Young, Arab and Proud

“I would love to see creatives lifting each other up more”

Ines Aktouf answers Pulse’s questions

Born and raised in Algeria, Ines Aktouf moved to Paris to fulfill her childhood passion. She started working in the media field after graduating from Instituto Marangoni, and on the side, she modeled and did some creative work on social media. She moved to Dubai in 2019, and while still having her full-time job, she started her own project, an online magazine named Social Unseen, a platform that aims at highlighting talents and artists from the MENA region.

“We started to produce shoots, where I would style and be the creative director alongside photographers, but the pandemic quickly stopped us at that time and we did only one shoot. However, I am re-launching the platform very soon and that is something very exciting”, promises Aktouf.

PULSE’S TALKS TO… INES AKTOUF

What is the one thing you wish people would stop wearing?
I think the ugly can be cool, it all depends on how we wear it! Demna Gvasalia explored the movement and does it well, so anything can be cool if worn with a personality. But there is something that I personally find not cool at all: it is a full-branded look full of logos.

What creation of yours are you most proud of?
I launched an online magazine called socialunseen.com a year ago during quarantine. The purpose was to highlight creatives, designers and artists from the Middle East and North Africa. I’m proud of this project in many aspects, one of  many was the fact that I gathered a team of passionate women from different backgrounds who really enjoyed the journey. The project was on hold for a couple of months, but I’m launching it back soon with new features!

What was your worst fashion faux-pas?
Looking back at my old pictures, I have no issue with my outfits as I’ve always been living in the zeitgeist. The only thing I would change would probably be the makeup – I barely wear make-up today.

If you were to choose one of your looks, or that of any other designer, to wear everyday for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I love several brands and designers because of the versatility, I dress up according to my mood and that’s the reason why I like to have the choice. Every brand inspires me differently. But I like to feel strong and chic most of the time, probably because I lived in Paris as a student, where I could satisfy my love for vintage, so I would wear a vintage Saint Laurent blazer forever if I had one only choice.

Who do you dream of dressing?
Angelina Jolie.

When was the last time you pulled an all-nighter?
When I was writing my Master’s thesis.

Name five people, dead or alive, that you’d like to invite to a private dinner party at your house
Lady Diana, my mom, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Dua Lipa and Gilda Ambrosio.

What does the word “sustainability” mean to you?
Sustainability is a mindset, a lifestyle. It is a sign of respect, between us, but also to nature and animals.

What would the title of your Netflix documentary be?
A Love Letter to The Youth

Describe the MENA region in 3 words
Heritage, beauty, diversity.

How is “Young, Arab and Proud” translated in your work?
“Arab” doesn’t fully reflect my culture as it may have a political connotation in  Algeria since we are all initially Berbers. We have been assimilated to Arabs after we became Muslims and that is what creates the beautiful diversity of my culture, which is a mix of lots of influences. That mix has shaped my personality.

What is the Arab DNA made of ?
Diversity in different aspects.

What is the most common misconception about being an Arab ?
It depends on the context and the area. In France for example, being an Arab from the Middle East is synonymous with privilege and money. Being North African is a different story, it’s more related to history as we have lots of things in common, it’s either love or hate…

If you could travel in time to meet any Arab icon, who would it be, and why?
Cheb Hasni, he is an Algerian rai singer who has marked the 90’s and is still an icon today in North Africa and other parts of the world. He was one of the pioneers of romantic rai and has been murdered when he was 26 years old by terrorists as it was the war in the country back then.

What is something that makes you uncomfortable in the MENA fashion industry and that you would like to see changed?
The individualistic approach to everything and especially when it comes to image-related industries like fashion. I would love to see creatives coming up together with concepts and lifting each other up more.

How is the gender-neutral trend translated in MENA fashion?
We are getting there, it needs more time in my opinion. The Gen Z is cooler when it comes to no-gender trends.

What is one Arab tradition you would want to change, and what is the one you adore?
Not sure I’d like to change anything in the Berber/Arab culture as this is where I come from, but what I adore about our culture is the constant presence and help of our families in our lives, and generosity in general, which you find less in Western countries.

What is the Arab dish you could eat every day?
My grandma’s couscous from the Eastern side of Algeria, my all-time favorite

What is your favourite Arabic song, that is often stuck on repeat in your playlist?
“Ya Rayah” by Dahmane El Harrachi, an Algerian icon of Chaabi music.

Um Kulthum or Fairuz?
Um Kulthum.

What is this one city in the MENA region you could live in forever, and why?
Algiers obviously. “Alger la Blanche” (Algiers the White, the magnificent), because it’s where the heart is and will always be.