DUBAI: When sportswear giant Reebok named Kerby Jean-Raymond, Pyer Moss designer, as the artistic director of the company’s newest division, Reebok Studies, in July 2019, we knew it was only a matter of time before underserved communities received international recognition.
Captured by Dubai-based photographer, Aqib Anwar, the latest campaign for the Reebok by Pyer Moss collaboration is believed to be one of the first to feature an all-black male and female cast to come out of the region.
Anwar, who was carefully handpicked by the brand over a number of other photographers presented, decided to eschew traditional models and instead tap three non-model models who reside in the UAE, Rihab Nubi, Hala Kashif and Marwan Elhussein, to star in the campaign.
“I knew that I had to select an African cast since Jean Raymond Kerby advocates for the uplifting of the black community in all of his work,” explained Anwar to Arab News.
Indeed, the new campaign signals a promising new direction for the historic English fitness and lifestyle brand, which has been criticized in the past by none other than Beyonce for a lack of diversity.
“Being a person of color myself, I know how much representation can mean to an entire generation of young people,” he reveals. Perhaps that’s why, he shares, for the last two years, he’s been actively trying to shoot minorities.
“I really hope that kids of the newer generation find inspiration in seeing people like them in campaigns,” he muses.
For the images, Anwar was tasked with reimagining the collaboration’s core concept of “Sankofa”— a Twi word from a Ghanaian tribe that translates to “Go back and get it”— via artful portraits.
Once he discovered what the new collection stood for, the 30-year-old photographer realized that this was an opportunity for him to showcase a side of Dubai to the world that isn’t the usual glitz and glamour so he decided to go back to the streets where he grew up, in Deira, close to the Fish Roundabout.
“The idea was to walk around and shoot at certain spots that stood out to me,” he shared. The photographer and his subjects walked along the paths that he would take as a kid to play football or meet up with his friends.
“The models in the shoot were integral in making the images as beautiful as they turned out,” he notes. “There was no elaborate plans on types of poses, it all came together naturally as we shot. It was real and powerful.” Much like the collection itself.