Welcome to Ali’s den of thieves
Eastern mysticism and many antiques blend with modern refined design in the shop Something Special in Copenhagen city.
Multi artist Ali mixes his Iraqi and engineering background to create unique furniture and jewelry worn by, among others, Princess Mary, Naomi Campbell and Oprah Winfrey.
Welcome to Ali’s charming den of thieves.
How about a handbag in sharkskin? Or would you prefer a Ferrari 365 GTB as a pushpin?
Not to mention the long lines of rare, antique glasses that adorns the floor to ceiling cabinets in Something Special.
There is something for every taste in the elegant shop, where the owner Ali Al Awssi himself is responsible for the interior. The floor is covered with rare granite known as silver pearl, which comes from a quarry in the Norwegian city of Larvik and worked in Belgium. The granite gives an exclusive look and is a fine contrast to the large glass display that goes from floor to ceiling and thus utilized the space.
"I have personally designed the showcases and had them done abroad. The Result is so unique, that I have had architects here to see the design and the special locking mechanisms," says the autodidactic artist.
Pride shines out of the small Iraqi with the lively brown eyes. He came to Denmark in 1970 to complete his engineering studies, but his enthusiasm was too big to be stuffed into an education box that would limit his future options.
"For the same reason I did not like to study architecture, although I have always been fascinated by this subject." says Ali Al Awssi who instead built a life as an all-embracing entrepreneur.
Ali Al Awssi has always been particularly fascinated by the art-deco period from 1920 to 1939, when a new art form grew from an interaction between old cultural expression and modern production methods.
With his artisanal skills to design Awssi started a process of creating a personal style of furniture and through his large network he got his ideas carried out in southern Europe – especially in Portugal, where artisan traditions are great.
“I can without blushing make it clear, that my style is not seen elsewhere, “ highlights Ali Al Awssi. He is immediately right, a row of chairs and lamps are not easy to place in design terms - except that they mix several styles and thus is the epitome of art deco.
Many lamps are made of solid brass with an impressive resilience. Others are more airy with arms in chrome, curved like a swans neck and with an end piece that can tilt the lampshade 360 degrees around and up and down 90 degrees.
Everything is built with great accuracy, and the welds radiate craftsmanship of the highest quality.
“My engineering background and personal pride means that things must be in order. And they are. In fact I am so pleased with my products, that I have the individual elements being produced by different manufacturers. I may have a lamp base made in one place, the neck in another and the glass shade in a third place. Otherwise I fear, that someone could just copy my ideas and get them produced in worse and cheaper materials.” Explains Ali Al Awssi.
Customers come from all over the world. Actually the Iraqi artist is selling almost as much to customers from abroad as to Danish customers.
"I've never gotten the massive media coverage in Denmark, but luckily many tourists come by and ask if I can send products overseas. Therefore my clientele counts people from Australia, the U.S., England, France - indeed the world”, tells Ali Al Awssi.
However the Danish married Iraqi has received some media coverage, just in a completely different direction than he thought, the furniture could ever give him. Beside furniture design Awssi began designing jewelry, again inspired by both the Oriental and the Western world. Especially his necklaces became a hit, leading to an exclusive clientele.
"When Oprah Winfrey was in Denmark, I was able to show her a jewelery line with onyx, mother of pearl and agate, she was very excited.”
Other prominent guests visit Something Special to find something very special. Crown Princess Mary's personal stylist Anja Alajdi, has recommended the place and therefore the royal guest can visit and get inspired. Supermodel Naomi Campbell wore a piece of jewelry from the house, when she graced the first cover of the magazine Cover and singer Lina Rafn is also among the customers.
After 30 years at the same address Ali Al Awssi’s business has grown quietly with his own creations, but the antiquarian items still takes up some space.
"I' am constantly looking for interesting topics that can either stand alone or mix with my own furniture. I find things at auctions, it gives a good momentum, and I'm not afraid to exhibit cheaper goods, as long as they have style, "he adds.
Price tags, however, you do not find in Something Special, which immediately evokes the idea, that Ali Al Awssi might have taken the Arabic custom to always negotiate the price with him to Denmark.
"No, no" he claims with a broad smile. "Everything in the shop has a fixed price."
So there is never any haggling about prices?
"No, I do not bother. Many try, but I know what my stuff is worth. Only in special cases, such as with people from the south of Jutland, I can go a trifle down in price, otherwise we'll never get anywhere. But just some few bucks, so that they feel they have done a good deal.”
Article from Status magazine 2013