About a boy

  • Photography  Arcin Sagdic
  • Styling  Patricia Villirillo
  • Words  Anna Sanders

You may recognise him from the Vêtements book cover, from the walls of a gallery – both maker and muse, or perhaps in the Tate’s short on scrapbooks and their enduring use amongst creatives. And Gaby Sahhar’s career would be more simply described as such – a creative: both artist and inspiration, he is slowly making his mark on the fashion world with his pluralistic métier.

Whilst being cast for the Xander Zhou Spring/Summer 2017 show, he was asked to design the shoes he would be walking in, painting slogans across canvas in response to the collection’s concept a few days before hand. “It was an amazing opportunity”, says Sahhar, “it was great to be recognised for more than a model and to be more involved with the collection.”

Gaby wears earrings (worn throughout) model’s own
Gaby wears jacket and trousers by Filippa K

Sahhar was first scouted on Instagram by Tomorrow Is Another Day – an agency renowned for its alternative, arresting vision of beauty; contesting the aesthetic of industry standards and society’s ideals of masculinity with wiry frames and dual heritage, collecting a look so considered, the Balenciaga Spring/Summer 2017 show was cast entirely from their books.

Graduating from Goldsmith’s a year after being signed, Sahhar’s careers as both artist and model have informed one another ever since. “At first I thought they didn’t cross over”, admits Sahhar, “but I do think that now. Especially as fashion is more influenced by art than ever before: just look at the new Calvin Klein campaign.” 

Shot by Willy Vanderperre and styled by Olivier Rizzo, the Calvin Klein campaign’s narrative is one of art, representing an elegant revisiting of the brand’s all American aesthetic in a new, subtle simplicity. Half-clothed models wear iconic, house codes – denim and cotton whites set against works housed by The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and the Rubell Family Collection in Miami. The natural, nonchalant poses feel carefully considered: a man pulls a t-shirt over his head, his shoulders rounded, his body a pale curve; behind him sits Andy Warhol’s ‘Skull’, 1976. In another, a man holds his exposed skin self-consciously, protect-fully, lost in unknown thoughts; behind him they seem to appear in the form of Richard Prince’s ‘Nuts’, 2000 – “A guy goes to a psychiatrist wearing only Saran Wrap. The psychiatrist says to the guy, I can clearly see you’re nuts you nut.”

Gaby wears trousers by Agi & Sam, shoes by G.H. Bass, ring by SLIM BARRETT and belt from Beyond Retro


Left: Eau de toilette COMME des GARÇONS 3 by COMME des GARÇONS from Dover Street Market Right: Solid perfume kit by LE LABO from LN-CC

The work is not so far removed from the aesthetic of Sahhar’s own explorations into the duality of fashion and art: his Instagram features self-portraits in homage to great artworks; he captures unusual beauty on the streets of Streatham and captions with similar consideration; in some images he is a performance artist, adorned in dystopian, cyborg skin, and in others he is a canvas to be painted in florals by his peers.

Recently featuring in two exhibitions – in an image shot by Ronald Stoops for Dust magazine at The Red Gallery in Antwerp, and exhibiting at 255 Canal Street – he finds his abiding interest in the arts leads to more creative opportunities. “I think when I get booked for ‘art’ shoots it’s because the team often want to try something experimental, or unconventional; and if you book a creative / model to shoot it, it makes the final outcome easier to achieve.”

Eau de toilette COMME des GARÇONS 3 by COMME des GARÇONS from Dover Street Market

His recent show in New York was a paean to the creativity of London, and the first time two British galleries – Supplement and Arcadia Missa – had shown there. Sahhar’s work, two posters of painterly placards and alien, identical forms, examined the role men play in systems of capital in London. 

A seditious topic, his work felt timely in the current climate; familiar themes of patriarchy are awarded new relevance following the Presidential vote: “because I went to New York before the inauguration of Donald Trump, I feel like the situation was still bad, but not as extreme as it has become with the Muslim ban now. Walking around New York I saw a lot of street art against Donald trump, so there is definitely a sense of unease. Even the conversations I was having at the private view were about Donald Trump, especially as the ideas around my work were about men in power, and he is such a good example of one.”

Sahhar’s most recent film, ‘Secrets of Palestine’, which launched this week, uses the narrative of Palestine’s flag to tell a colourful, celebratory story of a region so often cast in a sombre light, the footage of which was captured on his first visit to his, and his father’s, home.

“My real dad is Palestinian but I haven’t seen him in eighteen years or been to Palestine due to family and political situations, but recently he reached out to me via email. He found my contact details linking back through modelling photos to my website. I decided to go out there to meet him and discover my Palestinian side, and I knew I had half-brothers and a half-sister out there too. Palestine is ever-shrinking and I really wanted to see it before it completely disappears and becomes Israel. It was a bit of a life-changing trip as cheesy as that sounds.”

Left: Gaby wears trousers by Gucci from LN-CC, coat (worn around waist) by Micol Ragni and belt by Levi’s
Left: Gaby wears coat by COS, trousers by Gucci from LN-CC, shoes by RED WINGS and necklace by SLIM BARRETT
Gaby wears rings by SLIM BARRETT

It is not the first time someone has reached out to Sahhar through something shared – however ephemeral, however fractured. Whilst reconnecting with a family unknown to him, he has forged other connections online, most recently through the endearing, naïvely hopeful PM – “Hi! I saw you in the Vêtements book. I saw you’re an artist, and you have origins from Palestine (are you palestinian ?). I like Vêtements, I like art, and my father is palestinian. So i thought it would be cool to add you on facebook :)” [sic]

“I actually get a lot of messages like that” Sahhar admits, “It’s weird because it’s people who have become fans of what I do and that is such an obscure idea to me. I really like having online conversations with people who just want to talk about art or ask me questions about my background. I think it’s so cool to have mutual interests with someone in a different country that I can’t help myself from replying. I guess it feels like we’re a network of people who are all linked but have never met.” 

In a time of sorrow and uncertainty, there is a certain wisdom in innocence, a progression in simplicity. Emails extend families, art crosses continents – and when it feels as though there is nothing to celebrate, remember pockets of resistance unflinchingly, powerfully remain. An underground film in Berlin can venerate Palestine; street art in New York can resist a government; and a refugee can build a clothing empire.

See more at gabysahhar.com