Against a backdrop of bloody battles, militancy and poverty in Northern Iraq, a group of sharply suited, impeccably groomed men with a vision to reform society and reinvigorate the economy through the power of fashion have emerged.
They call themselves “Mr Erbil”, after the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, a city at the frontline of the fight against ISIS. A year ago, these primped and polished young men, who take inspiration from tradition Kurdish style from the 20s and 30s, set up a high-fashion gentlemen’s club. Images of them dashingly attired in their three piece suits quickly sparked a social media storm.
In an interview with Majalla, co-founders of Mr Erbil, Goran Pshtiwan, Omer Nihad and Ahmed Nauzad describe their ambition to use fashion as something more than just a tool for self-expression – a potent weapon in the battle for reform.
by Firoozeh Ramezanzadeh
How was Mr Erbil’s Gentleman’s Club formed?
A year ago today, in Erbil Kurdistan, three men from one of the world’s most ancient cities gathered with the ambition to form a gentleman’s club; their vision was to instil a passion for fashion in the youth.
Back in 2014, the region started facing a major economic crises and an unexpected war against ISIS, but we as a young energetic generation, were still optimistic about the future of the region and we decided to forget the crisis and step forward. The main reason was to bring hope and bring back the taste of classic fashion we had back in 1920s known as “Afandis” style.
We expanded our group from just three to thirty; our thirty members share a common interest for designing and styling their own fashion while also remaining passionate for bringing about positive change. When we held our first gathering, named Gents Gathering 2016, we were met with an unwavering amount of positive feedback, which in turn motivated us even more. We wanted to push our agenda further since we now had a platform where we knew we could capture people’s attention.
Do you have any sponsors?
We don’t have any sponsors, we finance it through our pockets.
Do you have plans to expand the club?
We wanted to not only bring attention to the necessity of women’s rights, the protection of our environment, and our failing economy, but also to figure out ways to resolve these issues within our region. During this time, we faced many obstacles such as our failing economy, and the political issues that were brought on because of it. Despite our lack of resources, we were determined to turn our ideas into reality.
We wanted to not only bring attention to the necessity of women’s rights, the protection of our environment, and our failing economy, but also to figure out ways to resolve these issues.
One of our greatest platforms has been social media. On our Instagram and Facebook page we do a series called “Thursday’s Inspiration Girl,” where we show our support for ladies who are active in our community and active in achieving their personal goals whether its producing a local product or just working towards women’s rights. Our gents recently released a video, spoken in fourteen languages, with the message to stop violence against women. Not only have we received great feedback from men, but also from wonderful ladies.
Another goal is to have our own physical gentleman’s club, tailor and barbershop combined where we can bring back “Afandi” fashion from the 20’s and 30’s, while giving local gents a place to enjoy their time, have a haircut, and have a custom suit tailored to fit their highest fashion needs.
One of our proudest companies is one by the name of Rishn. It is a men’s grooming company, which consists of handcrafted products such as beard oil, moustache wax, and other grooming tools all produced in Kurdistan. At first Rishn became a local hit, with everyone interested in our products for themselves or any special man in their life. Now, Rishn has customers worldwide.
In the near future we will launch our local tailored clothing line to boost the local economy.
In regards to our economy, we have attempted to create many local businesses; our goal is to become more dependent on local goods with the hope of providing jobs as well as providing goods that were hard to come by.
Please tell us about the Mr Erbil designs
Our clothing design is a mixture of the classic “Afandis”, which is a style of fashion we had in our region in the 20s and 30s, and our own personal style.
Our group also goes to local tailors to design and craft our suits so that we give them business, boost our economy and also give ourselves a chance to be creative with our fashion. Our goal is to have our own clothing line, where future gents can come dress themselves before attending Mr. Erbil’s Gents Gatherings.