In a Marais gallery on a January evening during Paris men’s fashion week, a film was projected on a wall behind a group of male and female models. On the concrete floor: cairns. The film showed scenes from Kirkuk, Iraq. An old man meticulously combing his hair. A younger man picking up an apple from a fruit stand. All dressed in clothes from the first collection by Namacheko, a Swedish-Kurdish brand based in Antwerp. Following that evening, after only two collections, it appeared on the official menswear schedule in Paris, and was selected for a special exhibition by The Broken Arm, the trendsetting boutique in the third arrondissement.
The men were relatives of Dilan and Lezan Lurr, the brother-sister duo behind the brand. Dilan takes care of the design and creative direction, Lezan supervises the business side. They arrived in Sweden from Iraq when they were kids, and grew up as the only immigrant family in the southwestern town of Halmstad. When I meet Dilan over a coffee in Paris, he talks about all the help the family received from neighbours, and how their father’s boss visited him repeatedly when he had to be in hospital. “Who are the real Muslims?” Dilan would ask his Kurdish relatives who were still in Iraq.
In their A/W 2017 collection, the Lurrs have tried to capture a loss of identity, and also their search for belonging. Two lives are juxtaposed: the actual one in Sweden, and the one that could have been, in Kirkuk. One life, a life of freedom and security. In the other, dreams of things they now take for granted. The collection is called Serdem Nivar, meaning “Generation of Now” in Sorani Kurdish, a reminder that, in the eyes of Dilan and Lezan, it is the present that is most important. The clothes themselves: white billowing blousons, transparent, cocoon-like silk shirts, shimmering greyish trousers, dark green jackets with frayed hems, and jumpers modelled after WW1 bulletproof vests, a nod to the protection and security Dilan and Lezan found in the West.
In an email, Dilan later writes that he recently asked a childhood friend: Do you see me as a Swede or as an immigrant? Immediately, Dilan wondered why he wanted to know.
How Swedish can you really become? And what is it you’re seeking? To feel Swedish, or that everyone else sees you as Swedish? It’s not easy to know. What we focus on is turning that discussion on its head and making it into a strength, to take things from that conversation and talk about it in our collections. It’s a constant identity struggle within you, but at the same time it makes you want something more.