Robb Reader: Fameed Khalique

The materially curious London interior designer opens his creative soul

Marquetry flooring, raffia wallcoverings, striking tile mosaics in aluminium and mother of pearl – Fameed Khalique’s Chelsea showroom is an aesthete’s Aladdin’s Cave.

A designer whose company sources exotic and intriguing materials from all over the world, Khalique’s projects include The Four Seasons Park Lane, the unique concept store Clerkenwell London and the same city’s Ace Hotel, pictured above (and that’s just the ones in the British capital), not to mention numerous luxury yacht projects about which Khalique is appropriately discreet.

Now, Khalique has also launched a lifestyle brand which sees the most stunning shawls, scarves and capes fashioned from cashmere, leather and suede. We visited the eternally affable Khalique to see what makes him tick creatively.

 Was there a catalyst moment when you realise that this would be your raison d’être?
I’ve had a varied career, from setting up Fashion Aid to working in publishing. Although I never found my calling in those roles I took learnings from each, which have culminated in the business we have today. Perhaps the main catalyst for the company was my time in the leather industry. Fameed Khalique started with a single leather collection: with my experience of working in fashion and luxury leathers, this was a natural place to begin.

I then began to identify and source innovative surfaces and techniques from around the globe, working with designers and architects – and directly with the public – to supply textiles, stone, ceramics, embroidery and other unique surfaces for interior design projects, as well as offering bespoke solutions for commercial, residential, hospitality, aviation and marine sectors.

Your repertoire is pretty huge…
We offer an ever-expanding portfolio of collections, partnering with extraordinary craftspeople around the world. Last year we launched Khalique, our own finished product collection, offering cushions, throws and scarves that utilise the amazing techniques and incredible tactile materials we have discovered to produce show-stopping products. The collections of course include leather, reflecting where it all began. I love the thought that we are now making our surfaces available to a far wider audience.

Concept store Clerkenwell London  Ed Reeve

In what places or situations do you get your best creative ideas?
Inspiration can come from anywhere and everywhere; it can be a material that I use every day – finding a new way of applying it – or it can be more linear and come from the desire to find a solution for a designer who wants to achieve a particular look and feel – those are the challenges we love. We recently worked with a designer who wanted to create the look and feel of straw marquetry, on a large scale but with a low budget and a limited timeframe. This challenge led us to develop a wood veneer wall covering in a starburst pattern that beautifully emulates straw marquetry, and in turn inspired us to create a whole collection of wood veneer wall coverings. I find inspiration in travel, too – meeting artisans at work can inspire. I often work with craftspeople to push their production methods in a new direction or utilise an existing technique but with a new or unexpected material.

What, for you, epitomises luxury?
On a personal level and at my stage in life, time. From a product perspective it’s the heritage, provenance, craftsmanship and uniqueness that a product brings. The very nature of the surfaces we offer epitomise these elements – their extraordinary qualities can be seen and felt but it is their provenance and the craft involved in their making that elevates them to luxury status.

Fabric made using woven copper

Leather – what’s the appeal?
Leather is a noble material, which is why it has so many luxury associations, from car interiors to fashion accessories. It’s a material that has a history almost as old as mankind’s. Not only is it supple and beautiful, it ages well, becoming more personal as the patina emerges. For me, my love of leather lies in the multitude of ways it can be used – we offer leather walling, 3D moulded leather wall panels, embroidered and cut leather, woven leather that has been paired with silk, velvet or even woven with wood veneer. In our Khalique collection of lifestyle products we have taken some of these incredible techniques to create finished products in the form plisse leather cushions and woven, perforated knitted and fringed nappa leather scarves. It’s difficult to imagine quite how soft a nappa leather scarf can be, but it drapes beautifully, and is elegant, supple and warm – it’s this unexpected texture that I find so appealing.

How did the idea come about to use leather for items which are nearly always made from woven fabric?
I’m constantly inspired by materials and their scope to evolve, and love to create something new from a small detail or element I’ve seen on a handbag or garment, by transforming it into a new product for an interior. I once spotted intricate macramé detailing on a dress, which inspired a leather macramé curtain and our raffia embroidered wallcoverings were inspired by detailing I saw on a vintage handbag. It’s more about seeing beyond the present form and thinking about how a material or technique can morph into something for use in interiors.

Scarves in woven nappa leather mesh

What are the more unusual materials you’ve employed over the years?
I don’t think there is a material we haven’t worked with in some form – we work with everything from precious stones and fortified wood to copper woven on a loom and set in resin. One of the most interesting for me has been aluminium: we’ve created Alumalux flooring which takes recycled aluminium and uses it to create stunning contemporary tiles suitable for cladding buildings, lining swimming pools or as flooring. We can tint them any colour, cut in any size and lay in any pattern. It’s fully recyclable and looks particularly stunning when shown in traditional patterns such as parquet – I love the juxtaposition of contemporary materials with a traditional motif. Aluminium isn’t an unusual material; it’s simply how we use it that makes it completely different.

Do you have a favourite “back story” for a material you’ve used?
My favourites change all the time. There are some products that I look on with a sense of pride – seeing one of our embroideries used on a Tom Ford dress was one of those moments. The embroidery itself had been inspired by couture fashion – it was created from hand embroidering disc- and leaf-shaped paillettes onto a mesh fabric. To see it go full circle and appear on the catwalk was fascinating; each time I look at our Khalique Josephine sequin cushion, which is encrusted with the embroidery, I’m reminded of its journey.

A close-up of a raffia embroidered wall covering 

What’s the trickiest work you’ve done, from an artisanal perspective?
We’ve embroidered crystals on rabbit pelts for curtains, set woven copper in resin for doors and – for one of our largest projects – created precious stone mosaic arches to surround a swimming pool on a super yacht. This project epitomises our approach: we worked alongside the designers to create a pattern forming a series of arches, each created from hand-made and hand-inlaid semi-precious stones including jade, turquoise and rose quartz. This incredible project was the largest precious stone mosaic created entirely by hand to come out of modern day India.

1st Floor , The Furniture & Arts Building, 533 Kings Road, London SW10 0TZ See www.khaliquelondon.com and www.fameedkhalique.com for more details

Cast aluminium tiles 

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