Every two years, we celebrate the talent of a graduate student from La Cambre Mode(s) by awarding him a collaboration with creatives from our collective. Abdel El Tayeb brings out this year an intimate and joyful collection named “My Nation Bears Your Name”. Abdel collaborated with Pierre Debusschere, Gretar Gunnlaugsson and Le Motel on a multimedia project.
Abdel, how would you describe your last collection for someone that discovers your work?
My latest collection at La Cambre is entitled “My Nation Bears Your Name” in homage to my father and the cultural heritage he passed on to me. I have created my own fantasy Nation “El Tayeb Nation” which is the result of eight years of studies in textile design and then in fashion design, with the dialogue between Sudan, my country of origin, and France, my country of birth, as a common thread.
Through the elaboration of a festive and positive image, I address the lack of identification and reconciliation of ancestral heritage with the contemporary world that some Afro-descendants may feel in European societies.
The collection captures a moment of parade during the National Holiday of El Tayeb Nation. El Tayeb Nation is the fusion of elite French state dress codes and my Sudanese heritage. The female officers of my nation wave banners and flags in the wind. Military dresses are transcended through an archetypical body : slender women with giraffe necks and basket hips. Sudanese basketry replaces gold thread embroidery ; officer’s gloves are adorned with henna. The graphic basket designs run through the collection with cutting and ornamental games. The spontaneous Sudanese drapes blend with the national flag. Basket hats are superimposed on the head in the style of Brancusi’s sculptures, beaded wigs in the colours of the national flag.
What inspired you to create your collection?
To elaborate my fantasy nation, I was interested in the way a nation presents itself at the opening of the Olympic Games and national holidays. The patriotism in dress, the symbols of power of a nation such as the flag, the medals of honour, as well as the rigour of the military ceremonial wardrobe. I put the emphasis on Sudanese basketry, a palm-leaf embroidery technique taught to me by my grandmothers. I took my family photos to extract materials, drapes, colours and jewellery from them.
Alberto Giacometti’s woman spoon inspired me to create the symbol of my nation, with the notion of fertility : of a mother country that transmits her culture to her child.
Could you talk about your collaboration with Le Motel?
Of course. It has been a very enriching experience that makes me want to include music more in my process. I had military parade percussion sounds in mind since the beginning of the year and being able to collaborate with Le Motel allowed me to create a custom sound for the videos.
Pierre came up with the idea thinking that Fabien Leclercq (aka Le Motel) would be interested in my collection. I wrote short descriptions for each look as people did for the first couture shows in the 50’s. Fabien put me at ease to record my voice at the 254Forest. We then discussed the collection, and the sound inspirations to surround my voice. The result is personal and surprising, between military percussion and traditional Sudanese percussion, I’m a fan!
What about your collaboration with Pierre Debusschere?
Working with Pierre is an incredible opportunity because I am a fan of his work, and of the person on a human level. So I was thrilled to win the 254Forest prize. We first met in September to talk about my desires for the prize and for my long-term professional project. This was followed by one-off meetings throughout the development of the collection in order to think and plan the multimedia project. I greatly appreciated the fact that he brought his touch of painting to some of the images. He was very generous with the price and did not hesitate to include Gretar Gunnlaugsson and Le Motel in the project. I am very grateful to him.
What did the 254Forest prize bring you more generally? What did you get out of it?
The 254Forest prize allowed me to work in collaboration with a team of creative visual artists. To think about the staging of the collection with a photographic eye and to integrate other means of expression such as music. It pushed me to know how to quickly communicate my desires and the collection to a team. I am delighted to have worked with 254Forest.