From an early age, he was deeply influenced by the strong, style-savvy women he grew up with, shaping his personality and design style.
He skilfully combines authenticity and innovation into his one-of-a-kind designs, drawing inspiration from architecture and history. He has won multiple awards, most notably the Fashion Group International (FGI) NYC Rising Star Award in the womenswear category in 2020.
In this interview, international designer Rakan Shams Aldeen discusses how his career path started as a childhood dream and evolved. Along with sharing his goals for the future, he also highlights his professional accomplishments.
Interviewed by: Bidaa Qatlish
A childhood passion that continues to this day. It shaped the identity of international fashion designer Rakan Shams Aldeen. Who is Rakan in your vocabulary?
Rakan Shams Aldeen is a relentless fashion designer. I have always had a passion for design, which I cannot live without. I have loved it since I was young. My life would be completely unimaginable without fashion design, and it consumes all of my time.
I love all creative arts because they inspire me and push me to progress and develop.
A love for art since childhood. Did you ever want to be a fashion designer when you were a kid? When did the story begin?
Yes, I had aspired to be a fashion designer! I was raised surrounded by strong, fashion-forward women who frequently designed their clothing as a way to express their uniqueness and personalities.
I recall my first childhood memories of accompanying my mother to the fabric store and playing among the rolls of fabric. I would also accompany her to the tailors and marvel at how my mother created new dresses.
This passion launched me into the world of fashion design.
As we all know, architecture and history captivate you. Are these places where Rakan finds inspiration?
Obviously! For me, there is no future for one without a past!
One of my main sources of inspiration is the rich historical and cultural diversity of numerous regions.
I constantly draw inspiration from our historical and architectural heritage, even though my overall style tends towards modern aesthetics and isn’t always based on explicit allusions to it.
I find it challenging to place my emotions and recollections of these cultural components in a more up-to-date setting.
The emotions and sensations that classical Arabic music evokes in me inspire me to create things that are just as beautiful, which makes it another major source of inspiration for me.
In Turkey, you pursued a degree in fashion design. In what ways do you believe an academic education fosters creativity in the field of fashion design?
Formal education, in my opinion, provides us with more insight and enhances the abilities required for creative thinking, even though I respect the path taken by many in our field who are self-taught.
Furthermore, formal education fosters critical and analytical thinking, which improves our ability to create designs.
I believe it to be a very important factor, even though it isn’t the only one.
Ultimately, formal education cannot completely replace talent, but it can help us reach our full creative potential.
Is it possible to view your relocation to the US as a significant career advancement? Explain this stage in further detail!
In that regard, I would say that coming to the United States helped advance my career.
In the USA, I’ve had a priceless chance to advance personally and professionally as a designer, while also learning and growing.
Moving to the United States of America provided me with an ideal experimental environment in which I was able to discover my true identity as a designer and determine my career goals.
With this move, I was able to work for a range of New York City companies and gain extensive and in-depth knowledge about the ins and outs of running a business.
During this time, I had a variety of experiences, from dealing directly with customers to adjusting to the challenges of international markets and comprehending their unique needs.
Consequently, this allowed me to achieve a lot in my career. Among these successes were collaborations with emerging fashion labels, contributions to internationally recognised fashion houses, and even employment in large corporations.
How did you find season 17 of Project Runway USA? In what ways has it improved your life and career?
I had a great time on Season 17 of Project Runway USA, which was a unique and enjoyable experience. I made the most of the chance to promote my brand and establish lasting connections with other designers and businesses.
In fact, I had the privilege of meeting Christian Siriano during the show, who saw my talent and gave me my first break in this industry.
Personally, I found it extremely tough and painful to be eliminated in the middle of the show, especially since I was hoping to win.
But looking back on these years, I genuinely think that everything happens for a reason and that things build upon one another.
Taking a broader view, I am confident that everything that transpired was ultimately beneficial, and I consider my accomplishments to be proof of my actual triumph.
The year 2020 was crowned with you receiving a one-of-a-kind award. Tell us more about the award!
One of the turning points in my career was winning the Womenswear category Fashion Group International (FGI) NYC Rising Star Award.
This esteemed award showcases upcoming talent in the fashion industry and recognises the top up-and-coming brands across multiple categories.
Being one of the recipients of this award was a great honour for me, especially since I was emulating the designs of renowned designers like Tory Burch, Joseph Altuzarra, Jason Wu, and Wes Gordon.
This acknowledgment encouraged me to advance in my work and accomplish even greater successes, in addition to recognising my accomplishments.
What do you think about the fashion industry and its current trends? What are the biggest obstacles this field is facing? What obstacles do you personally face?
The fashion industry actually desperately needs radical change, which is why it’s critical that, rather than giving up and caving into the demands of retailers and profitable companies, we fashion designers rediscover our unique and creative identities.
This rush towards mass production frequently leads to an unfortunate amount of clothing ending up in landfills.
Adopting sustainability, encouraging balanced consumption, and encouraging the ecosystem to become more aware of sustainable fashion culture are the ways to solve the problem.
These guidelines help to protect the environment, but they also give us a greater sense of purpose and accountability when designing clothing, which guarantees that our creations have a good and long-lasting effect on the planet.
What is Rakan Shams Aldeen working on right now? What are your long-term plans?
Our brand has recently moved to Amsterdam as part of our expansion into the European market.
We also plan to open a brand-new studio and create a new line of products, both of which will be introduced early in the upcoming year.
Our primary goals in entering the European market are to grow, increase our prospects, take advantage of new markets, and raise brand awareness.
By taking this action, we pave the way for our future development and prosperity and create new avenues for opportunity.
How do you see the future of fashion? Do you believe that it will become more sustainable? Do you support eco-friendly clothing?
It goes without saying that this accountability must be put into place, particularly for big brands and businesses, to make sure they take proactive measures to cut back on their own production and waste while doing away with damaging environmental practices.
Our approach at RAKAN involves using natural materials and fabrics made from natural fibres like pure silk, cotton, and wool. We have worked hard to achieve sustainability.
We’ve made a good start in our upcoming collection by using digital design to cut down on paper usage and combining recycled materials into fabrics. This demonstrates our dedication to lessening our environmental effects and encouraging ethical business practices in the fashion industry.
Is there anything last you would like to advise aspiring young designers to help them start their careers in the fashion industry?
Patience, patience, patience… then have confidence in your skills and abilities, as you can accomplish anything if you have self-belief.