Mar 13, 2011

Talking art, fashion and what Bahraini women wear under their abayas with editor-in-chief of Sketchbook magazine, Wafa Al Obaidat

If you are a lover of art, design, culture, style and fashion, and have been searching endlessly for the perfect magazine which rolls all these areas into one and serves as a constant source of creative and fashionable inspiration, I've found it for you ... it's Sketchbook.

Literally like an actual sketchbook, this quarterly magazine launched in October 2009 is full to the brim of pages packed with raw fashion, art, design, photography, graphics, sketches, drawings and illustrations from both emerging and established designers, artists and photographers. It's a magazine for the creative, the stylish, the cultured and the innovative and a platform for new creative talent.

So who is the genius behind this amazing magazine? 

Guess what? It's one of our sisters from Bahrain! 

Wafa Al Obaidat

23-year-old Wafa Al Obaidat, founder and editor-in-chief of Sketchbook, the blogger behind Fashion Ambitions and founder of design agency Obai&Hill, is a self-proclaimed magazine-aholic and in her 5 years living in London she searched for a magazine rich in drawings and illustrations that celebrated and experimented with people's creative talent. When she could not find her dream magazine, she decided to make it herself, putting together a team of 150+ individuals.

Sketchbook now has a readership of around 7000 people both online and in print in the UK, the US and in Canada and recently, Wafa brought it to her homeland of Bahrain and plans to launch it across the GCC...I can't wait!

Even better, I got the chance to have a few words with this inspirational fashion-tastic lady myself...

1)     What has been the response of your Bahraini readers and other readers in the GCC to Sketchbook so far? Are people here in the GCC appreciative of the same types of art, culture and fashion as those people you encountered while in London?

I found that in London I have had a more engaging audience and approach from the readers whereas locally it is more of admiration and praise rather than the readers really getting involved. I find that my most positive response in the GCC has been from people in Kuwait and Bahrain. They seemed to have picked up the work.

2)    Will you be incorporating Arabic and Middle Eastern art, culture and fashion and other influences into the magazine?

Yes, we are working on a digital version of Sketchbook called Sketchbook Live that will be coming out soon. Sketchbook Live will hopefully go into a more digital direction and will include an Arabic section. So, we will be covering Arabic content as we have an established Arabic team, correspondents and reporters since moving to the region and we will continue to do so. This way, we can cover things in art, culture, fashion and others in Beirut, Kuwait, Qatar as well as be up to date and aware of what is going on around the region.

Wafa and friend at London Fashion Week

3)    Tell us more about your latest project, Malja.

When I first came to Bahrain there was no sort of hub for artists to meet, gather and work like in London, and so I took up this initiative with the Ministry of Culture. I have a great project manager, Mariam Al-Shaikh, who is well on-board and enthusiastic with the project getting sponsors, meeting the artists, working with construction proposals as well as other organizational tasks. We have gotten great feedback and response from the artists we have met and seems to be going in the right direction into being a huge project.

The Birth Story: In December of 2010, H.E. Shaikha Mai bint Mohamed Al-Khalifa, Minister of Culture, generously assigned Obai & Hill's Creative Director Wafa Al Obaidat to transform the Art Center in the Kingdom of Bahrain to an active and permanent venue.

Wafa teamed up with the young Graphic Design and Photography extraordinaire Bader Kamal to merge minds and come up with a concept to solve some of the neglected obstacles facing the young creative community in Bahrain using the Art Center.

Malja is on track to provide the following:

- One-stop hub for the increasing number of creatives to temporarily work, network, and collaborate with peers from other creative fields.

- A simple streamlined process to aid the growing creative industry in Bahrain in finding, supporting, and promoting new artists.

- An inspiring venue that actively promotes work and ideas of all creative fields into one melting pot.

4)    So tell us Wafa, what do Bahraini women like to wear under their abayas?

It really depends on where they are going and who they are with. Sometimes they wear comfortable clothes such as light jerseys which are often worn or they wear casual smart clothes. Others like to glam it up, be unique and chic too. It really depends. For me, personally, I like comfortable clothes.

5)    Do Bahraini women have a distinct sense of style?

I think due to Bahraini’s living on an island and having this sort of island culture we are very laid back which I think is reflected on our clothing and style. We wear light dresses, jeans and flowy or soft shirts and blouses and it just seems to be very natural and relaxed.

6)    In your opinion, what style staples should every woman own, abaya wearer or not?

Personally, my staples are a pair of skinny black jeans, a pair of cream/nude heels that you can wear with any outfit, comfortable ballet flats, one pair of Raybans or aviators that you can wear daily, a fitted blazer and one large YSL duffle bag.

7)    And, what are this season’s must-haves?

On my summer shopping list are canvas flats, an oversized two-toned tote, a striped cotton sweater dress and printed silk satin pants. Oh and a perfect white cotton shirt.

Wafa at London Fashion Week

For now, you can order a copy of Sketchbook by emailing the team directly at

Do check out their website, or visit their Facebook page and their blog.

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