SPOTLIGHT | 04/03/2015 | TAJINDER HAYER
MR AKMAL SHAUKAT
The fashion industry is full of unsung heroes. When flicking through fashion magazines or watching the latest catwalk offerings from a high profile brand, we see the final product of hours, weeks and months of work from many that do not get mentioned and stay firmly behind the scenes. The words “Art Director” are ones that are commonplace but there are many of us that know little about these people, what they do and how they contribute to the finished product.
Akmal Shaukat is an Art Director. He is one of the most talented men to hold this role in todays industry. His work has appeared in magazines such as Attitude, Essential Homme, L’Officiel and many, many others. You need only check out his social media profiles to see that this is someone that loves and understands fashion – from the avant garde to the gaudy, the conceptual to the street. Known for his sexually charged, sensual and incredibly inspirational work (not to mention his undeniably elegant sense of style) we sat down with Akmal to find out more about art, design, style and exactly what an Art Director does…
For those that do not know, what is the role of an Art Director?
An art director is to a magazine, what a director is to a film. We oversee the look and feel of the project, work with typographic layouts, and work on the branding.
How did you come to work in this area?
My initial background originates in fine art and design, however my illustrations and collage was drawing interest from the fashion industry this launched my career into fashion and art direction. I believe my illustrations, concepts and ideas are forever evolving.
Do you have a background in fashion?
I graduated from Bradford School of Art in Graphic Media Communication and continued to complete my Master’s in Visual Culture. I originally thought I would create illustrations and sketches for computer games such as the Final Fantasy franchise. I was a huge fan but my career led to a completely different road and it was by chance.
Aniko Michnyaova , Toby Leonard & Adrian Cardoso, Mark Cant
What was your big break?
I don’t think I’ve had that one job where I have thought, “that was my biggest break”, I have appreciated every job that has been commissioned. I’m grateful to be supported by magazines such as Paper Mag NYC.
What does your average day involve?
Assault my senses with caffeine, prioritize my activities for the day and once done, my social calendar kicks in.
Holden Nowell, Marco Falcetta
How would you describe your artistic style and the tone of the work that you create?
My work is a reflection and an attempt of understanding emotions and moods based on personal experiences, the closest object I can find that can relate and narrate my expression of moods and emotions are the male and female form. You can say it’s my shield and my tool to express myself through visual art. I didn’t do so well in the academic world, so my art has always been the way I have expressed myself. The feedback that I always get from my work is “Sex”, “Sexy”, “Dark”, “Perverse” and “Drama” so let’s go with that. I personally go with the reflection on what’s going on today.
You are often snapped outside shows and appearing on best dressed lists – how would you describe your personal style?
Contemporary, unusual, and daring. I don’t really trust fashion rules, Style is about a matter of mind, it’s the ability to represent a thought through your attire. It’s always the small details you should pay attention to, for me it’s always only gold accessories and most importantly footwear.
Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspirations come from contemporary pop culture and my own personal experiences.
How collaborative is your job? And how dependant is it on working with others?
I’m part of a team of talented people and we’re trying to put a product together. It has nothing to do with titles on masthead or being part of brand. If you want to achieve something at its best you have to be open to the people you work with.
How has your background influenced your work?
My ethnicity and upbringing has definitely given me inspiration towards my work, and also my character. If I were to reject my origins how am I supposed to observe or analyse another? With my work I always got to travel most of Europe unfortunately there has never been an opportunity for me to work in the East. But something I have always planned to work towards.
Are there any people that you have specifically enjoyed working with?
I had a lot of fun working with Brett Bailey, he was curating an issue and asked me to be a guest art director, he has amazing ideas and I have a lot of respect for his leadership.
What are the most treasured items in your wardrobe?
My Dior Homme overcoat
Are there any designers that you are particularly impressed by at the moment?
One of them is Ashish – he understands how to mix of western and eastern influences, high –octane glamour and craftsmanship. I like his clothes sometimes even I need a little sparkle in my wardrobe.
Danny Beauchamp, Arnaldo Anaya Lucca
Jonathan & Kevin Ferreria de Sampaio, Simon 171
What is your greatest achievement to date?
As I said previously, I take ownership and proud of every achievement that has come to me to-date. Each step is an achievement to where I am today.
What are your ambitions?
Keep working, doing the work I find inspiring, and work with fun and talented people.
Who do you admire style wise?
Where did your interest in fashion, and particularly men’s fashion come from?
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
Curating Homme Style Magazine Issue 7
What advice would you give for those that want to get into the fashion industry?
To succeed in life you have to persevere in achieving your goals and not give up when approach any obstacles in your path.
Overcome any challenges that come your way, always to believe in yourself and just have fun with it.
And finally, in your opinion, what make a rakish gent?
Having been a long time admirer of Akmal, both professionally and personally I am incredibly grateful for his time and agreeing to chat with The Rakish Gent. Having looked at these images and read what Akmal has to say, I hope that we all have a better understanding of the role of the Art Director and why he is so essential in creating the images that shape fashion as we know it. To find out more about Akmal, head to his website and follow him on Instagram and Twitter.
Lead Image - Mark Cant