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Abzal Issa Bekov FW16 09
Abzal Issa Bekov AW16Photography Timothy Schaumburg, art direction Philipp Humm

Inspired by sexting, designer debuts campaign on WhatsApp

Any more pics? CSM grad Abzal Issa Bekov wants you to text him

In fashion, it’s easy to feel like things are routine, or as if everything’s been done before. But for the release of his AW16 campaign, designer Abzal Issa Bekov has decided to go a different route to the now-traditional Instagram debut or email send out. Bekov has released his imagery on WhatsApp – inviting users to text a number displayed on his website and promoted across social media (it’s +447432 614 351, FYI). You have until the end of the weekend to send a message, and in response, you will receive two random pictures from the campaign, photographed in Berlin by Timothy Schaumburg. 

For Bekov, who credits art director Philipp Humm for the concept, the project is rooted in the ways we communicate today, “especially in the gay world, with apps like Grindr, Hornet, Scruff populating the scene, with people sending their nude photos without knowing the person who they're sending them to. Having a homepage with just a WhatsApp number, it was more like our little experiment to see if people would actually text us…” And they have – “Surprisingly, so many people – people we don't know – started texting, making offers about buying pieces,” he shares.

Such an experiment is a natural fit with his collection, where Bekov looked to gay S&M subcultures and semiotics, recognisable in the inclusion of slick black latex. “It all started with Robert Mapplethorpe's work, so obviously I went deeper into his world and 70s New York, researching photographers like Peter Hujar, Mark Morrisroe and Hujar's partner David Wojnarowicz’s work, and short Super 8 films by Andy Warhol starring Joe Dallesandro.” Andrew Holleran’s 1978 tale of pre-Aids hedonism Dancer from the Dance was also a reference, as were Jacques De Bascher and Karl Lagerfeld’s parties in Paris and films such as Pasolini’s Salò (1978).

Born in Kazakhstan, Bekov graduated from Central Saint Martins’ prestigious MA program last year (and has since snagged a job at Céline). His graduate collection embraced the precision of quality tailoring, a response to the faddishness of trends currently circulating. “I wanted to go against what was happening in menswear right now, like gender fluidity, womenswear as menswear, the post-Vetements madness, oversized silhouettes and all those Eastern Bloc influences,” he explains. “Many can make out-of-shape, blocky, boxy garments, but it takes years and years of training to make a tailored jacket – to understand male body and proportions.”