//Interview by: Fatima Al-Jutaili//
Follow your dream, believe in yourself, and don’t give up!
This month for our cover interview, we sit with Haifa Al-Anjari – a highly motivated, ambitious, career-driven person and now a full-time artist. She held various positions during her career spanning on almost two decades, from Assistant Professor to Department Head at PAAET and heading many committees.
Haifa finally worked as an Assistant Professor of fashion design at The College of Fashion Design Dubai since 2016 and was promoted as the Dean in 2018. She believes that we need to constantly update ourselves in this continually changing dynamic world that brings in innovations and inventions in every sector.
We had so much fun sitting in her beautiful studio and know more about her and her work. Read our exclusive interview to know more about her.
Please introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Haifa Al-Anjari. Ever since I was a child, I have dreamt of making a mark of my own. I have carved a niche for myself in my chosen field of fashion and design by imparting the knowledge I have gained over the years.
I always had a strong inclination towards design and fashion. Therefore, it was appropriate when I pursued Fashion Merchandising in 1991 as my subject for my Bachelor’s degree.
I have held various positions in my career spanning for almost two decades, from Assistant Professor to Department Head in PAAET and Heading many committees.
Finally, I worked as Assistant Professor of fashion design at The College of Fashion Design Dubai since 2016 and was promoted to the dean in 2018. We need to constantly update ourselves in this continually changing dynamic world that brings in innovations and inventions in every sector. Fashion and desig is a similar field with the sky as the limit and there is so much, we need to achieve more to make it more sustainable for the years to come.
Tell us about your education?
I graduated in 1995 and immediately wanted to start my master’s. I did both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from prestigious Eastern Michigan, USA. I completed my master’s in 1997 with a specialty in Textile.
My passion and desire to understand fashion and designing better led me to go deep into the field, and I decided to pursue my Ph.D. in the area. My research directed me to Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, affiliated with the University of Dundee in the United Kingdom.
My understanding of the subject I adore the most, fashion and design, has made me do various projects I am incredibly proud of. In 2001, as one of my key achievements in Dundee, Scotland, while I was pursuing my Ph.D. I presented the “Images of Arabia” fashion show attended by Lord Provost Helen Right.
During this period, I got a vast understanding of the intricacies of the fashion and textile field, which helped and motivated me to publish three books on the subject.
How did your first become involved in art and Fashion?
As a child, I loved making clothes for my doll and watching a TV program that teaches art and craft, and I fell so in love with the delicate work of sewing and needlework and painting and so on. Unfortunately, we didn’t learn that much in schools as they substitute art classes with math and other major subjects, which was devastating for me.
So, I taught myself art and crafts at home with the leftover fabrics and rags that I find here and there. Sometimes, I cut some of my clothes without my mom knowing to sew a dress for my doll.
What inspires you to be creative?
Even though we are living in Kuwait with no green landscapes, mountains and waterfalls we still have simple yet inspiring for me at least, like morning sunshine, Jazz music, and mental urge for striving.
When was the first time you remember realizing that you are a creative person? And how did you get started?
During the pandemic of Covid 19 and curfew, I was stuck with my Ex and his wife in the same house. This inspired me to start drawing on the piece of paper I collected here and there as I didn’t have any materials of paints or brushes and canvases.
I used to share my drawings through WhatsApp with my best friends and sisters, astonished by how creative I was. Once we were allowed to leave for shopping, I bought as many canvases, paints, and brushes as we didn’t know when the next time would be a lockdown, and that is the short story of creativity as an artist.
How do you balance your time in the studio and other commitments?
Honestly, I am a full-time artist. I spend most of my time in the studio as I feel so peaceful when holding the brush. My other commitment is teaching young girls everything I know about art and fashion design.
Can you tell us more about LEH Gallery? What is the concept behind it, and why did you choose this name?
My dedicated team Nimbus Corporation, (son “Omar and his wife Farah), who are currently abroad in the United States, designed the whole organization to support me with launching my work. They are well known for their graphic design skills and social media management.
Le H is the initial of my name Haifa and “Le” is an identification tool. Our new method of connecting innovation with art is the crucial aspect of Le H. We want the world to feel art, see it, and embrace it.
Can you tell us about your favorite piece and why?
Each piece has its own story and I am attached to them without any preference. Your question is like when you ask a mom about her favorite child and the answer is all of them.
Tell us more about your workshops?
My studio is located in one of the most beautiful locations in Kuwait with a panoramic view of the Arabian Gulf sea. I hang all my paintings on every wall available in the studio that sometimes I feel I am in a museum of art. I spend most of time in the studio as I feel so peaceful while painting and creating more artwork.
In fact, when I am in my painting, I am not aware of what I am doing or what’s going in the world.
Which other artists do you admire?
My favourite artists are Frida Kahlo and Henri Matisse, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the others. On the contrary I love and support every person who loves art even a little kid holding crayons in his/her little fingers.
Does your art convey a specific emotion or message? What does it express?
Well most of my clients told me that my painting had a sad and wistful look especially the eyes go the portraits. The truth is when I painted most of my first collection I was under so much stress as I mentioned earlier so I guess it’s a natural way of expressing my feeling through the painting brush.
What is the biggest challenge of being an artist?
Unfortunately, we are living in a place where people don’t appreciate art or even artists. Most of the artists in Kuwait work individually. Also, the unavailability of good materials like paints and brushes, I usually order mine from abroad even though it’s more expensive
What is your favorite accomplishment?
When I quit my governmental job in my country and left to Dubai to explore my authentic self and looking for new opportunity which was very hard at the beginning but ended with the best experience of my life when I was appointed as the dean of the college of Fashion and Design and led a great team with lots of potential.
If you could change one aspect of our society through your work, what would it be?
Through art and design, we should teach the young generation in their early ages the global value to become kind with themselves, nature, and others. So, we can see a colorful future like a masterpiece of art.
And paying attention to art classes in general education as these subjects are inspirational and highly important in shaping the character of the young generation to become great leaders.
What is your motto in life?
Follow your dream, believe in yourself, and don’t give up.
What is your favorite color? Does this color describe you as a person?
That is the most challenging question you can ask an artist! I love all colors with all their shades and tints. There is no favorite colour per se.
What advice would you give for women and younger generation?
Follow their dreams wherever that dream is.
What are your future projects?
I plan to open an art club for kids to teach them the beauty of art and design. Unfortunately, there isn’t any attention to art and design in Kuwait.
Tell us about some of your other hobbies?
Traveling, boxing, squash, and salsa dancing are few of my favourite hobbies.
Your message for us at CP magazine?
Thank you very much for your hospitality and special thanks to Ms. Fatima Al-Jutaili. I wish you more success for your magazine and keep up the excellent work of enlightening the society and the world.