Young, Arab and Proud
“Let’s focus on identity, not the brand name”
Ahmed Amer answers Pulse’s questions.
The pieces he designs are not only produced responsibly and consciously, they have a meaning, and a mission. For Ahmed Amer, garments and collections are the best way to remind people that our Earth is not immortal, that we need to stop mistreating it. They can also be, for him, brilliant indictments against corruption and bad governance.
Amer first studied interior architecture, then illustration, before diving into fashion by training at Creative Space, the free fashion school founded by Sarah Hermez and Caroline Simonelli. Since 2017, his designs have been profoundly gender fluid, conscious, sustainable and are ever reinvented. And, most of all, they’re about hope.
Pulse Talks to… Ahmed Amer
What is the one thing you wish people would stop wearing?
Trends without knowing their sources and origins. It is important for me to understand how each piece I wear came to be and the values behind it.
What creation of yours are you most proud of?
Embroidered one line illustrations that convey most of my emotions in a well expressed, yet simple way.
What was your worst fashion faux-pas?
I used to wear colored keffiyeh. I can’t even think of this now!
If you were to choose one of your looks, or that of any other designer, to wear every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
My signature Face T-shirt.
Who do you dream of dressing?
Freddy Mercury and Cher.
When was the last time you pulled an all-nighter?
Last night and every weekend.
Name five people, dead or alive, that you’d like to invite to a private dinner party at your house.
Freddie Mercury, Raffaella Carrà, Alexander McQueen, Ahmed Ramzy and Jean Cocteau.
What does the word “sustainability” mean to you?
It’s a cycle: environmental, humanitarian, social awareness… Sustainability ranges from social consciousness to the respect of biodiversity and ecosystems. This is especially true in our current world circumstances and it should be our current lifestyle.
What would the title of your Netflix documentary be?
“Home: Safe Spaces”
Describe the MENA region in 3 words.
Innovative, rich in civilization and sources of inspiration, challenging.
How is “Young, Arab and Proud” translated in your work?
Young: out of the box, innovative, anarchist. Arab: my line work is the modern version of traditional Arabic calligraphy. Proud: I share and express my vision, thoughts and feelings in my art and designs. The environment I live in inspires every piece in my collection – my environment is Arab and proud. I take risks to express how I am feeling. This comes from a strong sense of pride in myself, but also the environment I live in.
What is Arab DNA made of?
The strong presence of the Arabic language, diversity, cultural heritage, ethics and values, and beauty.
What is the most common misconception about being an Arab?
The connection between the Arab world and religion.
If you could travel in time to meet any Arab icon, who would it be, and why?
Mahmoud Darwish, Palestinian poet and author. I would sit and listen to him talking, communicate with him through sketching, translating visually all the emotions he expresses (pride, power, vulnerability, resistance and love).
What is something that makes you uncomfortable in the MENA fashion industry and that you would like to see changed?
The focus on the brand name more than the quality and identity of the pieces. The lack of collective and real collaborations, the lack of networking to come up with initiatives and evolve within the industry itself.
How is the gender-neutral trend translated in MENA fashion?
My work is one of the examples of this approach in fashion. While designing a piece, I think of the emotions coming out of me and how they would translate into something I would personally wear. We all have a mix of both genders, and men in the MENA region are still developing the confidence to wear such pieces.
What is one Arab tradition you would want to change, and what is the one you adore?
The closeness to the family is a tradition I adore! One I would definitely change is marriage at a very young age.
What is the Arab dish you could eat every day?
Siyyadieh, made with seasoned fluffy rice and pan-fried fish, topped with toasted nuts.
What is your favorite Arabic song, that is often stuck on repeat in your playlist?
Asmahan, Dakhalti marra.
Um Kulthum or Fairuz?
That’s quite a difficult one. Fairuz accompanies melancholic but hopeful moments while Um Kulthum inspires strength, power and warmth.
What is this one city in the MENA region you could live in forever, and why?
I teared up while writing this, but Beirut always and forever. We all tend to compare this connection to the city