Fashion designer Mohamed Ben Chellal received a Cultural Fund Fashion Grant this evening at the REX Museum. The designer from Amsterdam is the 12th winner of the most important fashion award in the Netherlands. “A great honour,” he told NOS.
Bin Shalal is famous for his classic, simple designs that are distinguished at the same time by their distinctive shape. “A natural fashion designer who has managed to grow into a global phenomenon beyond the usual stages and almost self-taught,” the jury says. “It occupies its place within the tradition of fashion design through a sculptural lexicon and the utmost visual technical prowess.”
In this video, Ben Shallal explains how he works and what distinguishes his fabrics:
Ben Chellal became fascinated with fashion in the studio at his grandparents’ home in Lelystad. He trained at the Fashion Lyceum in Amsterdam and gained experience with fashion designer Reem Acra during a TV show in Beirut. In 2015, he founded his own high-end fashion brand.
Initially, the Amsterdammer was mainly successful abroad. In recent years, he has designed costumes for actress Sharon Stone and singer Alicia Keys, among others. In 2020, he won the Vogue Arabia Fashion Award, followed by the Fashion Awards in Qatar and Dubai. “It caters to an international audience,” says Vogue editor-in-chief Elise Žižek. “In the Middle East, they are very fond of him and his designs.”
Queen Máxima defended the designer when she appeared on Budget Day last year in a grey-blue design made by him, with a sculpted collar. Žižek has also worn his designs several times.
“I can only say that experiencing the design process with him is so special. He sees the fabric that fits your body and wraps it around you. He looks exactly where the lines should be to emphasize your shapes, to embrace your femininity. ‘Like a sculptor,'” she describes.
“An organic process,” as Ben Chellal himself calls it. “I never know in advance what I’m going to create. Design comes through action. Design for me is just like breathing, and I don’t have to think about it too much.”
“I found my form of success”
Now there is also recognition by the Dutch jury. The Cultural Fund’s Fashion Stipend is a lifetime achievement award and encouragement for designers to develop themselves artistically and commercially. The award comes with a cash sum of 50,000 euros, from an anonymous donor. Previous winners include Claes Iversen, Ronald van der Kemp and Iris van Herpen.
“It is very special to be able to celebrate my work in the country I come from,” Ben Chellal says of the award. “I didn’t expect that at all. I’ve never tried to fit in anywhere.”
“I found my form of success,” he continues. “I quickly discovered that I didn’t have to design clothes for the whole world. My dresses are unique to cut. “I don’t have a big production, I feel good about devoting time to each dress.”
Žižek agrees that it is a small operation with a large scale. “He runs his business himself,” she says. “Many designers want to expand, but he prefers to keep it in his own hands. He wants to be involved in every piece he makes from A to Z.” “That makes it special, and people really saw that.”
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