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A vintage jewellery cabinet, designer Gucci bag and custom engagement ring highlight the designer's walk-in closet.
It may seem like a contradiction coming from someone with a wardrobe full of high-end labels (Gucci, Ferragamo and Versace can be spotted within seconds of entering the walk-in), but Aleem Kassam, co-founder and principal of design firm Kalu Interiors, believes that style doesn’t have to break the bank. “I think that no matter what your budget is, style is indicative of how creative you can be,” he says.
Kassam’s creativity and flair permeate the stunning Gastown loft he renovated alongside his fiancé, Victor Kazakov, in 2020 and 2021, especially in his massive walk-in closet and dressing area, a place that seamlessly combines his passion for fashion and interior design. “So much of my life revolves around working and collaborating with both local designers and international designers, but also mixing fashion and jewellery from a variety of household brands. Accessories are a huge part of the way I curate myself, just like I curate spaces,” he says.
Kassam recognizes that not everyone has the means to have a closet as extravagant as his, especially in a city like Vancouver (at 200 square feet, it’s larger than most bedrooms and gives Carrie Bradshaw’s famous walk-in from Sex and the City a run for its money). However, he echoes what Queer Eye has been preaching for years: aesthetics influence all of our lives, and ultimately how we feel about ourselves.
“Fashion and shelter are two things that everyone interacts with daily, no matter your income level or where you live. Interiors have influence on our well-being and mental health. And clothing, very similarly: it’s that element of feeling comfortable in your own skin. I always tell people to look at fashion and spaces as aspirational. Design your home for where you want to go in life; dress for the career that you want. Both are ways to elevate not just your style, but inherently your goals and dreams.”
Modular custom suit and gown
“One of my favourite things is working with, collaborating with and supporting local designers-we have so much talent in our own backyard, so why not start with your own community?” says designer Aleem Kassam (left), pictured with fiancé Victor Kazakov and golden Bengal cat Theos. “Because it’s difficult to choose just one, I’ll choose the one that is a 10-in-one, which is my convertible and modular custom suit and gown by Jason Matlo: a four-piece collection with endless options. It’s simply epic.
Stella McCartney Elyse platform shoes
“I have these Stella McCartney Elyse platforms in several colours and styles because they all have a dramatically high sole, providing me a significant lift in height–the perfect way for me to get a little closer to Victor, who towers over me at six-foot-two.”
An antique jewellery cabinet
“This Qing dynasty jewellery cabinet was purchased from an antique store on South Granville that’s no longer there. It’s actually a silverware cabinet from the 19th century that I converted to use for jewellery, sunglasses and accessories. I love this item because it brings in the old with the new and perfectly organizes each and every item in its place.”
Red Gucci 100th anniversary Centum bag
“I love my Gucci 100th-anniversary Centum bag in red felt (with matching slide-ons), which only became available in the Vancouver boutique the same day Victor proposed and we were engaged. On this day, Victor had the store privately opened for us after hours, and this bag immediately caught my eye, so I purchased it to mark the occasion–perfectly fitting for the day.”
His engagement ring
“This is a no-brainer. Victor designed my engagement ring with my uncle, who’s a well-known jewellery designer in New York. This Modern-Deco-style piece has a central 2.5-carat rectangular emerald-cut diamond in a raised centre semi-bezel setting, and not only signifies this special moment in our lives, but also perfectly complements me and my style: bold, unique and rare.”
“You’ll find me at the Lobby Lounge at the Fairmont Pacific Rim (1038 Canada PI., fairmont.com). It’s my favourite spot in the city. It’s close to home, close to the water, the staff are amazing and I love the design.”
“I absolutely love Obakki (1638 W 3rd Ave., obakki.com). I love the clean, minimalist and modern interpretations of cultural designs produced in a variety of regions, including South America and Africa. And I love that they support these local communities through conscious production and by ensuring that sustainable, hand-crafted and unique pieces can be enjoyed around the world. I also love Annie Axtell (1616 Pandora St., annieaxtell.com), who does beautiful upholstery and cushion accents that are more playful and fun. For vintage finds, I started following a couple of new, local Instagram accounts. One is Kollection by Irie (instagram.com/kollectionbyirie) and they have some really cool mid-century pieces.”
This story was originally published in the July/August 2023 print issue of Vancouver Magazine—find the digital issue here and subscribe now for free!