Arab Teens Carve an Identity

FTA speaks to teens in the MENA region about their sartorial inspirations

As a teenager, the time I spent in my room engrossed in Teen Vogue was a sacred experience. I grew up in the era of magazines, pre-social media and influencer culture. My inspiration came from whatever the editors had chosen to feature that month, and my friends and I tended to follow trends semi-religiously (at the time, that meant flared jeans and spaghetti straps).

I have since grown older and have become far removed from what’s cool and what’s not. The differences between my coming of age in Lebanon and Arab teenagers growing up in the 21st century are staggering. Social media has made Gen Z much more fashion conscious, for one. They’re much more socially engaged and environmentally aware, and they’re particularly adept at shopping, especially online.

Youthful style from eyewear designer and FTA Prize 2021 finalist Bilal Fellah Fashion Trust Arabia 2021
Youthful style from eyewear designer and FTA Prize 2021 finalist Bilal Fellah

Arab teenagers are also looking to express themselves much more uniquely, which I tended to steer away from as an adolescent. Take 16-year-old twins Shahd and Sara: the Palestinian sisters who live in Qatar both mentioned their interest in being distinctive, and are not really big on trends. Shahd, who looks up to Gigi Hadid, gets her fashion inspiration from Arab influencers Omaya Zein, Soha MT, Alftoon Al Janahi and her older brother, and describes her personal style as “casual abaya and streetwear. I like to style my own clothes, and I like to be unique.”

Designs by FTA Prize 2021 finalist Malik Thomas Jalil Kydd are forever young Fashion Trust Arabia 2021
Designs by FTA Prize 2021 finalist Malik Thomas Jalil Kydd are forever young

Sara is also a fan of Instagram influencers and Pinterest fashion boards, and is inspired by the likes of Kishama Meridian, Yasmin Jay and Naya Mousa. Like her twin, she’s very much into streetwear and shaping her own way of dressing. “I’m a fan of baggy clothes, they’re my thing,” Sara explains. “I love to style them in a weird and unique way.”

Over in Lebanon, Charbel, 17, is also not big on trends, but relishes in styles of certain celebrities. “I don’t really have a specific role model but I mostly look [at] a lot of stars from the music industry,” he says. “I try to dress like music stars, mostly rappers.” Charbel is a fan of “hypebeast” culture – according to his definition, a hypebeast is someone who “mostly wears exclusive and hard-to-get sneakers.” In fact, when asked to describe his personal style, Charbel cites shorts and sweatpants, T-shirts and hoodies as his staples. “I usually dress in sports brands like Nike and Adidas. I would describe it as a chilled looked that I’m comfortable in,” he says.

Mina Tahir Fashion Trust Arabia 5
Mina Tahir Fashion Trust Arabia 5

Dynamic fashion by FTA Prize 2021 finalist Mina Tahir

In Saudi Arabia, 16-year-old Mary, who is Jordanian, resembles many Arab teenagers in that she also takes her fashion inspiration from social media accounts, but is adept at picking out what works for her and what doesn’t. “For example, I usually try to recreate looks that I found on Instagram accounts. My personal style fit the words ‘modern’ and ‘chic.’ I put time and effort into the way I look. I love wearing accessories and owning different styles. I definitely follow trends, but I shop with care and won’t buy into a trend that doesn’t compliment my style,” Mary adds.

“I love bright colors but I don’t overdo it. I am trying to follow one trend, which is chains. I find them bold.”

Feels like teen spirit: looks by FTA Prize 2020 and 2021 finalist Zakaria Bendriouich
Feels like teen spirit: looks by FTA Prize 2020 and 2021 finalist Zakaria Bendriouich