Friday February 23rd, 2024
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Not Boring Is Pushing Boundaries in Saudi Streetwear With Nuance

Through modernized regional pieces, Not Boring champions individuality with each subtly subversive design.

Ziyad El-Helbawy

“Inspiration comes when you let your mind roam, and I love letting my mind roam.”

Pushing boundaries through subtle yet powerful self-expression, Not Boring’s founder, Yazeed Abahussein, has made it his mission to question what constitutes ‘cool’ or ‘trendy.’ As the 29-year-old designer tells SceneStyled, he adheres to the personal belief that blindly following trends leads to uniformity, stripping away unique traits that make each individual truly vibrant.

“I have this mentality that I adhere to, and it basically is the personal belief that following a certain pattern or trend or ‘what’s cool’ at the moment is just simply…boring. That is how people just become duplicates of each other with no distinguishing traits.”

Born and raised in Riyadh, Abahussein discovered his affinity for fashion as an outlet to communicate ideas. "I do have a love for fashion, but not in the typical sense," he shares. "I'm not one drawn to beauty and runways. I'm rather drawn to the storytelling aspect of fashion; the side of fashion that is a powerful medium for sending a message. The more artistic and metaphorical aspects of fashion  - the statement part, the communication, the expression."

It was this passion for using clothing as creative expression that drove Abahussein to establish Not Boring in 2017 upon returning to Saudi Arabia from studying marketing at UCSD. He coined the label's name as a motto against conformity, encouraging individualism above all else, “being provocative - that’s the side of fashion I’m in love with.”

Six years later, Not Boring makes a bold statement on the global stage through Abahussein's audacious yet nuanced approach. Instead of flashy advertisements, the label subtly showcases regional pride by reimagining traditional garments, like their 'Farwa' jacket, which transforms the classic silhouette into a modern piece suitable for everyday wear. With pieces meant to represent culture in an internationally appealing way, Abahussein achieves his goal of "putting our region on the global map."

Nowhere is Not Boring's daring spirit clearer than its dramatic use of Arabic phrases. As Abahussein asserts, before 2018 most Saudi streetwear incorporated English or silly Arabic people wouldn't want to be seen wearing. Breaking this mold, Not Boring printed provocative statements that ignited buzz, “each piece we have has a story, and all of these stories were serendipitously encountered.”

One such piece is the 'Al Raja' 'Aadam Ezhar Al Masha'er Bil 'Alan' print design, drawing inspiration from the common signs found in tourist destinations, which encourage foreign visitors to refrain from public displays of affection. However, with a slightly ironic twist that could also be interpreted as 'Please do not display any feelings,' the print underscores this literal translation. It serves as a form of social commentary, reflecting the challenges people face in expressing their emotions openly.

Consider the cheeky 'Register Now' tee, poking fun at never-ending bureaucracy and paperwork, or the 'Brain Controlling Services' hoodie critiquing social media's influence - each ignited significant conversations through fashion, “they’re a comment on the rise of social media influencers - this sort of mass mind control we’re all victim to”

Fueling Abahussein's designs are everyday moments rather than rigidly planned concepts. "Inspiration comes when you let your mind roam, and I love letting my mind roam," he muses. Serendipitous finds like patterns on torn dresses or magazines in his grandmother's home form the basis for compelling backstories. In this way, Not Boring authentically captures life's spontaneity.

“Inspiration may come in the form of a vintage magazine that I might find in my grandma’s house, perhaps a pattern on a torn dress, or the stalls of the marketplace, there’s inspiration everywhere.”

Six years after its launch, Abahussein established Not Boring as a leader in Saudi contemporary streetwear, “Not Boring got really lucky, we started our business at a time when the country is changing and supporting our business. So much is happening in the fashion industry. I mean, look at Riyadh Fashion Week. I’m honored to be a part of it.” Abahussein adds.

Proud to represent the region's blossoming fashion industry on the debuting Riyadh Fashion Week, Abahussein remains dedicated to the label's vision of self-liberation through accessible individualized style. By rejecting norms and obsessive trends, designers like Abahussein prove that true distinction stems from steadfastly being one's true, gorgeous self - simply not boring.

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