The term avant-garde is synonymous glamour – the proverbial caviar of the fashion world. However, it isn’t a term that is often associated with many menswear labels or even style aficionados of the region. In fact, we are much more likely to read about a classic Tom Ford suit on the best-dressed men’s lists as opposed to a vintage Margiela coat paired with embroidered Gucci trousers.
But despite our timid progress in this particular arena, men of the Gulf are now crossing the boundaries of conventional style. Take a look around and you’ll begin to notice businessmen pairing their sleek office attire with heavily studded Explorafunk backpacks by Christian Louboutin. Meanwhile, others don Issey Miyake plissé trousers on the weekends in an attempt to move away from the traditional flannel, white tees and denim of yesteryear. But, how is the term avant-garde perceived?
“Avant-garde to me means experimental – I think it’s also a very subjective term and can mean different things to different people. To me, it’s design-focused and not just a gimmick, which I think a lot people assume it is,” says, Firras Alwhahabi, founder and managing director of the creative PR firm, Faux Consultancy.
The word ‘gimmick’ here is perhaps the most vital component in what negated our progression in the world of style Internationally, men have awakened to this new thought process that doesn’t condemn them for taking an interest in their style or the way they choose to express it.
The UAE is home to a rich heritage and balancing the fine line between being stylistically adventurous and culturally sensitive can often be tricky. But what could be considered a societal constraint in some instances has led to a rather unique form of self-expression; one that in its exploration of style, has given way to a male consumer whose attention to detail is unparalleled.
This new generation of Middle East dwellers know the difference between the new season Prada Cloudbust sneakers and the Balenciaga Race Runners and aren’t afraid of mismatching their Givenchy slides or donning crystal mesh Balmain jackets. There is a strong understanding and respect for the heritage of the country, which is combined with the desire to evolve atop the swiftly moving global tide.
Ahmed Elsayed, co-founder and creative designer of House of Nomad, whose most avant-garde fashion moment involved wearing a Vivienne Westwood thrasher jacket in cowhide, says this respect for culture and tradition is what helps our evolution of style. “The UAE has set a great example for this region in the sense of being able to express one’s personal style without facing any issues.”
Elsayed’s words refute stereotypes about the UAE, insisting instead that there is room for all types of expression here, as long as it is done with the right amount of respectability. The designer also remembers one of the most avant-garde ensembles he’s seen on a fellow gent: a full on canary yellow three-piece suit, with a navy-blue accent.
And with Expo 2020 nearing, the UAE isn’t just focused on its monumental and well-documented contributions to the world of architecture or space travel. It is slowly redefining the meaning of the Arab World in the modern age; most noticeably in its approach to fashion, art and design. The changing perceptions on expressive menswear, in particular, is a prime example of this evolutionary wave, and as a result, the region’s set to embrace a bright future that the industry has yet to anticipate, let alone experience.