Monday July 22nd, 2024

Cairo Streetwear Label Al Camileon Designs Pieces Sheathed in Scales

Creating with purpose, this brand searches for stories and meaning while curating their city slicker collections.

Mai El Mokadem

It all began in 2018. Well, not exactly. The seeds were sown much earlier, some thirty years ago, when co-founder and creative director Zeyad Elghorab stumbled upon his grandfather's unpublished book, a discovery that would later influence one of his most recent collections. This artistic legacy served as a potent reminder that creativity has a timeless quality, capable of sparking inspiration even decades later.

“Al Camileon isn't just another denim brand; it's a design house and a streetwear fashion label,” explains Cairo-based Elghorab, whose brand traverses the diverse landscape of contemporary wardrobes. From crisp denim to gleaming jewellery to statement tops and more, Al Camileon is, in Elghorab's words, "an experimental playground." He played with different fabrics and techniques, free from the constraints of external approval or influence. "I just wanted to do it my own way," he reveals. Initially, it was more of a passion project alongside his engineering studies than a money-making endeavor.

However, Elghorab admits that creative direction was initially a challenge. "At the beginning, I lacked clarity in creative direction," he confesses. "I took a break from my brand, had a six-month hiatus, and then began working with other brands." He immersed himself in content creation, creative directing, and art direction for brands like Warped Denim and Be Indie, marking a significant shift in his career trajectory.

Working at Be-Indie proved to be a pivotal chapter in Elghorab's journey, and he credits the experience and his mentors there for shaping his path. He describes his seven months there as "the best seven months of my life," acknowledging the role it played in freeing him from societal expectations and giving him the confidence to pursue his own vision.

Elghorab's story resonates with many in his generation who grapple with societal pressures and ingrained stereotypes. His departure from Be-Indie and brief stint in the corporate world seemed like the logical path until fate intervened. An unexpected investment opportunity reignited Elghorab's passion for his brand, prompting him to revisit his forgotten dream and forge ahead with renewed determination.

"Our brand ethos was the very first thing to emerge," Elghorab shares. “A variable surface and a variable skin, a cool school and a streetwear brand, just like the sneaky lizard, breathing constant change. We believe garments are meant to be admired, loved, collected, and not merely sold because they reflect a glimpse of who you are with all its elements and reasons.”

“We search for stories and reasons. Then, we build a bigger narrative on top of that, and the end product is just a small part of it. We think of deliveries and campaigns as stories, and what we sell is just a tiny detail of the whole picture,” he explains, shedding light on the thought process behind their collections.

The ‘Love Speech’ collection, a tribute to his past, explored love languages over five ‘episodes’. Its successor, the ‘Love Hangover’, reflected on what might have happened had ‘Love Speech’ been rejected. “We cried and the tears bleached the garments,” Elghorab says, describing the bleached and upcycled products taken from ‘Love Speech’.

‘Studio Interlude’ underscored the brand’s collaboration with hip-hop artists, a fusion of streetwear, fashion and music. Elghorab sees hip-hop artists as individuals with a potent voice that resonates across different realms.

Their ‘Skins’ collection introduced the concept of personas, with each garment reflecting ‘The High’, ‘The Low’, or ‘The Lizard’ within everyone. Mascots were created for each persona, embodying different aspects of human nature.

Their collaboration with Soundsauce paid homage to ‘The Greatest Artist That Never Lived’, acknowledging individuals who are born artists but never get the chance to pursue their creative passions.

The discovery of his grandfather's unpublished book inspired Elghorab to give voice to creative expression, culminating in the Soundsauce x Al Camileon collaboration.

As for the future, Elghorab teased an upcoming footwear collection, hinting at exciting developments for Al Camileon fans.