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Powerful storytelling and pristine craftsmanship made Moe Khadra's 'Elsewhere' a fashion head-turner


His collection was a standout at the recent Dubai Fashion Week—a menswear collection that drew inspiration from the shapes and silhouettes associated with those who fled in search of new homes.

While Moe Khadra's MOK has been away from the runway for quite some time, his comeback didn't disappoint. This time, his message was even clearer, taking inspiration from his personal journey and identity as an Arab man.

Being Omani-Lebanese, it is this duality in his upbringing that has made him a well-rounded creative, and through the lens of the Elsewhere Collection, Moe tackled the notion of immigration, addressing the intangibility of the sense of belonging.

Moe's design is a familiar one to those living in the region. After all, they emulate the versatility of a man's thobe. What made them worthy of a second look is that Moe has become more confident about his textile fusion techniques; the garments, while oversized, pleated, and draped, remained serene, showcasing the intricate craftsmanship and the time and thought put into them.

While others take inspiration from the pain and suffering of those who lost their homes, Moe lived through these raw experiences, and it resulted in a collection that is not only inspiring but authentic and powerful; it couldn't have been pulled off just by any other designer.

Fresh from the success of his recent fashion show, Moe gave an exclusive email interview to share insight about the importance of this collection.

It's been years since you last launched a collection. Can you give us an update on what happened in between and what kept you busy?

A looooong break from designing... YES indeed! I needed to step aside for a while, but I never had a break from fashion, and for those who know me, I had been working in between as a stylist and fashion consultant, creative producer at GQ Middle East @gqmiddleeast, TV host on men’s fashion at Al Jadeed TV @aljadeed. On the side, I launched my Muscat home fine dining concept, Table 661.

Can you walk us through the thought process for this collection? What were you hoping to showcase, and how different was this from the previous ones?

I wanted to re-question the notion of immigration, and in reference to my own hometown nostalgia, I tackled the word “Elsewhere” and the intangibility of the sense of belonging we often feel. I can’t explain the emotion when I think of the word “home” or Beirut. Today, I am still an immigrant, a refugee. I am an asylum seeker in a Silenced Revolution. Today, I am an immigrant not only in your land but even more of a stranger in my own.

I took motivation from my personal journey and identity search as an Arab man. Yet this journey is only a reflection of the lives and mental states of millions around me.

The collection drew inspiration from the shapes and silhouettes associated with those who fled in search of new homes. The ELSEWHERE line, for instance, boasts inside-out coats, jute-top stitched pockets, and patchwork cubic jackets whose storytelling design is derived from the process of recollecting memories.

What added the cherry on top of my cake was being able to bring this story to life in Cairo. The intensity of this city has definitely contributed and helped me crystalize that emotion somehow.

How does this collection reflect your personal style and design philosophy?

Having said that above, I think this was by far one of the most challenging collections I have ever designed, especially since it is my first menswear line, yet it is also by far the most reflective of my identity. I think one does need to step back after all in order to reflect.

But I have always been an identity fighter and digger, and I have come to believe that showcasing a personal story always reaches the hearts of others. Because we want to relate.

Focusing on the collection pieces, how many are there? How long did it take to make them and complete the whole collection?

There are 25 looks in total, and the whole process from concept to realization took around three months.

Can you talk more about the materials used, the silhouette, and the type of person you envision wearing this collection?

ELSEWHERE emulates the versatile shapes of a man’s thobe, presenting gradual, subtle curves that taper in at the neck and shoulder line. Some of my signature textile fusion and pleats appear in kimono wear sets, harem pants, and oversized draped veils coming out of single-sleeve glove-like pieces. The tenting/canvas fabric I used clearly highlights the collection’s perception of escapism and bareness. The designs explore the contrast between belonging and void, thereby introducing a collective presence that is subtle yet strong.

The garments, of course, remained completely serene, intricate in craftsmanship, and accordioning in whatever direction their wearer’s expression demanded. Variations included pieces with draped hems that arced towards the chest, coats wearable waist-length or knee-length depending on how you tweaked them, and some warrior-like Samurai wear, as I like to call it. “Samurai comes to the Middle East” type of guy.

Do you still have those moments of uncertainty about a particular piece? How do you edit your collection, and are there particular criteria you go by for a piece to be included?

Of course, all designers do, and sometimes it’s important to throw into your show a few pieces you feel uncertain about to a certain extent. They always surprise you because they get liked by the audience, and that by itself is a learning process. As much as I insist on asking myself while designing a garment, "Moe, would you wear it?” I also assess it by asking myself whether it could be a reflection of the person I would aspire to be.

I edit by making sure the line tells a story, and that the story travels well through shape, texture, details, technique, and, of course, colour. There is an ongoing checklist I feel in every designer’s head that is bespoke to his or her identity yet not alien to the fashion industry. A design needs to sell!

You recently showcased the collection at Dubai Fashion Week. What was it like being back on the fashion circuit?

It was the best feeling ever. I really want to thank Jacob Abrian [@jacobabrian], Group CEO of @arabfashioncouncil & @dubaifashionweek for challenging me to get back into this very addictive on-the-run fashion roller coaster. It’s intimidating somehow, and it makes you feel quite naked and venerable every time you showcase a collection. But that’s the magic spell, and somehow it keeps you going, wanting to unfold more.

What was your vision for the fashion show, and how did you bring it to life?

After the current horrifying images we saw following the Syria and Turkey earthquakes and because I was starting to prep for the show, I all of a sudden felt that the concept of the collection has become even more current than ever. This idea of "Elsewhere” has never been more vivid, and this is why I wanted the show to deliver the emotion of recollecting memories. I kept that feeling of absurd travel in the show through the video edit, music, and styling; where models were seen carrying random home objects as they walked down the runway. But definitely, my concern was to end up with a show that gives you goosebumps. I don’t do very well with change, the loss of someone, or the awkward moment of saying goodbye. I guess I was self-healing, too.

What's next for you and your brand, and how do you plan to continue evolving your designs and collections?

I am taking the collection into a new phase and developing it further by commercializing it more and retelling the story in a new city through a second edition show. I can’t quite say more for now until things are confirmed, but definitely stay tuned.

I am trying to figure out gradually how the identity of the line is going to evolve, and I have to admit I am being approached by amazing retailers around the region, so I wish for the best.

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