Written By Suhad Shtayyeh April 16, 2021
“Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline..”
Well Mimi Shakhashir, founder and creative force behind Kaleidoscope by Mimi is certainly born with it; that glow from within that doesn’t stop at her pretty face, but takes us on a personal journey of creativity. I have never met Mimi, but I know her. It’s the sort of thing we say about our favorite designers all the time, ‘Oh, Ulla Johnson, I love her’. We also say it about our favorite actors, although I think if I start comparing Mimi to Julia Roberts, she will probably block me for life.
The common denominator here though is one’s authenticity and ability to channel it. Often times us humans see character as something tangible and solid, it’s easier to visualize. So when we describe a person as happy, we conjure up a smiling person wearing bright yellow.. In actual fact it would be much more accurate to see character as rays, and authenticity is a colorful ribbon of energy that has the ability to wrap itself around everything that comes from a person, when they are true to themselves and have been fortunate enough to find their medium of communication. For Mimi it is her boho chic, fashion and accessories brand Kaleidoscope by Mimi, currently based in UAE.
The product range is based around a love of printed fabrics and handmade embroidery, mixed and matched to perfection. The silhouettes are free-flowing and inclusive, allowing a woman to feel confident and sexy. “Every piece of our collection is designed to be inclusive, with an emphasis on sophisticated comfort and a message that beautiful clothes are for everyone and every body. These one-size cuts are a testament to the brand’s versatility, flowing silhouettes with floral, intricate, indigenous patterns and bold geometric designs, “ says the talented designer. The need for inclusivity; a buzz word in the fashion industry today, is a personal one for Mimi. “I am a woman and I have had changes in my body over the years and my worst nightmare when I gained weight was to go shopping and have to get bigger sizes and having to look at the size tag…. That’s when I decided to make one size cuts to suit everyone and make everyone happy and look great. Anything looks great on models but the challenge is making it look great on everyone else! So I used my own experience, what I like to wear and how it makes me feel and how it looks.”
Anything looks great on models, but the challenge is making it look great on everyone else.
A self-professed textile addict, Mimi’s creative process starts in India, at small women-led businesses. Her finds during these expeditions dictate the styles created, be it; traditional kaftan cuts, kimonos or her trademark gypsy dresses. The colors on offer at market also determine when they will be presented as a collection. Brighter colors naturally renegaded to the summer month collections etc. Every step of the process is considered, with corporate social responsibility and micro-finance at the heart of the operation. Energetically, I believe that good generates good, and in the cut-throat business of fashion with sweatshops at every corner, it takes a certain person to make a conscious decision to be fair and considerate.
Kaleidoscope by Mimi prides itself on collections that make a different to impoverished communities around the world, where the raw materials are sourced and produced. Additionally the embroideries are also handmade by women to preserve and protect traditional arts through assisting artisan cooperatives and NGOs. The brand’s pillars are values of community spirit, strong ethics and a timeless style, reflected through season-less long-lasting textiles in cultural details handmade ethically to communicate the core values of sustainability and quality.
So many people start their brands with good intentions only to hit a brick wall when it comes to profitability and continuity. That is where business acumen comes in of course, and perhaps just as importantly the brand identity. Kaleidoscope by Mimi has a very strong charisma that people pick up on instantly, and want to be part of. This creates a strong demand for the brand’s products. Mimi mentioned that often times by the time the item is posted on IG it is already sold out. The fact that this happens time and time again is a testament to the brand’s quality and consistency, yet another important factor. In Arabic it’s called, ‘nafas’ which literally translates to breath. If you want to succeed in business you need to have breath, patience and consistency.
Mimi was born in the Seventies in Beirut, a time of civil war and strife, where the creative outlet was used to pass away endless days of lockdown, and the occasional ceasefire became the perfect opportunity to stock up on beads, threads and ribbons on the local haberdashery. “My mom was a very creative artist, and super crafty, we had all sorts of art materials imaginable at home… We learned the meaning of keeping busy through being creative and now it is embedded in us. It becomes our escape and therapy.” With Mimi’s creativity came her entrepreneurial spirit, and power of persuasion. Convincing her sister and neighborhood friends to set up a table at the end of the street where the creations were sold, as she shyly watched from the second floor balcony, checking in every few hours on the status of sales, throwing down a few incentivizing Kit Kats to get things going when needed Mimi’s creative journey continued into her teens in the Eighties, what a perfect time to be creative, with pins, patches, ripped jeans and displaced pockets almost a rite of passage. Again her shyness restrained her from admitting her talent and instead attributed them to her aunt. Mimi talks further about her years in the diaspora, “When we immigrated to France in the early Eighties, I felt so homesick and wanted to help the needy in my county, so I bought some beach baskets and embellished them. I sold them to my mom’s friends and sent the money to charity in Lebanon. That was officially my first collection. Till now my mediation and my mental therapy is jewelry making. Nothing in the world makes me as happy as when I am being creative.”
Till now my mediation and my mental therapy is jewelry making. Nothing in the world makes me as happy as when I am being creative.
Oh what I wouldn’t do though to transport Mimi to Beirut’s Golden Age in the Sixties… An era that has deeply affected her creative process thanks to her mother. Sifting through old albums, photos of her mother and friends each wearing such unique styles, especially their kaftans, a time where everything seemed to go. The length of the dresses, flowing florals, wildly patterned kaftans and geometric lines…Each woman had her own mysterious allure, the essence and confidence was woven into each and every gown; a direction that clearly inspires Kaleidoscope by Mimi.
It’s almost as if it took three generations to finally create Kaleidoscope by Mimi, her mother’s swinging Sixties, her rocking Eighties and her daughter’s early childhood as well. It seems only fitting for Mimi to create for her daughter, and that’s exactly what she did. “I started designing clothes when my daughter Jana was born through the desire to dress her according to her personality, which was unique and multifaceted. So I made her a denim jacket and stitched on a beautiful Victorian angel lace piece on the back and tribal trinkets all over which also jingled when she ran around, boy did it catch attention.” In the early 2000’s these creations went on to be stocked at then famed children’s retailer: Petite Ange off Sloane Street. Adult versions were then added to the collection and sold at iconic boutique Feathers, steps away from Harrods and über-popular Browns Fashion, on South Molton Street.
Today Kaleidoscope by Mimi is a desirable brand with a strong identity of timeless style, freedom, cultural appreciation and above all uniqueness. You can find the brand at brick and mortar stores: Galeries Lafayette Dubai Mall, Kulture House in Dubai and Bungalow 11 in Amman, amongst others.