Twelvepieces is an anomaly. It operates out of Aarhus, Denmark, but is inspired by the designer, Amir Hassan’s Egyptian roots. Amir injects meaning into every creative and business decision he makes for his label setting his work apart by printing Arabic lettering on his high-end streetwear garments which are only available in exclusive quantities. He explains his brand concept below.
Can you explain the idea behind your brand name? How do you think the concept will adapt as you scale your business?
As a kid, when my father was still alive, I admired his artwork and I loved to draw like he did. One day, I was drawing different pieces of clothes on paper and I just instantly fell in love. I knew from that moment that I wanted to be a designer. The drawing had twelve pieces of clothing. Therefore, the name came about, “Twelvepieces”.
Regarding the concept of numbering and producing only 12 units of each style in our limited collections: This has surely been a challenging way to go in terms of production and being relevant to the retail market. To work around that, we have built Twelvepieces upon a three-fold strategy.
i) Exclusive Capsule Collections: Exclusivity & Storytelling
Twelvepieces exclusive capsule collections are built upon storytelling with new takes on iconic silhouettes with a street and minimalistic approach. The story behind our first capsule collection “The Spring” was inspired by the Arabic spring.
The pieces are produced in very limited quantities. 12 styles and only 12 pieces of each style. Every garment is numbered from 1/12 to 12/12. We use our capsule collections to strengthen our branding profile as a storytelling, high-end streetwear brand. Furthermore, it supports the DNA of our brand by creating graphic and bold designs that underline the values and visions behind Twelvepieces. Our exclusive capsule collections are released once a year through our website twelvepieces.dk.
ii) Our mainline Fatamorgana: Retail-Ready Collections
Fatamorgana is the name of our no-season mainline, set to drop twice a year. All styles follow the design DNA from our limited collections but they are not numbered and not as expensive as our limited collections. The mainline can be produced in unlimited quantities.We use Fatamorgana to approach the retail market. Our exclusive/limited collections are not ideal for retail stores due to high production prices and low quantity. This is our way of staying true to our heritage and at the same time, setting the framework for the future expansion of Twelvepieces.
iii) Collaborations: Hype & Branding
We believe that collaborations with other brands and products is important in the future of fashion. We do collabs in order to stay relevant to the current hype-trend with new and alternative products dropping various times throughout the year. As of now, we can’t say much, but our first collab will drop in 2019 with another very well-known brand. We can’t wait to lift the veil!
What has it been like to launch a brand inspired by Egyptian culture in the Scandinavian marketplace?
To be honest, it has been quite difficult to establish an Arabic inspired brand here in Denmark. The retail market has especially been challenging as people often misunderstand our message because they can’t read the (Arabic) calligraphy on our clothes. We have often been advised to skip the calligraphy in order to be less edgy, but to me, that just underlines the importance of my work in promoting cultural diversity. My clothes have solely positive slogans like “Brotherhood”, “Freedom”, “Love” and “Justice” and I refuse to not promote these values simply because people have a preconception of Arabic calligraphy and what Arabic culture stands for. First of all, those exact preconceptions are what we are trying to change, and secondly, Love, Freedom, Justice and Brotherhood are principals that should unite us as human race, not divide us. Anyway, I won’t say that the market is working against us or anything, they are not. Most of the criticism and advice we get comes from a genuine and warmhearted intention. But surely, it is challenging to sell Arabic culture in a fairly right-winged and turbulent period of European history with a lot of focus on immigrants and their role in society.
Over the course of your brand development, you have focused on genuine story telling. How has your own personal story inspired your work?
I am from Egypt but born in Denmark and I think being in that situation itself, both the good and the bad, will be an eternal inspiration to me. I have witnessed life from many different perspectives, cultural and social arenas and there are so many beautiful and important stories to be told.
In August, Naomi Campbell stopped by your installation at the CIFF trade show and was very taken by your work. Can you describe the experience?
It seemed like she loved it and connected with the collection. She live-streamed everything to her friend via her phone, and they both sounded very positive. She seemed genuinely interested, and she also took my card before she left. Honestly, I was so amazed and caught in the moment that it has somehow become blurry to me. All in all, it was a great acknowledgement of my work, and I am truly thankful that she decided to stop at our little both. Especially considering the endless other cool brands at CIFF who weren’t that lucky.
What is your vision for the future of Twelvepieces?
Our goal is to keep developing and growing from our three-fold strategy into a fully sustainable fashion brand. Both in terms of clean production and social sustainability.
My vision is undefined. I’ll say one thing now and another thing next week. If I have to sum all of them up into one sentence it would be something like ‘To create clothes that are as explicit in storytelling, wisdom and inspiration as written text is through words.”
Do you feel the fashion industry is evolving to represent a more diverse range of cultures? Why or why not?
I think that the globalization of our world with endless channels to endless content results in a need for individuals to be more expressive and unique. In that sense, yes, I think the industry is quite aware of these tendencies and that have created room for more diversity within high fashion.
What I question is whether the brands producing “high street fashion” do so because they want to represent a culture or because they want to earn money. In a healthy combination, you won’t neglect the importance of money because you need it to promote the culture, but money shouldn’t be the main focus. This can sometimes frustrate me. I don’t like it when it’s not “real”. In my opinion it’s hypocritical to use the street culture as a branding method unless you give something back to the same streets you are exploiting. Whether that being a simple acknowledgement, a cut of your earnings or promotion of the locals within the community, I don’t care. But there is something about being genuine and respectful that I am missing. To sum it up, yes, the fashion industry is representing a more diverse range of cultures than it used to. But as long as money is the reason for it being so, it’s not the culture taking over the industry... it’s the industry taking over the culture. That seems very hollow and materialistic to me and it proves that there is still a long way to go.
interview ANNA McCORRISTON
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