Meet Palestinian designer Shukri Lawrence
I first heard of tRASHY CLOTHING through the Instagram account of 19-year old Palestinian artist Shurki Lawrence (aka wifirider). Shurki is the creative mind behind the eccentric label that is inspired by "internet culture" and the bootleg fashion often found in cities across the Middle East, particularly Shukri's hometown of Jerusalem. Although bootleg fashion and internet culture have become a trendy theme on Arab Instagram, Shurki's work is a direct nod to the political economy. The brand prides itself on "breaking stereotypes put upon the Middle East" and in "provoking bigotry". In the brand's most recent runway show in Berlin, tRASHY CLOTHING (which consists of Luai Al-Shuabi, Reem Kawasmi, Omar Braika, Sereen Khass and Shukri Lawrence) decided to put up a border on one side of the catwalk so that only half the audience could see the show - a bold and simple statement to give attendees a small glimpse of what it feels like to live behind a wall. As the designer explains, "when we put up the border during the show, everyone who was supposed to be behind the border, moved to the other side of the runway to watch the show. Not a single person stayed behind the border because NO ONE wants to EVER be behind a border." It's also worth noting that the show was sponsored by the Prince Claus Fund for Culture and Development.
What attracts me most to tRASHY CLOTHING and Shukri's work is the boldness - it goes above and beyond "internet culture" or bootleg trends and makes a purely artistic statement about what it means to be young and Arab today.
Below is our interview with the Palestinian designer where he shares his thoughts on censorship, truth and the future of tRASHY.
Hi Shukri! Tell us a little about yourself
I really struggle talking about myself, especially in real life, I try to let my work do the talking. I recently realised my life has been focused on creating everyday, and that’s how I survive. I stopped really hanging out places just for fun, everything my friends and I do together has been for tRASHY CLOTHING. I really enjoy it to be honest, nothing feels better than creating for me. That’s the only way I get to express myself!
Can you tell us how you got into making clothing? Why did you choose to communicate your message through clothing?
I’ve always been into fashion but never thought of pursuing a career in it. I started tRASHY CLOTHING by accident, it all started with a couple of Instagram posts of me in some shirts I made that got a bunch of people really interested in buying.
I knew I wanted to do art in more than just one medium, I think if you get the chance to be a photographer and a painter or a filmmaker and a writer, you get the chance to share the same message to different types of audiences at the same time. That’s what I’m trying to do, I direct music videos, do photography, fashion, and exhibitions to communicate the same ideas to different types of people.
You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that you’re inspired by artists like Grimes and MIA because they have control over their creative image. What do you mean by that?
I’m inspired by people who create art for themselves because that’s what I also try to do. I design clothes for my friends and I. None of the music videos I’ve directed were made to please a certain audience. My photographs are images that have been stuck in my head for ages. I don’t like it when artists fabricate their work to please consumers because you then become a puppet.
How has the occupation shaped you as an artist and as a person?
It made me grow up too fast.
What are the challenges that you faced as an artist? What are the blessings?
One of the biggest challenges I face as an artist is censorship. Not being able to freely express my thoughts and feelings kills me, and I try to fight it every day. Meeting and working with inspiring/interesting people every day is my favourite blessing of being an artist. I get to also show them the side of Palestine they don’t really know about and their reactions make me so happy!
What advice do you have for other young Palestinian artists and creatives (living under occupation and in the diaspora)?
Keep grinding, it’s our time to shine. Use the internet, keep creating and sharing. The world is listening, make us proud!
What is your vision for the future of your brand?
I’m trying to create a community and a platform for MENA artists to collaborate with artists + singers from around the world! My first attempt was the Desert Eagle show at Berlin Fashion Week, we got Off Bloom to perform and collaborated with a bunch of MENA artists on some of the garments, it was insane! My goal has always been to give a voice to the Middle East in Pop Culture.
For more about tRASHY CLOTHING you can follow Shukri on instagram @wifirider or www.trashyclothing.shop