Putting local fashion talent in spotlight
Home-grown talent drives Amir X. He has pooled his resources from years working in the fashion industry to create Bermuda International Collections, a fashion week featuring local and international models and designers.
Amir carved a successful career in the industry and said he owed much of it to the opportunities afforded to him in South Africa.
The 45-year-old got his start in New York. At 24, he was called to South Africa for a job and “when I got out there it just blew up”.
He's seeking to give back to the communities that have served him and is hoping BIC will give that talent a platform on the island.
“Yes, we need to have access to international designers, but at the same time how do we attach the new designers with the fresh blood and fresh ideas and the youth?” he asked. “I feel great offering the opportunity to Bermuda. The international models are big, they're beautiful.
“We have one classified, legendary supermodel walking in the shows, Lu Celania Sierra, who is also the training coach for Miss Universe.
“She's been an inspiration for me. She works for Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Giorgio Armani, the list goes on and on.”
Young local designers will pepper the shows alongside international brands. Nigerian model Aminat Ayinde and up-and-coming albino model Sanele Junior Xaba from Cape Town will also take part.
For his upcoming show, Amir partnered with Orange Bay Company for the women's collection, restyling clothes from the consignment store.
The men's collection is customised with bleached and embellished leather and denim jackets, platform sneakers and ostrich-skin trousers, showcasing Amir's punk-rock aesthetic.
Almost a foot in height, the shoes were constructed by his team of interns from CedarBridge Academy and upholstered in quilted leather by Ainslie's Interior Decor, a sponsor for the show.
A diverse group of models will walk in the show — plus-size, Filipino, African and Brazilian men and women.
“There's a rainbow of individuals that exist here,” he told Lifestyle. “I love people and what I want to do is put people on display.
“I'm only here to season them because they have the God-given talent. It just has to be reinforced.
“I want to influence change using the tools that I have.”
He's dedicated the grand finale to local businesswoman Kristi Grayston, who died in December.
“She was a good friend of mine and through this I'm hoping to rebrand a lot of the local establishments by creating a new and unique selling point,” he said.
His collaborative nature extends beyond Bermuda to his second home in South Africa.
Amir has worked within some of the biggest fashion houses in South Africa, from Marianne Fassler to Gavin Rajah and David Tlale.
“The wealth of knowledge they've given me as a model has helped me to free my mind into thinking it is what it ain't. Most people think that a belt should be used for the waist, but no, it's going to be used for the neck as a necklace.”
His team of artisans have helped him create feathered septum rings, embellished eye patches, leather chokers and mosaic headdresses — a nod to traditional African adornment that draws much inspiration from tribal jewellery and couturiers.
“All the money I made there, I left there,” he said. “I go to the tanneries and I buy various skins — crocodile, springbok and kudu leather — and hire artists to work for me, from Zimbabwe to Johannesburg.
“I'm putting a lot into the imagery, so that we can become an international fashion destination for people to look for brands they see in other parts of the world.”
He said the shows are a thank you to the country that sparked his career.
“When I arrived, I had to sign a contract with the South African government that I would teach the local community,” he added.
“I made a promise to South Africa and with that I learnt how to give more.
“When you're disconnected from the continent, they feel that you were not a part of the struggle and that you've abandoned them. And so the best way that I learnt to let them know that I was still for them was to try to learn some of their language and to get to learn their culture and to be silent and to respect their community.
He has worked with Nelson Mandela, a job he has described as “extremely honourable”.
“You just want to cry when you're in front of him,” he said.
“With this I want to go back to the root of it all and instil education and a viable way that they can sustain their own environment. I win by celebrating people.”
• Bermuda International Collections: Fashion Royalty will be held from July 4 to 9 at the Ruth Seaton James Auditorium