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Big in Kuwait
...a country's rich offerings
Yet on its northern edge, one state has remained largely out of the international spotlight and has eschewed the sterile development tactics of its neighbors: Kuwait. It is a very rich country in its own right indeed, yet it does not have a five-star airline or an indoor, year-round ski arena. Rather, Kuwait is emerging as a hotbed of a subtler, savvier artistic talent. The country's creative identity is rooted somewhere between the traditionalism of the Arabic world and all of the vast luxuries that world can afford - it is a rather beautiful mix of old and new, fused together with a pulse of international hipness (Kuwaitis seem to know what's cool before the rest of us). Here, NJAL takes a look at some of the nation's most promising industry players.
If you've exhausted all of your regular blogs and 'zines and want something fresher than fresh, your search is over - bookmark Thouq Magazine. Founded in 2004, the publication's director Bader Al-Hejailan states "Thouq has transcended to become the premium style guide for the region's trendy circle." And trendy it is, but in a way that feels brilliantly current and global, in a way that perhaps American or European bloggers might not be able to manifest. For example, at press time, the site's homepage featured a Valextra iPad case, Madonna's Givenchy headpiece from the Superbowl, M.I.A.'s stunning "Bad Girls" video and a custom Maserati, perfect for quick trips out to the chalet - it's just plain smart, without trying to hard. The site boasts 57,000 visits a month - the only downside - there's very little written in English (though the graphic Arabic typeface is aesthetically beautiful in its own right).
CAP (Contemporary Art Platform) Kuwait is a non-profit venture established locally to provide a "workshop" environment for up and coming artists in the region. The collective's mantra - "fine art" and "the weird stuff too" - is a heady mix of international schools of thought and the cutting edge spirit of Kuwaiti youth. Currently, CAP is showing a film and sculpture installation by Fatima Al-Qadiri and Khalid Al-Gharaballi, artists based out of New York City. The centerpiece is a film, showing on loop inside a giant sculpture of a tissue box, in an homage to an actor who pioneered gender role reversal in Kuwaiti theater and the "absurd spatial conditions" of the country, post-oil wealth. Herein, the juxtaposition of old, new, and all-around-cool rings true - the Al-Qadiri/Al-Gharaballi exhibit portrays a traditional medium with an ultra-current interpretation.
Kuwait's fashion-consumer culture has come to be defined by a smattering of top tier stores, with established locales such as Al Ostoura and Al Othman. However, for design's brightest young things, your best bet in the city is 4. Self-described as a "veritable explosion of creativity that offers a unique shopping experience to those with a passion for the extraordinary," the boutique offers up some pretty spectacular wares - replete with the kind of knowledge and buying one would be hard-pressed to find even in Paris or Antwerp or Berlin's hallowed avant-garde shoppes. 4 stocks the likes of Rad Hourani, Ann Demeulemeester, Charlotte Olympia and Natalia Brilli - a significant range of trend-friendly designers, all with a bladed edge. 4 also sells furniture and books.
For fashionable R+R, throw on a zig-zagged robe and climb in to bed at the Hotel Missoni. With only two properties open at present (the other in Edinburgh, Scotland, randomly), the Hotel Missoni is an exclusive and unique outpost - not only for the label, but also for Kuwait's hospitality industry. Fully licensed by the Italian house, rooms feature everything from bedding to bath linens in the brand's signature multi-colored elements. Not to mention, there's a pool - Kuwait can get pretty damn hot, especially in the summer. Yet this luxe-oasis doesn't come cheap - rooms start at roughly 340 GBP.