Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Creme de la Creme: Ahmed Amer upcycles at Depot Vente Beirut

Very few people fall under the multi-hyphenate umbrella, but Ahmed Amer certainly does. He graduated in Architecture in 2014 with a focus on interiors, then eventually in fashion design in 2017 - just to give you an analogy Raf Simons himself started as a furniture designer and the late GianFranco Ferre was an architect, before they both drifted into the fashion world.
The collection which Amer will exhibit on July 9th from 2 to 5 is this year's second venturing from Depot Vente (spearheaded by the incomparable Nawal!) into upcycling after ReBird and that stunning collection by Rayya Morcos. But truth be told, both collections cannot be compared. Amer's own effort is called "Creme de la Creme". "The name came from the irony of the condition we are living in right now in Lebanon.... "Nawal seemed to have a lot of white pieces I could work with, and it all went from there. Sure, after a while, I brought some colors to soften the monotony". What both, Morcos and Amer have in common though is talking to an alternative consumer.
"Basically all of the pieces of the collection are gender-neutral" says Amer. A particular item drew my attention, on the top it is a t-shirt, and on the bottom it is sewn on what could easily be a skirt with buttons on the front. The interesting part, the garment is exceptionally long. "Yes, I wanted to photograph it on a man, I thought about a man wearing it". Well, let us be honest, Lebanon, for all its liberal image, does tend to be quite conservative still. "True" agrees Amer, "I think in recent times the only breather queer people had was when the "thawra" began, there was a safe space for them - not just a personal hiding safe space, no a public one - and their voices were heard" then he continues "well, for a while at least, then with lockdown things went back to what they used to be/"
Amer says that for him, at time he wishes to express his feminine identity, and at others less so. "Actually often times when I am creating a one on one piece, I do it my size as I like to see it on me. Then when I put it on Instagram, orders start rolling in all shapes and sizes. I was factoring plus sizes way before the industry woke up to it."
Yet during our meeting he was dressed in sneakers, casual shorts and a striped yellow and white t-shirt: "Yes, functionality trumps design always in my case, if I am not comfortable I cannot be creative, and indeed I think the same about my items. Now of course, some people are comfortable "inside" in high heels, but that is a different kind of comfort," he said as he directed the couturiere on how to sue a specific item which checking how two items look fused on the table. "In that perspective, I am like those people who wear black to be able to deflect the light on their creations."
Asked which designers he loves, he answers without hesitation "Yohji". To anyone working or interesting in fashion, there could only be one "Yohji" or simply Yamamoto. "I go back to the concept of comfort, you could see 15 different people wearing the same Yamamoto garment in his fashion shows and it looks different on each one of them".
Amer did a small upcycling project which remained under the radar due to lockdown. After the August 4 explosion, a furniture textile supplier had his stock damaged and Amer worked his magic on the remnant pieces, "which makes Creme de la Creme my second attempt". But Depot Vente being Depot Vente, the price margins - somewhere between 80,000 Liras and 300,000 (peanuts by today's standards!) - are way less than the Amer mainline which basically goes for 500 Dollars or more.
Actually Amer already collaborated with the hip store Santiago and with the HHBrand funky shoe line, "and other designers asked about using my illustrations in their works". The said illustrations, minimal with a hint of Picasso, are already being embroidered by Amer in his own collections. "As a matter of fact - prior to architecture and fashion - it is the illustration that is my main interest" he says me as he points to an Instagram video of him working on an A0 size enormous work which apparently was sold to a collector in New York.
"I am also very interested in dance as well," he says matter-of-factly as it was a simple continuation to his artistic ventures. Amer does have many strings to his bow, yet they all come from the same organized space in his mind. The interview drifted off as Amer focused on more and more pieces he was creating for the trunk show on Friday. You can follow Amer on Instagram here.
Creme de la Creme indeed.