The Immaculate Precision of By Walid
The Immaculate Precision of By Walid
- Words Jake Silbert
- Date June 19, 2017
Of all the notable trends of the past few years, embroidery has proven to have seemingly infinite staying power. Brands as disparate as Dries Van Noten, Gucci and Off-White have received tons of acclaim for their use of embroidery and patches, and even smaller labels have picked up on the trend. Artist James Merry, for instance, stitched intricate flowers and plants to subvert traditionally embroidered logos on sweaters, and in similar fashion, the Champion “C” has been repurposed in various ways. Of course, there’s a difference between sewing a patch from eBay onto your sneakers and truly luxurious embroidered details. Cue By Walid.
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Walid al Damirji is a Swiss-born, British-Iraqi designer based in London who specializes in patchwork garments, with fabric sourced from vintage clothes. After working as the creative director for luxury brand Joseph, Damirji briefly left the fashion world. While he dabbled in managing a luxury chocolate boutique, he made his inevitable return to fashion out of sheer demand. Damirji created a few pieces of outerwear for a friend, which elicited a flurry of responses from buyers and yielded the formation of his label. His London studio still makes every piece by hand to this day.
The primary focus of By Walid hasn’t changed since its inception in 2011—the brand repurposes vintage fabrics into brand new garments, making use of hours of hands-on artisanal work to finish each piece. The majority of Damirji’s workday is spent on the phone with auction houses and other collectors of antique clothes and textiles, attempting to add more pieces to his label’s stockpile. The source fabrics are then taken apart and reassembled into the new designs, using organic cotton for the base pattern. Then, the pieces are sewn together by hand, making liberal use of visible detailed stitches, adding a personal touch. Finally, the pieces are hand-dyed. The level of work that goes into each garment is remarkable and separates his small brand from many other “luxury labels.”
By Walid is best described as a line of slouchy, deconstructed loungewear, even if at first glance the clothes look like the sort of thing peasants in the dark ages passed down from generation to generation. Most of the pants feature drop-crotches and loose legs, whereas outerwear primarily consists of bombers and unstructured jackets, as well as some oversized coats. There are plenty of basic tees and shirts as well. What sets Walid apart from labels like Greg Lauren in terms of construction, or Rick Owens in terms of casual style, is the level of detail. The sheer variety in the fabrics and textures is outstanding, and impossible to fully appreciate until you witness the pieces in person. Layers of patchwork fabrics and raw hems create dynamic and exciting, yet understated pieces. That’s one of Walid’s great gifts—the ability to create visually fascinating pieces of clothing that remain inconspicuous to the untrained eye. That’s not to say that By Walid’s clothes are forgettable, it’s just that they’re the epitome of quiet extravagance.
Fabrics are at the core of the label. It is the aged cashmeres, silks, linens, and their delicate detailing that truly sets the brand apart. Every patch of fabric is repurposed from high-quality vintage pieces. The pockets on a coat were derived from alligator-leather handbags, the shaggy material on the rear of a pair of pants was taken from the lining of an old coat. Like similar labels, the price tag is high, but the clothes are worth the cost. The amount of work that goes into each item is incomparable, and unlike the brands that simply order sheets of fabric to create their clothes, By Walid spends more to purchase antique pieces with exquisite archival fabrications. Furthermore, since every piece is handmade, they are essentially 1-of-1, meaning that any piece from any given season is entirely unique. Even the same style in a different sizes will have characteristics and imperfections wholly their own.
It’s truly difficult to understand what makes Walid so special until you see the clothes first-hand. The feel of the textile and quality of the work is immediately apparent, while the garments themselves are versatile enough to blend into any wardrobe. As the blurb on his website says, “By Walid is not for the person who wants to remain anonymous. But then: what good fashion is?” While the brand’s mission statement implies the clothes are not for the feint of heart, plenty of the darker-hued clothes and basics are in fact relatively innocuous. Regardless of whether one is wearing an enormous, fully lined mink coat or a pair of loose cut patchwork trousers, they can take comfort in the personal elegance offered by the label. By Walid, like Comme des Garçons, makes clothing for personal use and enjoyment. Yes, the jackets and pants are often breathtaking, standout pieces. However, one can find quiet satisfaction in knowing that their clothes are unique and that repeated wear enables the clothes to age gracefully, making them that much more personal.
By Walid is unique, in both approach and execution. Plenty of other clothing brands upcycle clothes or utilize patchwork and handstitched details, and just as many utilize vintage fabric. That being said, none do it with the dedication and scope of By Walid. The clothes look and feel like museum pieces—perfectly preserved yet ready to be worn. These are not clothes for people looking for a cheap alternative, nor meant to be put on a shelf, pulled out only for special occasions. They are functional--they are modeled on loungewear after all—and while beautiful, are made to last.