Last year a friend of mine, who I used to work with and who has largely the same interests as me, moved to Dubai to set up the Middle East outpost of the agency I worked for at the time. One of the first things I was curious about was if anything even closely resembling ‘street culture’ existed out there. Of course, I was quickly schooled about the annual Sole DXB event, and while that’s mainly sneakers and nerds, it doesn’t quite pique my interest.
I enquired further and my friend introduced me to Amongst Few, a brand and now multi-brand retail store, bringing street culture to Dubai. With G-Shock and SBTG collabs already under their belts it’s only upwards from here and as our little niche culture grows internationally Amongst Few will be there, bastion of the middle east, dispelling all my naive assumptions of tasteless oil wealth and a desert culture vacuum.
For those that don’t know, what is Amongst Few and how did it come about?
Mike: amongst few is a Dubai based premium streetwear brand that focuses on producing durable, simplistic and classic premium quality products with attention to detail and function. It’s a fairly long story how the brand initially came about and unfortunately we are still trying to master the short version.
Flo: I remember it was after a few sparse and interesting conversations on the topics of what we would do different if we were to create a fashion brand amongst the forever asked question, what would a streetwear brand from Dubai look like? The conversation’s quickly switched into daily emails back and fourth of concepts, ideas and sketches and ended up with the creation of amongst few a month later.
What are some of the challenges of being based where you are?
Mike: Apart from the obvious challenge formed from misguidance of the region through outside media such as the myth that Dubai only consists of oil and billionaire Arabs. One of the more interesting challenges we often face is the general perception of Dubai street culture from non-residents; commonly people’s first thought’s of the city are related to luxury, vast wealth and extravagant living and unfortunately not its emerging street culture scene.
For example a lot of people reading this will probably have an immediate mindset of disbelief or negativity at the mere mention of street culture or streetwear in the same sentence as Dubai. We get it though; the UAE is only 44 years old in terms of nationalisation so no one is expecting the same positive reaction that other fashion havens such as Paris, Berlin or New York receive, yet.
Basically meaning if you hear about a new brand from Harajuku, 90% of the time no immediate negative thoughts would come to mind and more so an initial excitement. Although this has proven numerous times to be an extra challenge it has also been a blessing, as a large amount of people are instantly intrigued or curious to find out more about the brand story, vision, products and its origin.
Is the region a bit behind on global street culture, or just taking a different path?
Flo: Compared to Europe, North America and the Far East the region is evidentially behind in terms of street culture, there are plenty of valid reasons for this though. The most obvious being that Dubai is still a relatively new city in comparison to its predecessors. What’s exciting is that in the last two years we have seen the street culture in the region grow immensely. Constantly sporadic and annual events are increasing each year with the hosts bringing out local and international members of the street culture world to share knowledge and expose their relative cultures to each other.
Mike: The incredible thing about Dubai is that with its diverse range of nationalities residing here the culture is forming its own path organically, sampling the likes of the US, UK, Italy, Canada, Japan and merging them with the characteristics of the Middle East.
Talk us through your collection, what are some of the highlights?
Mike: Stand out pieces are the Maze sweaters that are constructed of superbly soft touch mid weight 100% Peruvian cotton, and feature a high quality screen print based on the aesthetics and symmetry of Arabic art. Another feature many find interesting alongside functional are the hidden tonal stash zip pockets located within the side seem of the sweater.
Flo: Another highlight I feel are our sweatpants that take on a classic tapered cut and are constructed of double-faced mid weight durable premium cotton. They are definitely a quality and comfy ready to wear affordable pair of joggers.
I’m interested in your reference points too, there is a multitude of difference influences in there, but it kinda works – was that intentional?
Mike: Yes it was totally intentional in an organic sense, as the founders we are all from different cultures and countries, Flo is Austrian but spent half his life in Australia, I am British with a Jamaican mother and Khalid a born Emirati. Through Amongst Few we wanted all of our backgrounds to be incorporated in the DNA of the brand and also to always inherit influences and iconic ques from many other cultures and countries. A good example of this is our Y.O.T.H tee, short for Year Of The Horse that received a lot of positive and questionable attention at first.
The artwork features a motorcycle club kutte influenced patch with the image of a horse skull as the colours, the words amongst few on the top rocker and Dubai on the bottom along with the inclusion of the 1%er icon. The skull obviously reflects the animal from the year of the Chinese agricultural calendar in which the tee was released while also relating to the Emiratis renowned historic love for horses. The 1%er icon we knew would be debatable as the media has redefined the term to which many think of it as today and not its original meaning of commitment to a brotherhood that we used it for, which is similar to that of the Emirati Bedouin tribes.
Flo: Through out the Delivery One and Two drops we included the Arabic ghotra scarf pattern in the neck lining amongst hidden Arabic wording or details in each garment and accessories too. We tend to use Europe as our guidelines for fitment, Japan for there attention to detail and quality, UAE for its traditional monotone palette and America for its ethos of evoking emotion through design.
Likewise, you collaborated with G-Shock recently – can you talk us through that?
Flo: This was something we have wanted to do for a long time. Mike is somewhat of a collector of Casio G-Shock’s also so it seemed right for the brands first collaboration.
Mike: We have actually collaborated with G-Shock twice now with the first watch being a more low-key release for a street culture festival called Sole DXB. We were asked to team up with Sole and Casio to work on a limited G-Shock DW5600 for the event. We were limited to what we could do as we only had 7 days to execute the project. Later this would become the conversation opener to our relationship with Mr. Sabotage and his brand SBTG Surplus.
Flo: Yeh, it was kind of random how this all came about. Mr. Sabotage and his wife were flown out to Dubai for the event to work with a local sneaker store offering an ID service to the attendees of the festival. Mike dropped off a unworn pair of New Balance x Mita x SBTG MT580sm’s that he picked up from Sole Box, Berlin when we were their for the last year of the Bread & Butter tradeshow. Mr. Sabotage was in shock that someone in Dubai had his collab and offered to ID them for him.
Mike: We soon got talking about the collab and its story of how I obtained them. Later that day Sabotage came by our space and checked out the brand and focused in on the G-Shock we had made, explaining how he had also used the opposite arab ghotra scarf pattern on his 2009 G-Shock collab that we had used on our version. Cutting a long story short we went on to build a great relationship with the SBTG Surplus crew, which shortly led to the conversation of working on a custom pair of sneakers and a tee to be released in a super low volume. Within one of the conversations, the G-Shock was brought up again and we decided to present the idea to Casio Middle East of incorporating a watch into the collaboration to make it a limited capsule for a global release. Casio loved the concept and gave us the official approval from there Japanese HQ to commission 12 DW-5600E watches that were to be designed by SBTG and us and manufactured in their factory.
Flo: The Capsule sold out within 22 hours of release and retailed at $800 without the custom iSeries 4217-7 rifle case and $1,344 with.
I’m impressed with the presentation, how long was it erected for?
Flo: Thanks, the space was up for 4 days. The first day nature played its part with the worst sand storm I have ever witnessed in Dubai, covering everything and everyone in sand, it was kind of like that overly exaggerated one in the last Mission Impossible movie. We designed the space alongside FN Office, they are a multi disciplinary design office situated between Dubai and Beirut. If you noticed the design was based on the artwork on the maze sweater.
Was it guarded at all?
Mike: During selling hours we had one security man to watch over the structure but at night we had non. Theft is pretty much non-existent here.
You make bags as part of your line, what do Amongst Few bags offer that Herschel et al don’t?
Mike: We feel our bags have additional functions to lets say a Herschel Bag,not to get it confused though, we do love Herschel bags but our bags in comparison have a few more functional items like the D-loop on the front plus a hidden zipper stash pocket on the rear of the backpacks. The Duffel includes an exterior passport snap button pocket adjacent to the sneaker pouch and both feature slim genuine leather straps and a durable PU Leather semi perforated base. We also decided to construct both bags out of quilted nylon with single custom YKK zippers to conclude our premium aesthetic.
For people who only know Dubai as oil money, flashy cars and sky scrapers, how would you persuade the average person to visit?
Flo: Don’t believe the hype, come and see for yourself what Dubai has to offer. Those that do often tend to set up home here and if not they become frequent visitors.
Mike: But like everywhere in the world it’s not for everyone, so come with an open attitude.
Are there loads of streetwear stores or is it still a small scene and culture?
Flo: We are yet to see a dedicated streetwear store in the region but we are working on our flagship store that should be open by the time people are reading this.
What’s next for you guys?
Mike: As Flo mentioned we are working on our Flagship store which will carry amongst few in terms of apparel alongside premium and limited footwear from Nike, Asics, New Balance, Puma and lifestyle products such as publications by Rizzoli and Thames and Hudson, Krink pens, Kuumba incense, Nocs headphones and speakers, Vinyl, Essential DVD’s such as Style Wars, Wild Style and Just For Kicks. We will also be selling art from the likes of Damien Hirst, D’Face, Takashi Murakami, Basquiat, Banksy, Futura and more. Out store has been designed to easily convert into a blank space for events such as Exhibitions, Book signing, Product launches, Cultural talks.
Flo: We are also busy with new capsule collections amongst some interesting collaborations while throwing the odd gathering or pop up like our previous movie majlis and bbq nights that we openly invite the street culture out to join us for food, thoughts and vibes.
(*Editors note, this interview was conducted before the store opened, but the images are from when it did)