'd be a Hoopoe (Hudhud) or a leopard. Anything feline, actually.
What's your favorite season?
Spring. It symbolizes new beginnings and it’s when nature comes back to life. There's always hope that comes with it.
Fashion through a fine-tooth comb
What would you be doing if you weren’t running the Salim Azzam brand?
I’d be a full-time entertainer – I love performing and dancing. I’d do anything to express myself.
What’s your favorite fashion decade?
Without a doubt, the '90s.
Which fashion trend do you wish would make a comeback?
The intricately designed gloves women and men wore in the old days.
What excites you the most about fashion?
The representation of culture, and the beautiful storytelling that comes out of collections.
What's one decision you stand entirely behind?
I'm glad I didn't study fashion because I didn't idolize anyone growing up or when I began building my fashion brand. My inspiration came from my mom's closet. That has allowed me to express myself from the most genuine place in my heart.
Who is your fashion muse?
A sheikha figure. There’s a gentle power behind the sophisticated simplicity and beauty of the traditional attire of the communities in Lebanon's mountains.
What's the best part of your job?
Thinking about what I want to say and what people want to listen to is extremely important to me. It's what brings me the most happiness. I love bringing stories to life through fashion and sharing them with the world.
What do the people who wear Salim Azzam have in common?
An appreciation for the passion and care poured into the creation of their garments and an emotional connection to their piece, its story, and its creator.
The women of Salim Azzam are the soul of the brand. What is something you'd like to say to them?
My vision for the brand would have never come to life had it not been for the talent, skillset, and stories of the incredible women of Chouf. I'm so grateful for them and cannot thank them enough for trusting me throughout this incredible journey.
Yesterday, today, tomorrow
Who inspires you the most?
My mom. Everything about her inspires me, like how she lives her life and treats others. I don't think I've ever met anyone like my mom, and I'm so lucky to have someone like her in my life. She has grounded me, and I carry everything I learned from her in every aspect of my life.
Tell me about one of your fondest childhood memories.
I have many. I was a very lucky child. There's one moment I remember vividly, though.
My mom asked a lady, whose name and face I can't remember, to come to our house to teach me how to draw. I once drew her a rooster – I remember that like it was yesterday.
I was obsessed with that lady. I think she was the first person to hand me a pencil. It was at that moment that I realized I could create so much with just my hands.
What's your biggest fear?
The truth? Death.
Of Life and Death was a collection through which I tried processing the idea of losing someone and coming to terms with the realization that all things come to an end. Working on this collection helped me explore profound thoughts and emotions. Still, death is something I really think about.
What are you most looking forward to right now?
I can’t wait for us to take the brand to new heights and reach more people with our stories. We have so much more to share with the world.
What’s equally as exciting to me is focusing on health and gratitude and soaking up each moment.
What do you want to be remembered for?
I'd like for people to remember me for my work. As simple as that.
Interviewed by: Lynn Soubra
Photographed by: Mohamad Al-Rifai