Al Wissam Jackets Take American Fashion By Storm
When Bassem Souwaidan opened up Al Wissam clothing shop on West Vernor in Detroit, he never imagined that a small family-run business would catapult to success not only in Michigan, but far, far beyond. Today, the Al Wissam brand is sold in 30 different states, along with major cities in both Canada and Germany, and that’s not the end of the story.
After his immigration from Lebanon in 1989, Souwaidan established the company just three years later in an effort to ride the wave of an inclining economy. When Al Wissam (translating to “The Medal of Honor”) was first introduced, it carried only common urban-style fashions from notable designers; however, Souwaidan soon realized there was a demand for something more authentic.
After observing the trend of the clients’ taste season after season, Souwaidan saw one constant—everyone always came looking for a fashionable leather coat. “Everything in the market looked the same, and I really think our customers wanted something more unique,” said Souwaidan. Soon after, a design team was formed, and Al Wissam began to offer its very own signature leather jacket.
Unseen in Detroit fashion prior, in 1999, Al Wissam began to market artistically individualized leather pieces, shifting the “durable leather jacket” into a fashion statement. Each jacket made thereafter became a masterpiece of powerful words, pictures, and tactile textures. Some pieces offered a montage of late greats such as Martin Luther King while others tapped into a deeper cultural voice—such as the African “motherland” or the beauty of the Arab world.
And in reflection of this intimate, multi-cultural expression is the Al Wissam design team, made up of members whom represent Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Middle East, and Africa. The team works diligently to conceptualize and draw the designs which can be so ornate they require elaborate stitching over a period of 3 to 6 months— with some jackets including over six million individual stitches.
Al Wissam originally sought to satisfy a local demand, yet the high fashion line of leather jackets has begun to turn the heads of some of the country’s most premiere singers, rappers, and athletes. In addition to being featured in over 100 music videos, Al Wissam clientele boasts hip-hop artists such as Ludacris, DMX, Fat Joe, Fabulous, D12, and Beyonce—many of whom make special trips to Detroit for one on one consultation.
While Souwaidan is thrilled to have reached the ranks of big-name celebrities, he would rather measure success by his relationship with the local community. Souwaidan is proud to be able to give back to Detroit, a much deserving city. For the last four years, Al Wissam has coordinated with the WJLB local radio station in a program called “Coats for Kids” in which they have donated over 200 winter coats.
Across the board now, men, women, and children are enjoying the fashions of Al Wissam, a brand that not only guarantees warmth and comfort, but that also promises an unprecedented blend of creativity. Both local fans and high-profile celebrities can’t seem to get enough of this avant-garde style which is quickly taking fashion by storm.