Celebrity Fashion Designer Michael Lombard has opened his flagship fashion store in The Dubai Mall.
Located amongst fashion powerhouses like Balenciaga, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and YSL, Michael Lombard’s first flagship store has opened its doors in Dubai Mall’s Fashion Avenue. FACT’s David Tapley caught up with the “King of Leather” to talk all things fashion, design and Dubai.
You started your career as a record label executive. What triggered the switch to fashion?
All the artists wear great clothes, so I was already fascinated by fashion, and I was a fashionista myself. What really triggered me had nothing to do with music – even though I would dress my artists all the time – it was the fact that I would buy a lot of motorcycle jackets. I was tired of buying other people’s stuff and thought, ” Hey, I can make my own”. That’s how it happened. I started sketching my own jacket and put my name on it.
At first, all I did was sketch it. I had to learn the other stuff later. What ended up happening was that New York Fashion week contacted me and said that they’d seen my stuff online and invited me to do New York Fashion Week. They didn’t care that I wasn’t a fashion designer. They just wanted to know that I could create 15 outfits. I did it in two months. The rest is history.
Are you still able to combine your passions for music and fashion?
With the shows I do, I curate all of the music myself, even if it’s just for twenty minutes. I create it from top to bottom, adding different stuff, and everyone knows me for my runway. I try to evolve with each show, from not really knowing what I was doing to incorporating a lot of theatrical stuff. This is what will separate you from others. I went back to my roots in music, concerts and shows to make it an event and make it memorable.
Can you please describe your creative process when it comes to designing a new collection? Where do you find inspiration?
I used to just think of a theme and then, in my brain, try to create. Earlier in my career, I would travel around the world, see architecture and structures and be like, I want to do something with opera. The idea would come then, but I would still have to create it. Now, I’ll just think of a theme I want to do.
What does it feel like when you reveal a new collection to the world? Is there a feeling of catharsis?
Initially, it’s a relief because I’m actually done with it. Then I become anxious because I want to make it for the world. At some point in time, brands are not creating anymore. It will come out on runway and just be a regular pair of jeans, and everyone will be like, “it’s cool, did you see?” I’m always creating something that I hope everyone likes.
People will always smile in your face and tell you they love your stuff, but you never know what they really think. But if enough people come to me and tell me they loved it, then I believe them. Nowadays, brands are really simplifying their stuff. Everything has become ready-to-wear. I still try to create something that is memorable.
You’ve been dubbed “The King of Leather” what do you think about this title?
Once again, it came from that very first show I did. The Huffington Post wrote the article about me, calling me Michael Lombard, the King of Leather. I accepted that because it was the first article ever written about me. They called me the king and I loved it. Now the name is attached to me.
What attracted you to open a flagship store in Dubai, and why The Dubai Mall?
My original thought was to open a store in Paris because I travel to Paris a lot. I saw that all the stores were packed with lines outside, so I thought Paris would be a good place to launch. Then I thought about Dubai. There are many people who live in Dubai who want to go to cold places and people from cold places want to travel here. So I looked, and I saw no actual leather stores here. I knew that if I did open a store here, it would have to be in Fashion Avenue. Otherwise, I didn’t want to do it. I’m a luxury brand, after all.
What can customers expect from the new store?
The funny thing is. Up until the last few days I’ve been doing things in the opposite way to what people would expect. I’m the rock and roll guy, so they expect all this black and all this craziness. I have actually made a really elegant store, but then I’ve started changing the colour in the last two or three days as it’s looking a little too modern. I’ve put a little personality in there.
One of the main features of the store is the VIP room for the customers. My store already came with one, so I’ve reinvented it to have it in the store rather than having a separate location. It’s a one-stop shop. Usually, you’d take that room, gut it out and turn it into a dressing room, but my store was originally a shoe store, so there are no dressing rooms. The easy thing would’ve been to take that VIP room and change art into dressing rooms. But I didn’t do that, so we had to create two dressing rooms within the frame of the store – which wasn’t easy.
When people come in, it will be modern but edgy and trendy. There’s going to be nothing like this store in the mall.
What’s your opinion on other music industry professionals who have made the jump into fashion? People like Kanye West or Pharrell Williams.
I think it’s a great thing because I did the same, and I, therefore, can’t knock anyone else. I always think you should have more than one revenue stream. They see the opportunity, and they just seize it. If they have a million followers and they can get a third of them to buy their stuff, that’s a whole other avenue, and I applaud that.
Some are doing it really big, like Kanye and I am definitely a big supporter of that. I came from that.
Do you see Dubai as a fashion contender to rival the likes of London, Milan or Paris?
The big boys are New York, London, Milan and Paris. No one else is branded that way. Dubai, however, is unique. There are ten fashion shows a month here, meaning they really dig their fashion here, even if it is localised. It’s a destination that everyone wants to come to. So why can’t fashion week go from Paris to Dubai, everyone is travelling that way?
What does the future hold for Michael Lombard?
Hopefully, a lot more collaborations, partnerships and store openings. I’m going to be introducing my watch brand and my perfume brand. I’m just trying to expand my intellectual properties with things I’ve been working on for the last year or two.