Fashionable hipsters of Iraq – sounds so surreal! What was your main goal before forming this unique gentlemen’s club? Also, tell us more about the founders of Mr.Erbil.
We decided to use fashion as a tool, we wanted to, not only bring attention to the necessity of women’s rights, the protection of our environment, and our failing economy, but also to figure out ways to resolve these issues within our region. During this time, we faced many obstacles such as economy crash, and the political issues that were brought on because of it. Despite the lack of resources, we were determined to turn our ideas into reality. A year ago today, in Erbil Kurdistan, three men from one of the world’s most ancient cities gathered with the aspiration to form a gentleman’s club; their vision was to instill into their youth that wearing the hottest, designer suits doesn’t make you a man, but rather it is your character that defines it.
What does it take to become the member of this club and how many members do you have at the moment? Can you tell us more about who they are and what they do?
Now that we went viral and very well know all over the world, we received more than 700 applications and messages within a couple of months, from people everywhere who are asking to join Mr.Erbil Gentlemen's Club. Therefore, we decided to form a staff to help us. Candidates are sending their CV, a brief background about themselves and what they can contribute to Mr.Erbil in achieving the goals. Also some fashionable good quality pictures are required, so the staff will be deciding.
Our members come from different section of our society, we have car mechanic, students from high school and universities, doctors, architects, engineers, accountants, shop owners etc. The Gentleman member's ages are 18 up to 32.
What is more than obvious is your impeccable fashion style and attention to details. Who designs what you wear and are the suits tailored just for you or you buy the items and later on promote this one of a kind style through media?
Now, we do have high quality suit design because of diverse demand of the gentlemen, but we have our own clothing line too - few pieces are included in our photos. Our clothing items are actually based on local classic Gentlemen known as effendi, which goes back to 1930s. What we are trying to achieve is taking the classic style and renewing it by mixing the now day's trends with style from our local tailors - we do that by using organic local goods. So far we have helped each other by sharing our own wardrobe. In the near future we will be wearing only our own line and launch it on worldwide market at affordable price.
How often do the members of Mr.Erbil meet and what do you usually do in your meetings (apart from fashion part of your story)?
We do small weekly gathering to talk about the latest issue, fashion and trends but our big official gathering happens each season. The goal is to discuss fashion related topics, men related issues, pollution of environment, raising awareness, women's right and supporting local women, new ideas and projects for the future of Mr.Erbil.
How would you describe your country, Iraq, to people from Europe?
We would like the world to acknowledge that we, Kurds, exist and we have our own land, culture, language, history and Government. We also want to change the image of our region (Kurdistan) and introduce ourselves in this way. We also wish to send the message we are safe here, that life is beautiful and normal. What you see through media is not the real picture. We are free at our home, we can be productive and have the ability to be creative. We have passion for trends and fashion industry, and we want to be motivation for youth. We wish to inspire them not to stay at home complaining about what is happening, but not to give up and try to make things better than they are - we want to spread positivity.
Through different projects you help local society and economy very much. That kind of help includes supporting local tayloring industry and helping women to contribute to the Kurdish society with their knowledge. Can you tell us more about the latest projects and what have you managed to achieve?
We have launched our ties collection, which is 100% hand made and organic. There is a fabric here in our region made of the goats quill (hair) (no violence used against animal). Since it’s getting too hot in the summer time, the goats in the village areas are getting shaved and the quill is used for production of the fabric called KRR. It’s a unique fabric we use for making traditional kurdish male clothes, but we came up with the idea to use it for our tie collection. Since we promoted ties on our social media accounts, there is a huge demand locally and internationally, so we have plans to start selling products online as soon as possible.
You also fight for environmental issues. How far have you reached regarding this matter?
Every year on March 21st we celebrate Kurdish New Year called Newroz. Since it is taking place in the beginning of spring, people celebrate Newroz outdoor and go picnic outside in the mountais and in the outstanding nature of Kurdistan. Unfortunately, not much of our society is aware of the fact polluting the environment can bring huge disasters to our region. So, to bring awareness regarding this issue, at our 3rd gathering we took picture with traditional outfits in the beautiful nature of Kurdistan to show people how great it is. Also, our staff created a video showing different regions of Kurdistan's nature under the title This is Kurdistan - please act more responsibly towards the environment and the beautiful nature of our land. Video had a huge impact on social media.
How do young people live in Erbil today? What is the unemployment rate and is Mr.Erbil trying to help in any way regarding this?
When we created this gentlemen's club, we were not in a very good situation. Back in 2014. the region was facing a major economic crises and unexpected war against ISIS. Unemployment rate was high, most of the people left the country. In fact, our region was facing many issues, but we as a young energetic generation, were still optimistic about the future of the region. We decided to step forward and try to bring back hope again.
After 2013. economy went down really badly due to war and lots of refugees. The Government couldn’t handle all that by itself. People were less motivated about life and future. Nobody knew what will happen after war and crises. People were depressed.
As a youth generation of the region, we thought we had responsibility to take action toward that. We started this movement to change the image of the media toward the region. We supported all the club activities from our own money, so that at least we bring in a good vibe to the community.
In regards to our economy, we have attempted to create many local businesses; our goal is to become more dependent on local goods with the hopes of providing jobs, as well as providing goods.
Can you tell us more about international reactions to what you do? Do people wish to be involved in any way or become members, help somehow?
Of course there is always positive and negative feedback. Since we went viral and having people calling us social media phenomenon our inbox has been packed with messages. We kept receiving emails from every part of the globe, making us the happiest people ever! Many of those messages we were not able to read, because they were written in languages we don’t speak!
People were telling us that our story has been published in different media, we knew nothing about, our mobile phones kept ringing, we've been busy replying those messages and emails sometimes until 4 or 5 am in the past few months. We are very greatful for these blessings - there are even messages from gentlemen's of western and asian countries saying we became an inspiration for them and they wanted to impliment the same concept in their countries. Our dream was to introduce our country and people to the world through fashion and help our economy by making a social change and something good for the country. We believe we achieved that one, so now we have bigger dreams and goals.
What are the most important plans of Mr.Erbil’s gentlemen for 2017?
We have a lot of projects in mind and tons of ideas ready and waiting. One of the most important for us right now is releasing a new line of blazers and classic style trousers, as well as 100% hand made ties. We are also working on another project of making our own unique space where we would have presentation of our products, including a classic lounge, a tailor, and a barber shop. The idea is to make place for gents with a dress code, where they can have a hair cut, order a custom made suit and enjoy their time drinking a coffee.
Interview was held with owners of Mr.Erbil, Mr.Goran Pshtiwan (26), graduated from Business management, Mr. Omer Nihad (28), business IT expert and Mr. Ahmed Nawzad (27) graduated from language science.
They come from the city of Erbil in Kurdistan and founded the club in November 2016.