Nine years ago, Omer Asim came to the TANK offices carrying a garment bag of clothes and showed us his debut collection made of earthy and sensuous textiles from his home country of Sudan. A graduate of architecture school in London, Omer has spent the last several years using fabric as his material of choice to twist, mould and drape around the body. Since then, he has quietly constructed a fashion brand his own way, one that sits in Selfridges' SuperBrands floor next to Rick Owens, Prada and Dries Van Noten. Earlier this year, judged via a virtual panel headed up by Tania Fares, the founder of the Fashion Trust Arabia Prize to help support and mentor designers from the Middle East, Omer won the womenswear prize with a substantial grant and mentorship attached to the honour.  Get to know the man behind the clothes with our quick catchup below.

You have consistently always put your roots from Sudan at the heart of your brand - how does your native culture manifest itself in your clothes? And in your communications?
I try to take my roots and heritage in my stride as a fact of life, otherwise I run the risk of disconnecting with the present and the future, which are pivotal to my practice as a designer-maker. My heritage will always come through my work because it is part of my humanity, I'd rather that happens with relevance rather than forcibly like a caricature.

You studied architecture first, at the Bartlett school of Architecture - we can see that in your clothing! How did that training lead you to instead build with fabrics?
During my time at the Bartlett I was always very interested in the social side of architecture, what makes a certain built environment prone to red-light activity, how people engage with space, etc. As time went on, I became more and more interested in the end users of buildings (human beings) as opposed to the buildings themselves. Maybe I was trying to get closer to the human body by moving from buildings to garments!

You've recently won this year's womenswear designer award and grant from the Fashion Trust Arabia - this time presenting virtually to quite an intimidating cast of judges! What was the main takeaway you wanted to leave with them about your brand and its future?
I have always been a maker before being a ‘designer’. I have great admiration and respect for all the technicians that pool-in their knowledge to make complex executions appear simple. The making process has always informed my work and end product. It was important for me to communicate to the panel that my work has a solid core that is unique to it, I believe this is one of the few essentials necessary for the staying power of a new designer.

You have managed to build a loyal customer base with your long relationship with Selfridges, all the while eschewing the traditional LFW schedule and traditional trappings of the industry - e.g. only designing one collection a year. What made you committed to doing things your way?
From early on I realised how impossible it is to sustain a mythical existence like that of Galliano and McQueen. Also, I could not operate like a corporate brand and do things by the 'fashion industry book'. I focused on my product and building a strong core, I saw it to be my long-term investment. You should believe half of what you see and non on what you hear; I found this to be very apt from where I am/was standing as an outsider and a small designer. 

Can you tell us any exciting developments you have this year?
The most exciting thing this year has to be the FTA win. It was a very humbling experience to have such an incredible panel of judges review my work. I was also due to have an installation at Selfridges' "SuperBrands gallery" for the first time, to coincide with Project Earth campaign throughout the store. Another special project with Bicester Village was also about to unveil in celebration of their 25th anniversary. Unfortunately, Covid-19 disrupted everything but I hope all will be soon on-track. Meantime, I am considering how best to move forward post Covid-19, and I'm looking forward to my mentorship with 

Shop Omer Asim at Selfridges below: