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Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father

Abdel El Tayeb: An exploration of origin

‘Ma Nation Porte Ton Nom’ (translated: ‘My Nation Bears Your Name’) visualises a dialogue between Sudan and Europe. Native to the first but growing up in the latter – in France, to be specific – Abdel El Tayeb found himself stuck in the middle between the two. Although tied to both cultures, he couldn’t fully identify with either of them, leaving him with a need to recontextualise and redefine the meaning of ‘home’.

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Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb, Final Collection
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father

“I only realised during my fourth year of studying at La Cambre that it heavily influences my way of creating today.”

Reflecting on childhood memories of summers spent in Sudan, a young Abdel El Tayeb would watch women and their intimate rituals prior to classic wedding ceremonies in awe. How they would braid their hair and prepare themselves by perfuming their clothing with incense, by adorning their hand and feet with henna. The richness of colours and fabrics, the gold, the joy, the dancing – these impressions stuck with him. “I only realised during my fourth year of studying at La Cambre that it heavily influences my way of creating today,” says Abdel.

Starting off his studies with an education in textile design at Olivier de Serres (École Nationale Supérieure des Arts) in Paris, Abdel realised he could express his ideas in a tactile way and bring a vision to life through creation. He learned about handicrafts such as knitting, weaving, manual dyeing and shibori (a Japanese dyeing technique creating specific patterns using indigo pigment). He fell in love with the process of developing textiles, comparing it to the likes of a creative laboratory with endless possibilities. However strong his enthusiasm for experimenting with fabrics, something left him feeling unsatisfied. “I felt the need to apply my research on a final product,” Abdel tells me, “I decided to apply to La Cambre and return to my first interest: fashion. To me, fashion is a complete medium that connects textile to a moving body, to an idea of the self, to images and to videos. It allows me to address societal problems that are important to me in a visual way, such as cultural identity, the definition of home within the context of globalisation, the place of Black people in Europe.”

Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb, Research and Design Development
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father

By combining ancestral Arabic-African craftsmanship with codes of Western fashion, Abdel created his own visual language. His world refers to various artists, movements, authors and musicians – Jean Paul Goude, Sonia Delaunay, Bauhaus, James Baldwin and Nina Simone are some of the names he cites. Besides these iconic features, he finds inspiration in family photos, “When I start a collection, I need to create a story that situates characters in a specific space and time. This story is inevitably connected to my identity and my family; going through their pictures provides me with a lot of working material. I also need to read articles to connect the story to an actual cultural matter, such as sustainability. It pushes my creativity.”

Abdel El Tayeb’s references to art and literature, his strong ties to his family, his lack of identification and his exploration of heritage all came together in his personal manifest: a creation of a nation of his own, as an homage to his father. ‘El Tayeb Nation’ envisions all of Abdel’s ideas, dating back to his first sketchbooks at the very start of his studies – revisiting his old work and writing down his manifest is something he found the time for during the lockdown – forming a key narrative throughout his graduate collection. “I created my nation and with this collection I captured a certain moment,” he explains. “It visualises the national holiday of El Tayeb Nation, which resembles the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. We see the teams parading in tailored and embroidered uniforms, with a majesty that I find beautiful. Women-officers of my nation waving banners in the wind, carrying my flag and shield.” Merging ideas of modern tailoring and ancient basket-weaving techniques, Abdel developed a geometric pattern used as a recurring element throughout the collection. His interpretation of the basket is threefold, seen in the graphic details ornamenting the garments, in the experimental handmade hats, and in the outline of the silhouettes themselves. Taking note of the basket’s rounded volumes, he created his ‘archetypal body’. “I was inspired by Alberto Giacometti’s ‘Spoon Woman’, referring to the sculptural, to the notion of fertility, to a mother country transmitting its culture to her child.”

Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb, Design Development
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father

In order to develop his sculptural silhouettes, Abdel experimented with artisanal draping techniques. “I like to be able to physically turn around the mannequin and manipulate the fabric, to work as if I were a sculptor – like Azzedine Alaïa used to do.” His love for handwork and detail led him to collaborate with various craftspeople, allowing him to realise his knit ‘basket dress’ made of wood and plastic, as well as to develop his Sudanese-inspired embroidery with the specialised Indian company Venture.

“The show is an element that made me choose fashion as medium to communicate. It involves all at the same time: music, light, movement, space. This combination of elements transcends ‘clothing’, adding a layer of emotion.”

Realising he wouldn’t be able to present his final collection in format of a show left Abdel deeply saddened. “The show is an element that made me choose fashion as medium to communicate. It involves all at the same time: music, light, movement, space. This combination of elements transcends ‘clothing’, adding a layer of emotion.” In order to best tell his story, Abdel joined forces with Le Motel, a Brussels-based musician, to create a custom soundtrack suiting the collection. As he won the 254 Forest prize, granted by the creative hub, he got to work with renowned photographers Pierre Debusschere and Gretar Gunnlaugsson.

Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb, Design Development
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father

“COVID forced the industry to slow down and finally consider another way of working in fashion. I hope it will focus on human values, reflect diversity as it exists in reality, and consider the environment.”

After ending his eight-year-long journey of fashion studies in beauty, Abdel El Tayeb has set foot into the industry, starting off his career with an internship at Maison Margiela’s artisanal atelier in Paris. Asking about the future, he concludes our conversation with a positive vision: “COVID forced the industry to slow down and finally consider another way of working in fashion. I hope it will focus on human values, reflect diversity as it exists in reality, and consider the environment.”

Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb, Lookbook
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father
Abdel El Tayeb on creating his own nation as an homage to his father