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Art of the swing
Saud Khazal is breaking down more than a few stereotypes


October 13, 2011

As global creative director of Racquet Cosmetics for Wilson Sporting Goods in Chicago, he is not your average art director. "Iím not the kind of person who walks around wearing black clothes with a serious expression at all times," he laughs. "I love color, and I love to laugh and have a good time. Thatís the real me."

A former model and artist, Khazal has been with Wilson for 12 years, starting out as a graphic designer shortly after graduating from the UW-Milwaukee with a fine arts degree. "I actually got a degree in civil engineering first, but discovered it just wasnít for me," he says.

He advanced from his entry-level position to the top echelon at Wilson, designing racquets for such tennis super stars as Venus and Serena Williams and Roger Federer, among other notables. His enthusiasm for his work is clear. "I love working with these athletes. Itís a real challenge to design what they want and make it accessible to our customers," he says.

Seeing what a success he has become, itís hard to believe the circumstances surrounding Khazalís arrival in the States. "In 1990, I was 17 and Iíd just graduated from the British School in Kuwait. I came to Milwaukee to visit my cousin, who was a student at Marquette University, and to investigate the colleges here," he recalls. "Three days after I arrived, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait happened. I couldnít go back home and I lost all communication with my family." Later, he sought asylum in the U.S. and became a citizen. His family sought asylum in England, where his mother now resides.

It was a lonely time for Khazal during his early years in Milwaukee, and he expressed his emotions through painting. "I painted a lot of watercolors that reflected my feelings of separation and isolation," he says. "But I was so fortunate to make a good friend whose family pretty much adopted me, and weíre still very close. In fact, our entire families have become close."

These days, Khazal doesnít have much free time for painting, with his work and his daily commute from Milwaukee to Wilsonís headquarters near OíHare Airport. "I tried living in Chicago, but Milwaukee is my home now," he says. And, he would like to get back to painting. "Iím thinking of buying an easel and putting it up in my room so I have to see it every day. Maybe Iíll start painting again," he says.

Where does Khazal see himself in the future? "I will always work in the arts. Itís what I always dreamed of and what I love," he says.


This story ran in the September 2011 issue of: