Yung Creatives is a series profiling talents of tomorrow across various fields, disciplines and mediums. Skilled in commerce and creativity, find out why these guys are generating significant buzz in the industry.
Meet Shukri Lawrence, the 19-year-old using fashion to break down stereotypes of the Middle East.
There’s a stigma that’s been attached to Arabic language, Shukri explains, one that equates it with terrorism and negativity, and one that his brand, tRASHY CLOTHING, is fighting against. Growing up, the judgement Shukri faced because of his Arab identity was constant, whether through inaccurate portrayals of his culture in TV and media or through real life encounters. As a personal project to defeat the idea that Arabic language and culture are synonymous with terrorism, Shukri began bootlegging clothes from brands like Nike and adidas by adding Arabic letters to some of the most recognized brands and logos across the globe.
Once Shukri's Instagram followers expressed an interest in purchasing the pieces that he shared on his feed, Shukri realized he had a platform to raise awareness about the issue through his craft. In turn, he launched tRASHY CLOTHING, his own brand of bootlegged clothing that sheds light on the false perception of Arabic culture around the world.
However, that's not the only cause that this Jerusalem-born artist is contributing to. In an effort to help resolve other important issues surrounding the Middle East, Shukri is also donating 25 percent of the brand's proceeds to Syrian and Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan.
We caught up with Shukri to chat more about his experiences that inspired the project, where he got the name tRASHY CLOTHING, and the ability to use art to open people's minds.
How old are you?
I’ve recently turned 19 years old.
What’s your occupation?
I’m a designer, music video director, photographer, and an artist in general.
Where are you from and where are you currently living?
I’m Palestinian — born and raised in East Jerusalem. I’m currently studying filmmaking in Amman, Jordan.
Your brand, tRASHY CLOTHING, spins traditional bootlegging by adding Arabic letters to pieces with widely recognized brand names. Can you explain the purpose of this project?
I started creating bootlegged clothes to raise awareness for two issues that I’ve been addressing on my Instagram account @wifirider for a while; the Palestinian/Syrian refugees, and the Arabic culture itself, being associated with terrorism.
Bootlegged adidas tracksuits and Nike shirts have been, in a way, the ‘uniform’ for refugees. When my followers saw the designs I kept sharing on my Instagram, I kept getting asked to sell them, which I was never planning on doing, but then I thought about it and how donating some of the profit to refugee camps can help more than just raising awareness, so I created tRASHY CLOTHING.
I have three themes of designs on sale right now, Feminism, Terrorism, and Narcissism. With each new theme, I try to bring a new issue and showcase it through a Middle Eastern point of view.
Was there a personal experience you had fighting the stigma of Arabic language and terrorism that inspired the concept for the brand?
As an Arab, you experience racism everyday and it's either direct or indirect. The media, movies, and TV show representations of Arabs have always stuck with me since I was a kid. I’ve had numerous arguments with people on their Arab stereotypes, and they’ve all inspired me to keep creating content. Either fashion, photography, or music videos, I always try to fight the stigmas put upon me and my people with every creation I put out.
Where did you get the name tRASHY CLOTHING?
When people hate on something they tend to call it trash. I want to reclaim the word and give it a new meaning. I believe that trash is way more beautiful than perfection because it’s raw and real. I wanted the name, the website, and the look of the brand to be trashy.
Is there a recognized fashion community where you live?
Amman is filled with many creatives. There are tons of fashion designers that tend to create hype and style from their own culture and make it a trend instead of following the internet.
An important part of the fashion community in Amman is MyKali magazine; the Middle East's leading LGBTQ magazine. They create next-level fashion editorials that mix fashion and culture in the Middle East. They have also broken many stereotypes that I truly appreciate.
Who is the ideal consumer for tRASHY CLOTHING?
Anyone who believes in my message.
Describe your brand in three words.
Information Through Fashion.
Are there any designers or artists you look up to that also incorporate their own culture or societal issues into their work?
One of my biggest inspirations is M.I.A. I literally mention her whenever I get the chance to. She has influenced so much of my work. I appreciate her for being one of the few artists that puts politics on the front with no censorship in her art. "Bad Girls" is my all time favorite music video. The fact that she made Arabs and the Middle East look ‘cool’ on American television is iconic.
Another artist and friend of mine that brings her own culture into her art is Tania George. Tania is a Jordanian fashion designer that represents the life and culture of Amman in her designs. The clothes really showcase the small details you see living and walking in Amman, and I am obsessed with her designs and vision.
Besides battling stigmas, your brand also serves as an effort in helping refugee camps. Can you tell us more about that?
I’m donating 25 percent of the profit on each order to Palestinian and Syrian refugee camps located in Jordan. I didn’t create this brand just to make money, I want to help with that money. I do get some profit from it, but that only helps me afford to make more art to then raise more awareness to Arabs and Arab creatives.
Ideally, what do you hope to accomplish with tRASHY CLOTHING?
I want to highlight the Middle East and give it a voice in pop-culture. Arabs have been put under so many stereotypes that it’s just gotten ridiculous. So many creatives are not getting the recognition they deserve, and I’m trying to collaborate with as many Middle Eastern artists as I can with tRASHY CLOTHING to show people the world that they’re ignoring.
I also hope this brand will help refugee camps in any way possible. Other than money, I think with art you can change and open people’s minds and nothing is more powerful than the power of knowledge.
Are there any other upcoming projects we can look forward to seeing from you?
I’m currently working on new designs, new photoshoots, and collaborating with creatives to keep my message alive. In the future, I’m going back to music. I used to make tracks on SoundCloud back in 2014, and I’m writing and planning on sharing my visions through music soon.
Next, be sure to check out the designer proving streetwear isn't just a man's game.