We talk to Omar Mobarek of UNTY about the unique aesthetic and high quality that make the street-wear brand so special.
UNTY clothing line has been at the forefront of an emergence of street fashion that’s been on the tips of the tongues and wingtips of Cairo’s cool kids for a while now. Since being founded, just over a year ago, by Omar Mobarek and AUC graduate Mostafa Tarek, the cutting-edge brand has been seen at least once or twice at every outing and, due to each UNTY piece’s limited nature, are usually worn with pride, not only for the fact that they look cool but the fact that they’re designed and made in Egypt with the same quality, originality and vibrant aesthetic you’d expect from a T-shirt three times its price ordered off Opening Ceremony or blogged about on Hype Beast.
Not content with simply using a clothing line as financial income for what seems to be an abundance of artistic talent and creative thought, the cut of each piece reflects a clear understanding of current clothing trends. The t-shirts, for example, have loose unfinished hems on scooped collars and sleeves and the illustrations themselves are engaging, meta and usually conceptualise a sort of chaotic spiritual or psychological dissonance. We have a hefty chat with UNTY designer and co-founder Omar Mobarek…
Firstly, a bit about your background...
I was born and raised in California. Studied at University of Washington for three years, then a series of unexpected events resulted with me studying art at AUC for two and half years.
When and how did the idea to start UNTY come about?
The idea came to me about three years ago, right after I moved to Egypt. I'd been illustrating for about a year and I had a novice knowledge of Photoshop. I had wanted to create a brand for my art, not just clothing but expanding into music and videos as well, however clothing was what interested me the most. I designed the logo, a couple rough samples then sat on the idea for two years till Mostafa and I sat together one day. We wanted to make something of ourselves, living here straps you into a system that doesn't give you much freedom to make a living off of a lifestyle you enjoy, so as any place, to be honest. So I showed him my designs and presented my idea and that was when we started.
Why the name UNTY?
It's a name that represents everything. We wanted a name that wouldn't limit the brand to a certain concept or aesthetic, a name that brings it all together. People pronounce it as it's spelled, which we understand, however it's pronounced 'unity'. When designing the logo, it looked better without the 'I' so that's what we went with.
It looks like some of your designs are inspired by an acid trip. Any truth in that?
No acid was involved in the making of UNTY, just to be clear with everyone! The inspiration varies, some are through natural experience, emotions, observations, others are just impulsive reactions to a momentary thoughts. For example, we have a t-shirt called "Ignoramus" and this t shirt was inspired by a person close to me whose ignorance clouds his better judgment, even if the answer and truth is right infront of them. The design consists of a face made of lines and above it reads "Ignorance is the poison the drowns the rightful truth of our eyes." I wrote it in a way that can't be read; it's there, but you just can't see it. Another example is our recently released "Tripolar" [pictured below] that represents people's three faces, the one they have infront of loved ones (the top), the one they have infront of strangers (the bottom), and the one they have with themselves (the middle) and this one is the most important; you see things no one else does.
What links your specific designs with the brands ethos?
The designs are inspired by everything and that is the brand ethos. I don't limit myself to a specific concept, I bring in everything that I can absorb in a way that people can relate with. I see the designs a certain way, however, that doesn't mean that that's the only way it can be interpreted. The designs are meant to have people think, use their experiences to come up with their own meaning to it. Each item is titled as a reference, the connection between the title and the design is open ended. Applying a subjective formula (art) to a material object (our clothes) to sum it up.
Where and when do you usually draw?
Nothing specific. On a plane, the beach, at home. One time I was stuck in some nasty traffic on 6th October bridge with a friend, I used the time to draw a design we used in our first collection.
What was the hardest part about getting UNTY off the ground?
Well, there's finding the right factory; production is probably the most difficult process. We went around factories for months in the beginning till we found one we can trust and deliver with quality. Mostafa handles this area making sure we use the best quality and adjusting the fit we have in mind. It's a strenuous and stressful process he handles extremely well considering the circumstances of the country.
Who are your favoyrite artists/illustrators?
Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Shepherd Fairey, and Salvador Dali.
What are your favourite fashion brands?
Alexander McQueen, Obey, RVCA, Blackscale, LRG, and Stussy.
Are your designs more popular with men or women?
What have been your biggest sellers so far?
"Insomaniac" is our top selling t shirt. "Tripolar" sold out on two sizes before we even started marketing the Novocaine collection; that's a big seller as well.
Do you plan on expanding the collection further than T-shirts and sweaters? What will be the next UNTY apparel?
Definitely. We want to expand into women's casual wear, tank tops and crop tops, which we're planning on for the summer; our largest and most diverse collection yet. We have collaborations planned with musicians and a couple other artists, along with potentially a new venue in town so that's to look forward to. We want to collaborate on projects outside of fashion as well, such as music, photography, and possibly a short film.
What advice would you give to budding Egyptian designers?
Do it for yourself, not for anyone else.
Where can one buy UNTY?
We're available online at Enigma Shopping and Cirqy. We're going into a lot of bazaars as well so check out our Facebook page for any updates on that.
Check out UNTY on their fanpage here