In the fast-paced world of fashion, where trends come and go, it takes a unique perspective and passion to stand out. Riyaadh Ismail, a menswear designer, stylist and creative director, is making waves in the industry with his distinct style and storytelling approach.
Riyaadh’s journey into the world of fashion was not a conventional one. Growing up, he was passionate about sports and aspired to be a professional footballer. However, as life unfolded, he found himself drawn to the world of fashion. From a young age, Riyaadh developed a discerning taste for clothing, always seeking unique pieces rather than settling for what was readily available. His obsession with fashion grew as he delved into understanding the intricacies of garment composition and craftsmanship.
Riyaadh’s background in sports has played a significant role in shaping his design approach. He recognises the sense of community that comes from being part of a team, drawing parallels between wearing a sports jersey and the bond it creates among teammates. This connection has fueled Riyaadh’s attention to detail and his focus on telling stories through his work. While he doesn’t envision himself exclusively designing sportswear, he sees the possibility of collaborating with sports giants in the future, completing a full-circle moment.
Riyaadh had the privilege of being the first participant in the Bubblegum X Daily Paper exchange program, which took him to Amsterdam. Reflecting on the experience, he describes it as surreal and life-changing.
Image courtesy of Riyaadh Ismail
Despite his initial nerves, Riyaadh’s passion and genuine love for his craft shone through during the selection process. Working alongside renowned designers and industry experts, he gained invaluable knowledge and skills that would have taken years to acquire otherwise. The validation he received from working at Daily Paper among seasoned designers further fueled his determination and solidified his dreams.
Travelling to Amsterdam was a significant milestone for Riyaadh, his first time venturing abroad alone. Despite initial apprehension, he found the city to be welcoming. The language barriers were easily overcome since English is widely spoken and Dutch is so similar to Afrikaans. Riyaadh immersed himself in the local culture, venturing out and exploring as much as possible. The experience left an indelible mark on him and he plans to return in the future.
Images courtesy of Riyaadh Ismail who styled the hip-hop star AKA for these shoots
When asked about his dream person to design for, Riyaadh emphasised the importance of focusing on the individual and their character rather than a specific name. He believes that working with anyone, regardless of their fame, can be a valuable learning experience. Building meaningful connections and finding inspiration from different people is what drives him as a designer.
For his label YAAD, Riyaadh finds inspiration in various sources, but at the core, he draws from his family and heritage. His belief in the power of storytelling allows him to create garments that resonate with people on a deeper level. By infusing his designs with narratives and relatable experiences, Riyaadh seeks to establish a connection between the wearer and the clothing, transcending mere aesthetics.
Images courtesy of Riyaadh Ismail
While it may seem like the stuff of dreams, Riyaadh’s journey hasn’t been without obstacles. Breaking free from societal expectations and pursuing a career in fashion required immense courage. Initially swayed by his father’s doubts, he veered towards business management instead of fashion design. However, Riyaadh’s passion remained steadfast, ultimately leading him back to his true calling.
Ismail’s journey from sports to fashion showcases the power of following one’s passion. With a unique perspective, meticulous attention to detail and a dedication to storytelling, he stands out in this fast-paced industry. After the support of the Bubblegum exchange program, Ismail has been empowered to follow his dreams and set out on his own path of creation. As he pushes boundaries and reshapes the industry, Riyaadh Ismael is undoubtedly a rising star to watch.
Photography by Jamal Nxedlana