Ten Minutes with Dilan Lurr of Namacheko
When describing young and upcoming designers, self-critical isn’t an epithet you hear often. Is being harsh on yourself not a quality in today’s world or is just disregarded in our conversations because it’s less interesting to talk about? For the majority of young, hard-working talent, it feels like the only way to survive is having an extreme level of self-esteem, as if their big head will help them float to the surface of the sea of hopeful young fashion designers. And that’s totally not a bad thing – self-confidence is a helpful trait when selling the fantasy of fashion. The fashion designers can make you believe in their world even if you don’t necessarily like every single item of clothing they show you. At the end of the day – if they don’t believe in their own ideas, why would anyone else?
Well, that’s where Dilan Lurr comes in. He founded Namacheko (no secret meaning behind the word) along with his sister Lezan back in January 2017, as somewhat of a personal art project – somewhere between fashion and photography, the duo created what they thought were costumes for an art video/ photo project inspired by traditional Kurdish weddings. It was about showing their Iraqi heritage in a different kind of way. “It was mostly speaking to my family there, because their dreams are not as big as mine. I was interested by how a society limits your dreams – they don’t even know what’s possible out there,” Dilan tells me over the phone about their first collection of the unisex brand. Completely unexpectedly (according to him), the collection was instantly bought by The Broken Arm in Paris. Just over 18 months later, Namacheko has 34 stockists over Europe, North America and Asia – you can now buy yourself a chic asymmetrical knit everywhere from The Broken Arm in Paris through London’s Dover Street Market and Machine-A all the way to GR8 in Tokyo.
Before being a designer, both Dilan and his sister studied civil engineering, after which Dilan got an art degree. As he says it himself, they both bring a different aspect to heading a fashion brand, with their non-fashion backgrounds coming in handy in different ways. “Engineering is much more about problem solving, a calculation in a mathematical way. I think for my sister it might be more present in the way that she works with calculations, productions and timings. For me, I’m very good at problem solving and I don’t easily get stressed by things.” Another successful sibling fashion duo instantly comes to mind – Christopher and Tammy Kane. Both coming with different perspectives, yet coming together in the same ideas, Dilan realises the sibling factor is key in their success: “the element of trust is very, very important.”
The Lurrs moved from Iraq to Stockholm (where they are both still based) in 1997 with their parents and settled in a completely different society. Between the two geographical locations, where do they consider themselves to belong more? “I think the collections I create are more Swedish than Kurdish,” Dilan says before reiterating “I wouldn’t say that I feel like a Swedish designer though, because I think they are maybe a bit too safe – they would probably not go to Paris as an upstart.” That unique balancing act of East meets West is what presents Namacheko’s USP – a mind set influenced by their heritage, upbringing and current business relationships. Namacheko shares a distributor with both Raf Simons and Kris Van Assche, a Belgian company who Dilan credits with a pragmatic approach to design he appreciates and utilises in his work.
After the debut show in January 2017, Namacheko showed two more collections in Paris, both fuming with their Scandi-Kurdish influences. For AW18, it was about modernising their own experiences of Iraqi landscapes and traditional Islamic dress into something decisively modern and eye-catching. The slashed white shearling fur vests were layered under suiting, reminiscent of the shearling blankets Kurdish people wear for morning walks in the fields. The following season got a bit more blurred – abstract Islamic prints were served as embellishments on otherwise clinical-looking silhouettes. Uniforms looking back at mid-century shapes suddenly became ornate. It was a very grown-up collection for such a young brand. But according to Dilan – that’s not good enough.
“I played football as a kid, so I’m a very competitive person and am not really easy to be satisfied.” Looking back at each of his collections, Dilan has more criticism to share. That’s where the self-criticism kicks in. Even though he appreciates the success, there’s nothing about his work he particularly admires – he constantly pushes forward, both business-wise and aesthetically, and that’s where the success of the business lies. The unassuming attitude combined with the competitive spirits makes Namacheko a brand-version of an overachiever sitting in the back of the class.
Namacheko SS19, photograph by Yu Fujiwara
The main reason I’m talking to Dilan is to discuss the two installations he just launched in two different Dover Street Markets – one in Beijing and one in Ginza. “This is where my background in engineering comes in. The Ginza installation is a personal one, because it’s based and completely taken from the door on our house in Kurdistan which is where me and my sister were born. The pattern is a replica of the pattern we have in front of the windows. We created two panels that are meant to be gates and they are in a silver metal, behind of which is a green wall made from green velvet.” The gates were actually created by an architect in Kyrgyzstan that specialises in working with metal – another point to paying homage to their background. Juxtaposed against the clean lines of fabulous knits and crisp shirting, the set tells a story of a unique culture clash Namacheko represents.
The Namacheko installation at DSM Ginza
The DSM Beijing installation is on the other side of the retail spectrum, focusing more on the design of the garments. “It’s completely based on the slashed fur pieces,” Dilan describes the poked-out metal panel that revert back to the elements of the standout pieces from the show. But the meaning goes beyond: “It’s interesting how you can partly see into a sort of a room, a group or a society.”
The Namacheko installation at DSM Beijing
So, what next? After only three seasons and so many back-to-back projects, how does a creative brain grow even further? “I mean it’s pretty good what we’ve done, when I look at the products I think they are very good. But as a fashion show, I don’t think it’s there yet. A fashion show is very different from a collection, a piece of clothing. That’s where the challenge is for me for the coming seasons.” Brains, talent, and a self-critical approach to design – this is why Namacheko is the name to write down now. Because in no time, it will be everywhere.