Meet Wathek Allal, the 21-year-old designer who's marketing Algeria to a young, fashion conscious audience
Self-effacing, and as sweet as the Algerian delicacies that adorn the t-shirts that he creates, Wathek Allal is a young Amazigh designer who – despite his second collection dropping this autumn – doesn't actually refer to himself a designer. “I've always wanted to design but I feel that there's a lot more for me to learn. I am going to study it at university and I’ve taken some pattern-cutting classes here in Dubai,” he explains.
Born in Syria to Algerian parents, at the advent of war, Allal’s family fled to Dubai when he was 15 years old. And it’s there that his label, Precious Trust, began. “I liked florals and preppy stuff like suit pants but I could never find it here, or it was really expensive. So I made myself a floral-covered tracksuit with a really clean silhouette.” Months later he was dropping out of studying to be a pilot and was instead hosting his first pop-up. He sold out of everything and now, a year and a half after launching, and with fans in the UK and Japan, he is releasing his second full collection called Mutual Feelings.
As a kid, Allal would hide his heritage. “When I was living in Syria people would say ‘Algerian’ in a bad way, the word had negative stereotypes attached to it about how Algerians are angry all the time. It just became this thing where I was like, ‘Okay, cool, I’m not Algerian then’. But then I started reading more and finding out about all of the things that are happening there.” It was by reconnecting with the country that prompted him to use the medium of fashion to spread the word of an underrated and misrepresented country that’s brimming with culture, tradition, and crucially, romance.
“I want to show youth, nature, family, love stories and everything all around. I love the North African tacky and romantic stuff”
“I want to show youth, nature, family, love stories and everything all around. I love the North African tacky and romantic stuff,” Allal says. “How people write on walls, have these tattoos about each other and the kind of messages they send and the sort of things they say – I find it all really interesting. It's over the top but it's very sweet at the same time, because they are very, very caring. They act like they're tough but on the inside they're really sweet.”
Making use of traditional Amazigh colours and fabrics, such as plush green and rich burgundy wools, he constructs modern, sporty pieces that are built with movement in mind. The look is minimalist and created without any sense of irony. “I'm inspired by Algerian costume, so everything has something to do with that, but it doesn’t have to be traditional clothing, it could be how Algerian youths wear tracksuits and side-bags,” he explains. “And my designs are inspired by skateboarding too – I’ve been skating for about eight years – so have made things more comfortable with convenient pocket placement.”
This self-taught designer is also a self-taught-illustrator and he uses imagery and graphics to further present another side of Algeria. Giving his consumers a mini education, his previous collection featured a graphic of a crossword that revealed facts about the country. And for this one he visualises different types of local dessert. “There are so many amazing things to talk about, but no-one does,” he reflects. “I don’t want to just make random clothing, I want to be able to look at any piece and remember what is was about. It’s really all for me.”
An intensely personal project, this label is an expression of a young man falling in love with his homeland. Indeed, the name of his brand derives from his first name, Wathek, which translates as Trust and Precious is his nickname for those close to him. “From the beginning my work has been kind of like a journal and most of the reference are moments that only I would understand. And it's not done, with every collection or drop it just continues.” And while he is putting his heart on his sleeve, this bright star wants others to be more open, too. “Most people are scared to be emotional and talk about what's going on with them,” he opines. “They think that it's not masculine to talk about these things and I just want people to be freer in that way.”
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Published on 17/10/2018