AbdelGader El Tayeb Al Sadig, founder of El Tayeb Nation, and the FTA 2021 Debut category winner, was born in Bordeaux, France to Sudanese parents. He was always adamant about pursuing a career in fashion and challenging societal norms, much to his parent’s disapproval at the time. El Tayeb’s conscious approach to design, which combines his passion for Sudanese crafts with a contemporary flair, focuses on valuing the art of African craftsmanship, whilst unifying his love language that speaks to both, Africa and the Arab world.
El Tayeb Nation is the symbiosis of his Sudanese roots and is a combination of “intemporal” and “couture and easy-to-wear”, according to the designer. Family and heritage are imperative in the world El Tayeb is trying to build through his brand. His graduate collection, presented in Doha and in the Middle East for the first time, is an homage to his father, who passed away during his final year in Paris.
“For my graduate collection, I created my own fantasy nation that connects my Sudanese heritage with [French] culture. [It was] originally, called ‘El Tayeb Nation,’ which is my family name. But when my father died the same year, in July, I decided to change the name of my collection to, ‘My Nation Bears Your Name,’ to say that he will always be there with me, remembered through the name of my work and the cultural heritage he passed on to me that I will celebrate through my creations.”
Colorful and prideful
While grief may cripple some, El Tayeb channeled those emotions and energies into a collection that celebrates life, driven by advice passed on to him by his father who told him to keep on pushing. “[My father] was a geologist and I saw him all his life pushing his projects by passion, determination and perseverance. [He told me] to never give up, no matter what.” Today, El Tayeb Nation transcends the boundaries of fashion — it is a movement that celebrates diversity and connects likeminded people, who may have found themselves lost, isolated and neglected in an ever-more globalised world.
El Tayeb’s approach to design is unconventional. He is an experimentalist, who has mastered the art of his craft. “I love to experiment with fabric and textures. It comes from my background in textile design when I studied in Paris. For my graduate collection I was particularly inspired by Sudanese basketry, which is not common in garments, but by translation through knitwear or cotton thread embroidery it becomes wearable,” he says.
Whether it’s crafted from the everyday items used amongst Sudanese families, such as tabag baskets or others, like palm leaves or Scooby-Doo’s, El Tayeb’s pieces are loud, colorful and prideful. His favorite is Look 1, which is composed of a “basket sculpted navy leather short, with a red spencer military pea coat, embroidered with the Sudanese technique of basketry with palm leaves, a seamless red stretch tulle patchwork body assembled with tape, long henna leather officer’s gloves, and a sculptural military hat made of palm leaf basketry.” He believes this look in particular perfectly represents his vision for the brand.
Inspired by the likes of Sevdaliza, Jean Paul Goude, family pictures in France and Sudan, and John Galliano, whom he interned under whilst at Margiela, El Tayeb is a person driven by his passions. During his time in Doha, he instantly became a fan-favorite, with supermodel Naomi Campbell gushing over his work.
On reflection, it is the messages he has received from his fellow Sudanese that inspire him today. “[I get chills] when I receive messages from Sudanese people [all] over the world, that thank me for what I do through my work.” Today, he serves as an example, particularly for Arabs who challenge the common perception that working in fashion can be nothing more than a hobby. Rather, he believes, it is a strong tool, that can have a larger than life cultural impact, to be used to express one’s individual identity.
For El Tayeb, the future is bright. In the meantime he is taking the “time to benefit from the FTA mentors to settle my brand, to build my team and master my crafts. And I’m going to keep learning at Bottega Veneta.” Through his work, he will continue to embrace the rich history of the Middle East, not only by showing the vast beauty of its diverse culture, but by also questioning the complexities of the societal norms imposed upon us.