Despite only being 13 at the time, Fameed Khalique remembers clearly the moment he received a D in his needlework school report. “The teacher said, ‘Fameed has over ambitious ideas and can’t carry them out’, I remember it exactly,” he tells me. Considering that Khalique and I are having the conversation inside the Chelsea showroom of his eponymous brand, that teacher may now eat her words.
Khalique founded Fameed Khalique in 2008, and now serves as the brand’s creative director. Since its inception, he has scoured the globe in order to build a huge portfolio of innovative materials, with the goal of providing designers with a seemingly endless resource of textile and surface material options for commercial, residential, hospitality and marine projects.
Born in a rural part of Leicestershire, Khalique describes himself as having always had a relationship with creativity. He had a huge passion for clothes from an early age, which he says stemmed from his very well presented mother and father, and as such, went onto study fashion at a college in the city. But here, a tutor dismissed his drawing skills – pushing the young designer to again question his own path and ability.
“At one point, I’d got into this mindset of the fact that I was no good at being creative,” he says. “I knew I appreciated design and creativity, but I’d been told I couldn’t do it.” Instead, Khalique began considering other routes into the industry, recognising the value of his business-savvy skills: “I thought, that’s the space I’ll inhabit, I can be like the Pierre Bergé to Yves Saint Laurent.”
Describing his career as “eclectic”, Khalique has tried his hand at many roles – fashion show production, logistics management, sales and marketing, and even publishing. “When I look back now, all of those things have had a direct use in starting my own business,” he says.
But when it comes to interiors, Khalique’s first foray came through his brother, the owner of world-renowned leather company, Alma, who asked him to join the company as a sales and marketing director. Five years later, and with two different visions for the company’s future, Khalique decided to part ways with Alma to focus on finding out what he really wanted to do. “I just kept thinking, I’m 42 and I still haven’t figured out what I’m going to do – this is not good.”
After a spell co-owning a leather business with a Dubai-based friend, Khalique finally settled on setting things up for himself. In the 13 years since the business was founded, he has trudged the aisles of every thinkable trade show, and has formed relationships with some of the world’s most skilled craftspeople.
Defining a signature aesthetic
Defining a signature aesthetic
Each piece utilises materials sourced by Khalique and his team: the Folles cushion and ottoman are adorned with ornately embroidered fabric embellished with a relief of glass beads, sequins and crystals; while the side tables make use of luxurious solid surface materials, smoky quartz and obsidian. The embroidery seen in the Folles collection is actually one of two designs by his brand – the other design was used by Tom Ford on a dress.
Looking at the pieces face-on, it’s hard to pinpoint Khalique’s aesthetic. But to him, that simply represents the breadth of his interest and knowledge in materiality, and it is that materiality that provides the common thread throughout all of his work. “I suppose it represents me in a way, too,” he adds. “I love maximalism, but I also love really clean lines – it’s that juxtaposition that I find so interesting”.
In the wake of the pandemic, small and large businesses in the design industry have faced unprecedented pressure. But the flexibility and commitment Khalique has to his clients has helped him to not only forge his way through, but to thrive – with the business growing by 40%. His eponymous label is about to undergo a huge branding exercise led by a newly appointed managing director, Ahlya Rafique Fateh (ex Amanda Wakeley, Tatler and Condé Nast), and he has big plans for the future of his once-solo venture.
“I always make a quip to people, that you’ve probably sat on me all over London, but you didn’t know,” he jokes. “But we’re trying to pivot the business to not always being the ‘silent partner’ at the mercy of the interior designer showing our materials to the client.
“I want to build the name of the brand up, so that it’s the clients who go to the interior designer and say I want Fameed Khalique’s materials, because they’re the best.”