Mother, artist, curator, entrepreneur, fashion designer, businesswoman. These are but a few words to describe the multi-faceted Sumayyah Al Suwaidi whose daily life is a juggling act but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
When you first meet Sumayyah Al Suwaidi, you are pleasantly taken aback by how tiny and cute she is. And then you remember that good things come in small packages and this lady definitely is a good thing. After all, it is a hefty compliment to be the first Emirati female digital artist. Combine that with the numerous awards, accolades, exhibitions and fashion shows all over the world and you have an unstoppable force of nature.
It was in 1996 that Sumayyah’s world was transformed, “My cousin enrolled in college with a major in Graphic Design. It was while watching her work on her computer that I got excited about the arts and had to get a computer for myself too. I had a lot of fun working with the art programs I installed on it and by the time I had to choose my major, I knew I wanted it to be Graphic Design too. Over time, I realised that Graphic Design was just not enough. I did a little bit of research and found out about Digital Art, which was the complete opposite of what I had been studying. There were no guidelines and no restrictions. I had complete freedom to create.” Following this discovery Sumayyah created her first collection in 2001 and all of her artwork sold out immediately. She had finally found her calling.
But just being a digital artist was not enough. “I always wanted to start my own business,” says Sumayyah “as soon as I landed my first job, I began saving up to start my own little project. In the beginning the store was a gift shop where I sold stationery, gift items, candle, mugs and the like but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to add more to it so I turned it into a concept store. I added accessories and abayas and dresses and that’s how Grafika came about.”
Following the launch of Grafika, this vibrant woman felt that the tugs of creativity again. This time it was for fashion. “I’ve been fascinated with fashion since I was a child. My aunt who was also an artist raised me and she drew, painted, designed clothes and even decorated homes. I grew up watching her work and she always involved me in the entire creative process. This taught me how to deal with tailors, pick fabric and follow through from sketches till the final product,” explains Sumayyah. Using this knowledge she launched SEEN in 2011 and since then, has gone on to be a part of a number of international fashion weeks including London Fashion Week.
“It hasn’t always been easy. I have had my fair share of challenges over the past 11 years,” reminisces Sumayyah,” I couldn’t get into an art gallery to display my work unless I had strong connections and I had a lot of people criticise my work as a digital artist. As a curator, I had to build my reputation so that artists would trust me with their work and as a businesswoman I had no experience at all! I trusted the wrong people and learned to be more careful. I even had trouble with my fashion line. I had to work extra hard to make sure my designs met international standards so that I could get noticed.”
Through all of this, Sumayyah believes that it is the ups and downs of daily life that constantly inspires her. The struggles of being a business woman, the joys of being a mother, the pride when someone wears clothes from her collection and the sheer pleasure at a successful art exhibition drive this passionate young woman to create beauty every way she can.