Growing up in Catalonia in northern Spain by the beach, model and fashion designer Alex Al Bader never imagined that one day her life would be in London. But these days, that is where she is, running her own successful shop and fashion business, Soler, designing for celebrities and providing costumes for films, including Helena Christenson’s recent movie Away We Stay, directed by Edoardo Ponti.
She has come a long way from her small village on the Costa Brava. With her long, jet black hair and slim figure Alex is, unbelievably, aged 40, but one of those people who looks eternally 25. Married to Mishari, a Lebanese/ Kuwaiti financial consultant, whom she met when she first moved to the city, the couple have two children, Eliana, six, and Mishari, eight, and live in Notting Hill.
When Alex first moved to London she worked for Models One while studying marketing at the University of Westminster. Having been interested in fashion and design for years, it was only after she had her second child that she decided she wanted to start her own fashion company.
Taking her mother’s maiden name as her business, she set up her company in London’s Notting Hill two years ago.
Her ethos is to make things in a unique artisan way, using the finest materials with everything made to measure. There is a workshop above the shop where the clothes are hand made. Alex specialises in using bright colours and silks, and India Hicks has sold her clothes since Alex first started out. They are also sold at hip Miami store The Webster.
It perhaps comes as no surprise that the beautiful Alex has an equally stunning house.
“It took some time before we found our home, but when we did we knew we had to change a lot. It took about a year and while the renovations were taking place we rented a flat,” Alex explains.
“We changed absolutely everything, the only thing we left were the walls,” she says of the four-bedroom Victorian terrace house in west London that also has its own sauna.
“We designed the kitchen first and the rest of the house around it. We really enjoyed the whole process. We did not use an interior designer, just our own ideas. The kitchen is the space that needed to be child friendly, which is why we have sliding doors that are blackboards where we can do spelling and homework. It’s so easy and the kids love it.
“I love cooking and wanted a big, bright, open kitchen, so it is next to windows and it really is the focal point in the house,” Alex says.
The children’s bedrooms are both upstairs with daughter Eliana’s painted in a soft pink, while Mishari’s room is covered in pictures of football and surfing.
“The house is painted in an off-white colour, which is completely neutral,” Alex continues. “We chose a dark oak floor, which is under-heated in some rooms. We can go crazy with colour with art and furniture, so by keeping the walls understated we have more of an identity with our other pieces,” she adds.
The master bedroom is rather like the suite of a boutique hotel, with a large angled mirror on one side and a red sofa. In front of it sits a black pouffe covered in magazines and art books. Next to the huge, sprawling Dunlopillo bed is a scattering of family photographs against a fabric headboard from Allegra Hicks. “It is lovely to see pictures of family last thing at night before you go to sleep,” explains Alex.
There is work by Alex’s sister, artist Monica (Subide), throughout the house and Alex also collaborates with her on designs.
Alex and Mishari are constantly searching out unique artworks. They have a painting by the celebrated Spanish artist Manolo Valdes and an Aki Kuroda oil painting they bought in Paris. The antiques dotted around came from local shops and stores in Spain.
“Our house is a collection of furniture and art works that we have been gathering for many years; it is quite hard to fit everything in as we have such eclectic tastes,” laughs Alex.
She relishes the creativity her work allows. “I love creating beautiful styles that are original, feminine and fresh, and not mass produced. I love being able to make my clients happy offering them a made-to-measure service. They work with me choosing their own style and using Soler fabrics in making their own distinctive piece,” she says.
And she adores being so close to Portobello market. “I love markets and vintage, and sourcing amazing colourful fabrics and small Liberty prints.
“I always wanted to create a big family house,” she says. “The house I grew up in was near the sea and was always full of people. “My mum loved cooking and we always had friends and family over for lunch or dinner. It was a very happy house, always open and it was just a short walk to the beach. I may not be as close to the beach here, but I am just walking distance to my shop, Soler, which means sun.”
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Sunday 26 May 2013
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