With a bazaar cover that doubles as a collectible piece of art; our March issue celebrates the astounding work of visionaries Ahmad Al-Ghanim and Bader Alhejailan. What once began as a boutique publication unfolded into a distinctive household brand name that is synonymous with style. In this edition of up close and personal, we meet the original Thouqers—they are trendsters, jetsetters, creatives who enjoy the finer things in life with inimitable flair. Above all, they value and celebrate the importance of home and country through every aspect of their work.
The art collector becomes the artist
Ahmad Al-Ghanim has considered himself an art hobbyist since an early age, and his passion for collecting art preceded his foray into creating remarkable pieces available at the bespoke Thouq store in the old Al-Mubarakiya Souq. From portraits to calligraphy, he was consumed with acquiring art pieces out of sheer amazement. With his savings, he amassed a collection filled with works by established regional and international artists, old manuscripts, and even early sketches by various artists as an investment. In doing so, Ahmad noticed that the art world is not for the thrifty. As an avid museumgoer, he realized the following: Why not create art that is accessible to everyone, with the same caliber of a limited edition, one-of-a-kind art piece? He stated, “Imagine the Zara version of art. It’s beautiful and affordable.”
As an established professional in the creative industry, it was only a natural extension of his vision to create art pieces for Thouq—a brand that, alongside business partner and best friend Bader Alhejailan, he personally invested his creative energies and passion toward when it came to Thouq magazine, the creative agency and the store. Working closely with a group of friends, Ahmad arrived at creating a huge collection of pop art pieces that spoke to our region. East meets west seamlessly, with iconic stars from both sides of the Atlantic clad in traditional Ghutras, Abayas, Burqas and countless cultural symbols that are purely inherent to our region. Adding a calligraphic spin with humorous statements, the Abaya is once again as highly coveted as an elusive Chanel purse, Coco Chanel fights the evil eye with the palm of her hand (Hassad), Liz Taylor is an oriental princess, and we even see George Clooney sporting the traditional Ghutra.
These are all but samples of a wide-spanning collection that leaves the viewer wanting more, only to find that these pieces are all produced in a limited quantity, which makes Ahmad’s work both distinctive and affordable.
On ‘Cool’ publishing
Bader Alhejailan always saw Thouq as a creative platform, yet his vision finally materialized when he first met Ahmad. Once upon a time the publisher and the artist were only acquaintances, long before serendipity, and a business transaction, brought them together as business partners. Bader said that he’s been in love with the publishing world for as long as he can remember; from interesting fonts, the types of paper employed, to even writing content himself. The young publisher saw amazing potential when Ahmad arrived as a client representative that, not only wanted to advertise in one of Thouq’s quarterly editions, but also believed in what Bader was trying to create at a time when publications looked to the West for inspiration. In choosing the name ‘Thouq’, which translates into ‘taste’ in Arabic, Bader saw that the name transcended the notion of brands, effectively merging the realms of fashion, art and design. He explains, “I felt like our culture needed a conceptual shift. I wanted a name that doesn’t ring with a certain brand, yet echoes with style. I always saw something bigger for Thouq, and I deeply believe that what brought us together was a combined vision.” To this statement, Ahmad replied. “Thouq and I belonged together.”
From there, they went on to accomplish a series of firsts as a quarterly publication. Stemming from their desire to focus on local talent, they localized every aspect of the magazine such as cover shoots created by locals that highlighted everything that Kuwait and the region had to offer, advertorials organized with Kuwaiti models, designers, photographers and even make up artists. Besides all of that, their ideas were considered crazy and unheard of. Pairing a couture gown with a high street t-shirt, addressing the ‘habba’ obsession that pertains to Kuwait, in a publication, was unseemly to many.
As for the Thouqers, they’ve decided to shed the shackles of the norm and embrace the style of the future. What makes Thouq all the more fascinating is that Bader and Ahmad accomplished this feat ten years ago, sending a powerful message to a budding generation that, today, is changing the face of Kuwait’s arts and fashion scene. On Thouq’s print editions Bader concludes that whatever they brought to the table, was a result of Kuwait’s raw talent, “Everyone we featured, and anyone we worked with showed a profound sense of eagerness to simply produce a local idea that delivered ‘coolness’. Thouq, as a magazine, then became a creative platform that we needed to expand beyond print.” Suddenly, it was cool to work in media, be a Kuwaiti model, or even a make up artist.
Thouq; a platform, store and legacy
“If anything, Thouq as a publication was a stepping stone. But I have to say, Thouq will always be Thouq,” remarked Ahmad. The ideology shared between these two visionaries never changed. Whether they communicated this notion via print, retail or even creative consulting, we can definitely state that Thouq today has found its resting place in the old Al-Mubarakiya Souq. As a concept store, Thouq embodies everything that Bader and Ahmad stand for: an artistic vessel that showcases the finest talents in Kuwait and the region, with new items and concepts arriving in store on a weekly basis. Even though many questioned the location desicion of the old marketplace, both Bader and Ahmad zealously defend their choice with an unwavering conviction: Al-Mubrakiya will once again become a thriving hub for arts, culture, and fashion. They have made this belief their sole mission, and they are making it happen.
Located in South Mubarakiya, or SoMo as the creative duo put it, the Thouq concept store stands amongst an entitled, ‘Thouq square.’ Standing strong for more than a hundred years, the area still echoes with remnants of a bygone era where locals toiled, engaged in commerce, and more importantly met with individuals from all parts of the world. Al-Mubarakiya was once a thriving hub, and it still is, yet it seems that the youth have forgotten about it, instead opting for modern malls and chic outlets. In order to take back the area, Ahmad and Bader actually purchased what will be called Thouq Square, and partnered with a group of young individuals in an effort to revive the area.
Bader commented, “We’ve let out the neighboring stores to different vendors in an effort to bring back that connection between the youth and Al-Mubarakiya. People need this change, and we wish to celebrate the area with all of its glory. ‘Cool’ things are going to happen at SoMo, thanks to an amazing generation of young minds.” Essentially, the generation of Thouqers is harnessed by a sense of pride and nostalgia on behalf of Ahmad and Bader. We see them aspiring for a better future through Ahmad’s artwork, and this twosome’s dream for Al-Mubarakiya. A shared vision that echoes with class, elegance and inimitable cool in the simplest of ways.
There you have it. You can shop from the High street, or you could stop by the Thouq store in SoMo for some awesome CASH by Thouq merchandise or an art piece by Ahmad Al-Ghanim amongst many other chic offerings. The concept store embodies everything that Thouq stands for: a home to all things cool and distinguished. When we asked these Thouqers about their fashion line, CASH by Thouq, Bader responded with laughter, “It’s a humorous twist to what is normally not talked about. Why do people wear brands, it’s because of cash. So why not just buy something with the word CASH sprawled across it?” Ahmad wickedly added, “After all, cash is the soul’s companion.” Like everything at Thouq, the merchandise is also produced in limited numbers, but sold at affordable prices. It’s easy to pair a CASH hat with a preppy polo shirt in the mornings and dress up a blazer with a CASH T-shirt in the afternoon. After all, it’s this desire to constantly mix and match that elicits a sense of cool with Thouq.
What do you most value in your friends?
Bader: Kindness and their sense of humor.
Ahmad: Love and honesty.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Bader: A sunny day at the beach with a glass of iced tea.
Ahmad: Good health and serenity.
What is your greatest fear?
Ahmad: To lose hope and confidence.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Bader: Prejudice and arrogance.
Ahmad: Lying and deception.
Which living person do you most admire?
Ahmad: My mother.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Bader: Sunglasses and swim shorts.
Ahmad: Work, work, work.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Bader: Be you. And smile!
What is it that you most dislike?
Ahmad: Being dull and repetitive.
Which talent would you most like to have?
Bader: Time management.
What would you consider your greatest achievement?
Ahmad: Art and design.
What is your most treasured possession?
Bader: My beloved limited-edition watch collection.
Ahmad: My art collection.
What is your most marked characteristic?
Bader: My laughter, I guess.
Where would you most like to live?
Bader: Kuwait in winter. Southern California in the summer.
Ahmad: Santorini Aldhahia.
What are your favorite words to live by?
Bader: Work hard. Look great.
Ahmad: In God I trust.