Delve into a universe populated by killer heels, nudity and sex, fashion icons, and darkness. This is how Achraf Amiri, an illustrator and self-proclaimed ‘hidden son of the Addams family’, depicts the world around him. Elongated silhouettes, twisted beauty and villain-looking characters serve as a critique of today’s mainstream and pop culture – he admits that what he does is “very opinionated and satirical”. Today we meet him to speak about beauty standards, his love for dark imagery, and Illustrashion Magazine, a platform he founded to showcase the work he likes without restrictions.
When visiting your website, I’m surprised by the predominant dark imagery: bleeding figures, dark tones, and villain-looking models. And also, on Instagram, you describe yourself as “the hidden son of the Addams Family”. How else would you introduce yourself to our readers?
The most surprising fact is that people never truly grasp me nor understand my work completely until they eventually meet me. Though it is true that my work comes across as gruesome and wicked, it’s quite humorous at the same time. That’s exactly the reason why I proclaim to be the hidden son of the Addams family, as similarly to them, I’m “creepy and kooky, Mysterious and spooky…”
We notice there’s a lot behind every illustration, a lot of emotion, and we want to know more about what pushes you to do what you do. Studying Graphic Design must have been the starting point of this. Tell us about your beginnings and how did you shift from graphic design to fashion illustration.
To me, drawing has always been my absolute passion. Since a very young age, I’ve learned to express myself through it, as I like to consider myself a perceptive being that’s able to absorb a wide range of emotions – pleasant as well as cheerless, which I’ll later transmit through sketches. Emotions are also what inspires my work mainly. Studying fine arts in high school and later specialising myself as a graphic designer truly allowed me to master the drawing techniques, as well as taught me how to make them communicative. However, school is not everything as I’ve mainly learned from my personal experiences and encounters.
The characters in your illustrations are notably skinny, with endless legs and sharp edges and angles. It feels like they’re going to break at any time – and their attitude is not that friendly. And they have super long nails and eyelashes too – their forms are generally exaggerated. I would like to know more about your beauty standards and how do they differ/complement with those of the industry.
The figures that I illustrate are primordially inspired by my own body frame, with long and slender limbs, but definitely a lot more overstated to create more drama. The reason why I mainly illustrate slim bodies is perhaps to highlight the romantic obsession of beauty, although in a twisted way. Of course, beauty is a very personal subject that is in constant evolution.
Fashion is, of course, the most relevant in your work. But at the same time, nudity and even sexuality play an equally important role in your illustrations.
It does always stupefy me how people do not quite get that what I do is very opinionated and satirical. Although it is true that I do illustrate quite often about fashion, the reality is that my work serves mainly as a criticism of the mainstream and pop culture. There’s a meaning also why I name my work ‘illustrashion’ – a portmanteau name composed by the words illustration, trash and fashion.
When creating, each artist invites the viewer to have a conversation with his/her work and their own thoughts. What do you want your pieces to say to the public in this exchange?
I like to perceive my work as unapologetic and assertive. It’s there without expecting much and speaks quite for itself. I guess it represents the anarchic facet of mine. I suppose that most viewers perceive my work as such too.
Which designers have influenced you the most? And artists in general?
I have a thing for minimalism and for timeless silhouettes. Black is also predominant in my work although I like to make it stand out against bright pastel colours and vivid pinks. It’s all about integrating two different moods into one.
Since you’re full of references, tell us what’s a favourite collection/runway show of yours, or that you think is one of the most iconic moments in recent fashion history.
I miss the theatrical runways of John Galliano and Alexander McQueen in the early 2000s. The sudden loss of Karl Lagerfeld was shocking news – I will for sure miss his monumental shows.
We’ve seen your collaborations include big names such as Nike, Dior or Diesel. How do you manage yourself to find the midpoint between the brand request and your personal signature?
Besides being very flattered, it’s always a big surprise when renowned brands do contact me. Of course, a good understanding of the brand’s identity is primordial. However, I don’t shy away to negotiate on some creative freedom. Otherwise, why would a brand bother to seek my service, isn’t it?
Illustrashion, a magazine you founded, unites fashion, fine arts and music by showcasing the work of various illustrators, photographers and artists. When and why did you open the magazine?
It all started when I lost my position as monthly illustrator at Elle Magazine Belgium, after critics that defined my work as misogynistic and vulgar. As a result, I started my own publication wherein I could be free to feature whatever I liked.
How important is it for you to complement different disciplines?
Although I’m a traditional illustrator (all of my drawings are handmade), it is important to keep updated with the latest technologies. The broader my skills are, the better the quality of my work is.
Managing your own content on social media like Instagram can be challenging. On it, you mix images of your work with pictures of your daily life. How do you manage social media both personally and professionally? Do you (over)think about it much?
Not at all. I like to be spontaneous about my decisions. Also, I think that it’s good to remind people who is behind the work.
Actually, on your Instagram, I’ve seen a post where you talk about how similar the new Kim Petras imagery is. In a time when copycats may be labelled as ‘influenced by’, and where alternative, emerging artists have their work ripped off by others (from fast fashion companies to, for example, emerging designers using fashion students’ portfolios), how do you fight this? What’s your stake on all this?
Kill them with kindness – after all, imitation is the highest form of flattery.
What’s, in your opinion, the key to success (professionally)?
Happiness and confidence in what you do.
Finally, what are your plans for the upcoming months? Any exciting project we should know about?
I’m currently working on my first complete solo exhibition-proposal. More is to come!