Life

Young Iraqis Founded This Gentlemen’s Fashion Club To Show Another Side Of Iraq

And they're less than an hour from war-ravaged Mosul.

When you think of the country Iraq, the first thing that pops to mind is probably war. Maybe ISIS. But fashion? Probably not. Well, that’s about to change, thanks to the new gentlemen’s fashion club called Mr. Erbil.

Founded by a group of fashion-conscious Kurdish men, the group is hoping to show a more optimistic side of the country. The name Mr. Erbil comes from the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region in the northern part of the country. Erbil and the surrounding areas have been at the forefront of the fight against ISIS militants.

The fashion club had its first photoshoot in February of last year, and has since made waves past its country of origin. Since then, there have been three more “Gentlemen’s Gatherings,” and its founders say the group is starting a movement that projects a more positive image of Iraq.

Though these men look like classic hipsters, with stylized beards and pocket watches, the members of Mr. Erbil say they mix modern fashion with “cultural heritage,” drawing on the lives of the effendis, the Kurdish landowning class.

Mr. Erbil is inspired by Pitti Uomo, a twice-yearly men’s fashion event held in Florence, Italy. Pitti Uomo is “credited with mainstreaming modern dandyism since its inception in the 1970s,” a profile of Mr. Erbil on Vocativ says.

But the fashion club is about far more than bringing western fashion to Kurdistan. It’s about more than trying to inspire the dead fashion scene there, where most people wear cheaply imported clothes or traditional Kurdish outfits.

It’s about taking Kurdish culture to the forefront of the global stage and attracting a wider audience. Mr. Erbil wants to show the world what their homeland has to offer, wants to effect social change. They also care deeply about women’s issues—every Thursday, they write a post about “girl inspiration,” where they shine a spotlight on women working to better their community.

The group has plans for everything from etiquette classes to a modeling agency, as well as a barber, tailor and boutique fashion line. It just goes to show you: Never underestimate the power of a good suit.