Interview with Sketchbook Magazine's Ed in Chief... Wafa Alobaidat!

September 16
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…& Obai and Hill Creative Director. I recently had the opportunity to interview the woman behind those projects (she also did tell me her fashion must-haves!)

Hi Wafa! I’m a huge of Sketchbook Magazine – Please let myfashdiary readers know how it all began?

 I started Sketchbook Magazine back in January 2009 because I realized I was looking for something in the market that I just couldn’t find anywhere. I wanted a publication rich in illustrations, drawings, and where the characters of my favourite bloggers and editors were being explored. I was constantly looking for raw scratchy magazines that resembled my own sketchbooks and notebooks. Something not so glossy and which I could be rough with (tear, add post its etc) so I went about creating the concept of Sketchbook. I also wanted to create a fashion magazine that was not intimidating and cliché. I wanted to reveal a more personal, friendly, humble approach to fashion and the industry behind it. What better way to do to then with the craft of drawings and sketching.

It all started from a studio in Notting Hill. I spent a all day emailing illustrators/designers/writers to get them to contribute their work to the magazine from the months of January to March. It was really tough at first as I had to sell the project via email, but slowly I started to accumulate a great team. Features Editor Luma Bashmi was the first person who gladly jumped aboard with me, supporting the publication in any way that she could. For a year she ran the successful Sketchbook Blog and made sure all the magazines’ content was up to standard. The reason we are taken so seriously as a publication is due to her being such a fantastic editor. 

Have you always had an interest in Illustrations?
 Always always. I remember always went to classes in pottery and painting. My earliest memory of making art is sitting cross legged with mother in the living room cutting and pasting blocks of colored paper for a school project in the 2nd grade. My mother is very creative and took an active role in my life by taking me to art classes, investing in buying me materials, building me an art studio, and supporting what I do in the creative world. We still frequent art galleries together and take photos and talk about things we make as she is a mosaic artist. Going to art school really did inflame my passion for the arts. I did my foundation in art and design and my Bachelors in Interior Architecture at Chelsea College of Art and Design. As a means of expression all we had to do is draw and sketch. And being in London and part of the University of the Arts London I was exposed to student drawings, degree shows, galleries and exhibitions which made me an even bigger fan of drawings. I also remember frequenting degree shows at LCF and CSM and seeing stunning technical drawings of fashion design and architecture alike. The city fed my obsession with the arts until I realized I wanted to create a platform for it myself.

As an editor of a very creative magazine, what makes content good enough to be featured in a SB issue?
 I guess as the Editor one of the biggest luxuries I have is the ability to choose the art work that  goes in the magazine. I feel like the magazine will forever be a vision of my mind and I visualize so much of the art work before it comes to life. In the beginning I had a slightly more controlling accept of it as I wanted to concept to be clear from the start ‘fashion illustration magazine laid out on a sketchbook’. But after Issue 2 came out, in which Senior Graphic Designer Amy Lewis scanned in a moleskin notebook and plugged our content in the sketchbook I felt the concept was brought to reality and found it easier to delegate with the upcoming third issue. We really aim to celebrate the people behind the industry, the bloggers, the designers, the start ups, the studios, the editors, and tend to shy away from trends and celebrity culture but still choose a more personal earthy grass roots approach to journalism. We want to create an experience within our pages and take the readers behind the scenes.  Features Editor Luma Bashmi is to credit for all written content/articles in the magazine. She has a great eye for angles, stories, tone, and is a true perfectionist demanding quality in all the features of SB. Together we nurture and work closely with our team to reach our aims.

Congrats on Obai & Hill! Has this always been something you have wanted to venture in?
 I have always wanted to create a design agency. After working with more than 52 illustrators on our first issue I realized that I was representing these artists more or less with the magazine and then after the launch of the Fashion Blogger Issue emails started pouring in requesting to work with our team of illustrators and I found myself nosing in, acting as a bridge between clients and young designers. It all just happened so naturally after the Pop Up Shop in Newburgh Quarter. Rachel Menashy the project manager of the pop up at the time and I came up with the concept of the space and commissioned the art work to be drawn unto the walls and with the launch of Issue 2, I just felt more and more confident as acting a creative director. I think delegating, managing a project, and allocating members of my team to a project came naturally and the magazine has given a platform to exercise my creative directing abilities. Obai and Hill now manages Sketchbook magazine and looks after all the talent onboard the team. Obai and Hill has been open for business since May and we have a healthy client list of 37 from Europe and the Middle East and will be expanding our second office in Bahrain by the end of this year.
Lets talk fashion, what is on your A/W’10 shopping list?
I can’t stop buying earthy tones at the moment. My best friend kept complaining that I was beginning to look like a tree or leaf. But on my wish list for next season are plenty boots and military/earthy tones:

1.       Rag and Bone – Military jacket
2.       Acne – Leather Wedge Boots
3.       Willow – Sequin Jacket
4.       Marc Jacobs – Suede Leather boots
5.       Tassel Suede Ankle Boots
6.       Burberry – cropped pants
7.       YSL – Muse Tote

Which collection are you most looking forward to this season?
 I always look forward to LFW. It is my favourite fashion week and I have been doing it for 2 years now so I will be forever loyal to the British Fashion Council and the designers who show here. I’m excited to attend Burberry, Todd Lynn, Vivienne Westwood, Osman, Mary Katratzou, Basso and Brooke, Ashish this year with features writer/sub editor of Sketchbook Cleide Carina.

What is next for Wafa?
 The SB team and I are working on a first draft of a Sketchbook book, an illustrative How to Guide. We are setting up at LFW and my team will be based there to blog/illustrate/do live streaming of the shows and the scene.  I will also be moving to Bahrain in October of this for year for 6 months to launch our second Obai and Hill office and concept store. It’s going to be an exciting challenge to make the transition and adapt the concept to the ME. I am also planning a trip to Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Brazil for January 2011 so all in all to will keep producing art work, will continue to work on creative projects, and explore as much of this world as possible.