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Through Fashion & Art: One Designer's Tale of Creativity and Renewal

Hailing from Lebanon, designer Ahmed Amer is a multidisciplinary artist crafting human experiences into minimalistic pieces.

Ziyad El-Helbawy

Through Fashion & Art: One Designer's Tale of Creativity and Renewal

Hailing from Lebanon, Ahmed Amer is an up-and-coming fashion designer, illustrator, and multidisciplinary artist based in Beirut. Though he came to fashion through a background in architecture, Amer's natural artistic inclinations were nurtured from a young age through devoted sketching and imagery-based storytelling. This emergence of aesthetic aptitude laid the groundwork for his evolution as a creator seeking to convey emotion through design.

Amer’s style is minimalist yet emotionally expressive, where each garment serves as an actual canvas for exploring varied sentiments. Organic illustrations are subtly woven into neutral fabrics, imbuing each piece with an intimate narrative drawn from Amer's personal experiences. There is a sense of vulnerability and rawness to his silhouettes, with an emphasis on fluidity and androgynous forms. Though understated, Amer's illustrated touches and thoughtful cuts inject an intimate pulse into everyday wear.

With sustainability at the core of Amer's process, the designer finds solace in repurposing fabrics from previous seasons into new narrative-driven designs. This commitment to renewable practices - while staying true to his signature aesthetic blend of subtleness and storytelling - marks Amer as a rising voice crafting gender-inclusive and eco-conscientious fashion. His sophomore collection 'Vestige' most fully realises this vision, signalling exciting growth yet to come from this talented Lebanese creator.

SceneStyled recently had the pleasure of a virtual sit-down with Amer, in which the designer talked art, inspiration, and sustainability.

Firstly, I'd love to hear all about your personal story; your background, your affinity for fashion, how did you come to discover your love for the craft?

My journey into the world of fashion began in my early years when I developed a strong penchant for painting and illustrating. While most children played outdoors, I dedicated my time to sketching. I would wake up at 4 am to indulge in my creative pursuits before heading to school. My notebooks and class materials soon became filled with drawings, primarily focusing on body figures, women's fashion, footwear, dresses, hairstyles, and emerging fashion trends. These drawings evolved into a passion, and over time, they became a central part of my daily routine.

This devotion eventually transformed into an obsession. I amassed numerous sketchbooks, each containing intricate narratives of women and their imaginary lives, interwoven with diverse fashion styles. Every illustration sought to convey distinct emotions, be it freedom, strength, vulnerability, fear, dignity, or ego. For me, the most gratifying aspect was the process of designing garments, a creative endeavour that I found deeply fulfilling.

As the years passed, my talent garnered recognition, and I earned a reputation as a promising fashion designer and artist within my community. Despite my family's modest means and limited exposure to the worlds of fashion and art, they wholeheartedly supported my aspirations. Their encouragement provided me with the freedom to pursue my dreams and chart my own course.

During my final years in school, I embarked on a career as a freelance fashion designer and illustrator, working with various designers and brands. This not only honed my skills but also afforded me financial independence, enabling me to explore new horizons and undertake personal journeys of discovery. I pursued a degree in architecture from a public university, which closely aligned with my passion for design. However, fashion remained a constant presence in my life, despite the associated financial challenges.

Throughout my academic journey, my projects consistently incorporated elements of fashion and style. My illustrations could be found on university whiteboards, desks, classmates' notebooks, and even walls. In my third year, a friend introduced me to a fashion school offering a complimentary three-year program, an opportunity I seized eagerly. This marked the formal beginning of my education in fashion, where I came to realise the breadth and depth of this creative realm.

I soon discovered that creativity transcends planning and logic. It draws from a myriad of emotions - fear, love, anger, and anxiety - and is shaped by experiences, experimentation, mistakes, and their subsequent resolutions. My proficiency in sketching provided a solid foundation for success in the industry, while my passion for fabrics and draping deepened my connection to the art. My architectural background facilitated an understanding of pattern making. The process evolved into a joyful, hands-on experience, often shared with friends. I sketch when seeking solace during trying times, design when fueled by strong emotions, and execute my ideas when in a state of calm.

How did you discover your love for art? Where do you draw inspiration from? And how would you say you balance art and fashion?

The recollection of how I unearthed my passion for art is not a straightforward one. Art, to me, is an intangible force - an essence that resonates deep within, an embodiment of dreams and an inner strength that transcends the confines of reality. This force breeds curiosity, endows one with a diverse range of skills, grants power, fosters expression, and demands unwavering honesty within the realm of creativity. It was there, within that creative space, that I truly discovered myself.

In that sanctuary of art, I found my place. It was a profound feeling of belief in oneself, an acknowledgment that I had uncovered what I had been seeking. Art became my medium of communication with the world. It bestowed upon me a sense of presence and granted me a voice. I cherished it dearly.

Over time, sketching and art evolved into my daily diary—an immediate repository for ideas, reflections, and expressions. It became my sole means of conveying my thoughts and feelings to the world. I embarked on a relentless journey to establish my identity and demonstrate my independence. I was different, not just in my sexuality and beliefs, but in every aspect of my being. My environment and family were not always accepting of these differences, and I was determined to prove my strength, success, and autonomy.

Living alone, grappling with challenges, and navigating emotional trials often left me feeling isolated, trapped in a never-ending cycle of melancholy. Paradoxically, this solitude served as a wellspring of inspiration. The wounds and voids in my life needed healing and filling. The breakdowns led to new beginnings, rekindling a sense of self and setting me on a more promising path to continue my artistic journey.

My artistic inspirations are deeply rooted in my lived experiences - the how, where, and with whom of my existence. They delve into themes of relationships, adversity, departures, connections, love from a distance, sexual fantasies, the connection to home and city, love-hate dynamics, toxic relationships, and the interplay between anxiety and love. These themes have since evolved into a chronicle of expressions, representing the different mental phases I have traversed.

In my creative process, art serves as both expression and therapy, offering me a means to process and cope with the myriad emotions and experiences life presents. Meanwhile, fashion acts as the bridge, connecting my inner world with others. It serves as a medium through which I can easily convey my thoughts and feelings, a constant reminder to those who wear my creations, and a platform for shared expression.

Can you tell me more about your latest collection ‘Vestige’? How did that collection come to be? And what’s the idea behind the name?

This summer marked the unveiling of my latest collection, ‘Vestige,’ a deeply meaningful endeavour that carries an inherent commitment to sustainability. This collection serves as a visual narrative of a recent chapter in my life, one that emerged after a period of personal tumult, including breakdowns, battles with depression, and a sense of self-dissolution.

‘Vestige’ represents the phase that followed the earlier collapse - a phase of rediscovery, renewal, and restoration, not just within myself but also in my approach to fashion. As the preceding years had exacted a heavy toll on me, touching every facet of my existence, they also compelled me to reflect on the environmental impact of the fashion industry. It was during this period of profound introspection that I realised the importance of aligning my creative process with sustainability principles.

This realisation led me to consciously choose to work with sustainable materials and practices. I repurposed and upcycled old fabrics from previous collections, each of them telling a story of a distinct mental phase I had traversed. By giving these fabrics a new life, I aimed to reduce waste and minimise the ecological footprint of my work.

In addition to sustainable fabric choices, I took care to select motifs from my creative journey that held deep personal meaning. These motifs served as artistic echoes of the experiences, emotions, and lessons that have shaped me. They also conveyed a message of resilience not only in the realm of personal growth but also in my commitment to reducing fashion's impact on the environment.

Ultimately, ‘Vestige’ is more than just a collection; it's an exploration of what endures beyond adversity and renewal, including a dedication to sustainable fashion. The name itself, ‘Vestige,’ conveys the notion of what remains - the remnants of the past that continue to inform and enrich the present, all while underscoring the importance of responsible and sustainable fashion practices. It is a celebration of resilience, a testament to the enduring strength that arises from introspection, and a reminder that even in the wake of profound challenges, we can rebuild, renew, and find beauty in what remains, while treading lightly on our planet.

How would you describe your own aesthetic and design philosophy? What are the messages or ideologies you seek to convey/spread through your designs?

My eponymous brand, Ahmed Amer, is synonymous with gender-fluid, ready-to-wear pieces distinguished by their minimalist and organic illustrations. This aesthetic is deeply intertwined with the intricate tapestry of human emotions, often born from spontaneous improvisation and a boundless imagination. My approach to fashion is one of emotional expressionism, where each piece becomes a canvas to explore and understand the intricate journeys of our emotions.

Within every creation, there lies a profound sense of feeling, a moment in time, and a visionary narrative. I am an advocate for fashion as a conduit for emotional storytelling, where each design embodies the essence of a specific sentiment or experience. My work delves into the depths of these emotions, seeking to unveil their complexities and invite others to join in this exploration.

My ultimate aspiration is to inspire individuals to not only embrace their own unique phases and transformations but also to find ways to change, relief and create some personal culture in each of life's chapters.

How would you envision your future as a designer? What can we expect in the future?

In my vision for the future as a designer, I am wholeheartedly dedicated to the intersection of artistic innovation and sustainability. I firmly believe that fashion should be a solution rather than a contributor to environmental issues. I see myself embarking on a multifaceted journey. I envision actively engaging in projects and initiatives that push the boundaries of sustainable fashion. This includes exploring eco-friendly materials, pioneering new production techniques, and advocating for responsible practices across the industry.

My commitment extends beyond fashion, as I work towards raising awareness about mental health issues. I envision using my platform to destigmatize mental health challenges and promote holistic well-being. I see the establishment of a communal space that serves as a hub for multidisciplinary art and design. This space would not only showcase my creations but also foster an open environment for dialogue, collaboration, experimentation, and self-expression.

I aspire to contribute to the creation of a new cultural narrative, one that transcends the conventional folklore of the past. This new culture would be a reflection of our lived experiences, struggles, and the unique tapestry of emotions that have shaped our lives.

My vision includes a deep connection to the city of Beirut, a place rich with history and emotion. I imagine a space that encapsulates the diverse layers of this beloved city, offering a window into its vibrant and ever-evolving cultural landscape.

Last but not least, do you have any specific designs of yours that you would say are most precious to you? If so, which ones, and why?

I find it quite challenging to single out specific designs as the most precious, as each one carries a significant meaning or represents a vital phase, emotion, or event in my life. However, I do have a deep appreciation for certain designs that hold a special place in my heart, primarily due to their technical and aesthetic qualities.

I am particularly drawn to pieces that allow me to play with volumes, showcasing elegant curves and deviating from conventional compositions. I find delight in crafting designs with playful silhouettes, ones that evoke a sense of familiarity but with a unique and intriguing twist. Some examples include the Elephant Dress, Freeze Frame Coat, Emotional Purgatory Coat, Leela Structured Top, and the Silhouettes from the ‘Vestige’ collection.

Additionally, I have a penchant for designs that incorporate hidden and clever cuts, a reflection of my architectural background. These designs often feature practical elements like pockets or intricate cuts that lead to zippers or intersect in innovative ways. As seen in pieces like the Vestige Jumper, Profile Skirt Pants, and Printed Wrapped Flat Pants.

Moreover, I have a deep affinity for designs that serve as a canvas for embroidery. These embroidered pieces are particularly special as they represent a bridge between my worlds of art, illustration, and fashion. They showcase the craftsmanship and intricate detailing that define my work, adding a layer of artistic expression to the garments. These embroidered pieces are not just clothing; they are living canvases, each one bearing the mark of my creativity and the intricate detailing that defines my work. They are a testament to the symbiotic relationship between art and fashion, a harmonious blend of two worlds that have shaped my identity as a designer and artist.

In essence, while I hold a multitude of designs dear to my heart for their emotional significance, I also have a profound admiration for those that challenge my creative boundaries, whether through innovative cuts, playful silhouettes, or the artistry of embroidery, serving as a testament to my artistic evolution and technical prowess.

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