Without a doubt, the modern fashion era can be described as a collaborative one. We’ve seen Supreme collaborate with Pat McGrath, H&M collaborate with Sandra Mansour, Gucci collaborate with Liberty of London, and the list goes on forever. Whether you’re combining the creative vision of two brands or the creative vision of other talents, collaborations bring something new to the table. They not only challenge and inspire the creatives to share a vision, but also can reveal strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities to learn from one another. But rarely in the collaboration are we privy to the actual process. We might receive nicely written PR packets about it, but what actually happens in the room when two minds come together is something that is usually private.
For that reason, when we saw this incredible editorial featuring the clothes from a brand we already know and love, Reemami, shot by Dubai-based photographer Namida Mila, we were immediately intrigued by how these two creative talents came together. What was it like on set? What did they learn about each other? Both came from backgrounds in the corporate world, and left the 9-5 behind to embrace their freedoms – one in fashion, the other behind the camera lens.
Instead of a traditional interview format, for the first time ever, we decided to hand over the reigns to Reemami designer Reema Al Banna and photographer Namida Mila. What follows is an illuminating conversation between the two, exemplifying the heights and benefits of a true collaborative process.
Namida Mila Interviews Reema Al Banna
Namida: Where do you get your inspiration for the prints/illustrations you create for your collections?
Reema: I work on telling stories inspired from my active passions. Every season, I’m inspired by a new passion. I’ve been into boxing, wall climbing, surfing, wandering, the ocean, music, food — and it all happened organically. When I’m into one particular subject, I try to tell my view of that subject through my collections.
NM: How did you come up with the entire designing concept of your brand?
RAB: It all comes back to when I was working at an advertising agency as a graphic designer and branding specialist, where I used to create beautiful artwork and logos for renowned companies. I used to go through the 360-degree approach, where I would pour my heart and soul into the briefs. I loved the design process, but didn’t feel fulfilled in a way where I could express myself as much as I wanted, as some of the clients would use traditional approaches. Without overthinking, I enrolled in fashion school for night courses. Two years after working and studying fashion, I found a newspaper ad which was targeting young designers to start their own brands and stock at one of the coolest concept stores in Dubai, S*uce. I applied and the rest is history. They urged me to start my own label and it all took off from there! Reemami was born.
NM: Why did you decide to collaborate with me on this project?
RAB: I love collaborating with up-and-coming artists and creatives to see their take on my collections, and to achieve interesting imagery that will help me to keep telling the Reemami story.
You and I met at Amazónico randomly a year ago, and we both exchanged Instagrams. I loved how spontaneous and outgoing you were, and loved your portfolio as well.
NM: How did you decide to go from the corporate world to the creative world?
RAB: When Reemami took off, I was working at an advertising agency. As one of the very few first ready-to-wear brands to launch in the UAE, I was getting a lot of support and love from the media. Having my work acknowledged by many, I felt like it was time for me to express myself freely, without having to work at night after hours, which I don’t know how I used to do! I didn’t overthink it; I just left, ready for an adventure. I’m a risk taker by nature!
NM: Who is the Reemami woman?
RAB: The Reemami woman is a woman who is confident, loves life, pays attention to details, loves art and color, and loves tailoring. The women I work with share those qualities, as well as our aesthetic.
NM: Where do you see your brand in the next 10 years?
RAB: I see it becoming a powerhouse. I see it expanding into new markets, into new sectors, helping people in need, and at the same time creating an impact on the world. Most importantly, I see it having a strong voice that will shake things up – not only in fashion – but globally as well.
Reema Al Banna Interviews Namida Mila
Reema: How and when was the first time you held a camera and knew it was your passion?
Namida: When I was 15, my mother sent me to work at a TV channel during the summer as a photography intern. That’s where I first went through my ‘flowers and sunsets’ photography stage. I didn’t take it too seriously. Then at the age of 23, I got a camera back in my hands, shot some models, and realized that it is my passion. I decided to make a career out of it.
RAB: What brought you to Dubai, and how did you start your photography profession?
NM: I came here at the age of 16 to study at university, and I graduated at 20 with a degree in Marketing and Retail. I tried working in the corporate world, which did not bring me any happiness, and I ended up in a tough financial situation. Thankfully, I had a camera in my hands. It is like the universe was conspiring to make me a photographer. Now I am 25.
RAB: How do you manage to have a very polished Instagram account? Do you have a certain method?
NM: It makes me happy to hear such comments regarding my social media, thank you! I think it is all about the style of photography; it is consistent and contains a lot of color.
RAB: Do you care about social media numbers?
NM: At the beginning, it was important to me, so I did a lot of collaborations to grow my followers. Right now, I focus more on the quality of followers rather than numbers. Even though I understand the importance of having a bigger number, I feel that good work will help the number grow organically.
RAB: How do you feel about using flash? It was the first time that I was present at a shoot and the photographer used flash. I loved it!
NM: I am absolutely in love with using the flash. I think once I discovered it, it changed my whole view of fashion photography. I am glad you liked it.
RAB: I noticed that you have a very strong vision where you take very few shots and you are satisfied. How do you do that?
NM: I was coached by Mann Butte, as I admire his work and his approach. He taught me to keep the discipline at all times. If I have free time, I play around and get options for each shot as best as possible. If I’m short on time, I make sure that we get the right one quickly and we keep on moving. Checking magazines and social media campaigns is part of my routine, just like reading the news. I train my eye on a daily basis to maintain a better vision, which I use in my work. Each shot comes to me as a vision before I capture it.
RAB: What is it like living in Dubai as an independent photographer, and how would you like to change the industry?
NM: Dubai is full of opportunities, but to get them, there is a lot of work that needs to be done. It is very important to understand that photographers are artists; it takes time and experience. I’d like to have access to more experienced models, perhaps.
RAB: What are a few perceptions you keep hearing about photographers that are completely wrong?
NM: That fashion photographers shoot weddings and food too.
RAB: Who is your photography idol?
NM: First, as my mentor and my idol, Mann Butte. I get inspired a lot by Harley Weir and Juergen Teller as well.
RAB: How did you come to cast Ksenia Kondyleva as a model? When were you first introduced to her art?
NM: I met Ksenia two years ago, when we worked together on a project. She is an incredibly talented artist and an influencer. She is used to being in front of the camera, plus, her face features remind me a lot of Kate Moss. She is so beautiful, and such a great model.
Photographer Namida Mila Model Ksenia Kondyleva (Humid Peach) Makeup Artist Elif Erbuga