The 24 year old Artist, Photographer, Creative Director, Electrical Engineer, and soon to be Filmmaker from Kuwait.
Tell us about your education.
I’ve majored in electrical engineering at Penn State in the US for 5 years. I moved to Pennsylvania when I was 17 and graduated in 2019. While taking my engineering classes, I also took the opportunity to take classes not relating to my major. I learned a lot and took courses in Art History, Photography, Painting, Graphic Design, Wellness and Filmmaking. Learning multiple disciplines helps you a lot in progressing in each individual discipline.
How did you get interested in fashion?
I started researching and learning about fashion in 2018. At that point I was doing paintings but I realized that paintings weren’t easily accessible to people. To showcase or sell your paintings you had to do or be part of a show, and the process of having your paintings shown takes a long time especially when you’re an up and coming artist. So I wanted a way to showcase my design and art in another way thats a lot more accessible to people and that’s fashion. Skater brands like Supreme, Huf and Diamond were big inspirations to me. I learned how to screenprint and use vinyl cutouts to design t shirts and hoodies.
When did you launch your label officially?
I launched 3TONE with my friend Ahmad AlHusaini, who’s our Business Manager, in November 2020. I worked on getting the best material and logo for about a year and a half before officially launching. I had the idea for the logo tee months before I actually settled on the right one because I had to make sure it felt right. The packaging was also important as it is the first impression of our style as a brand. I’m the Creative Director for 3TONE so I design the pieces but also the packaging, which includes a limited sticker sheet with original designs and a thank you card.
How and why did you choose the name “3tone” for your brand?
The idea for 3TONE just came to me one day while I was in the US; I liked the idea of limiting the color palette to 3 colors because it allowed me to be more creative within those limitations. 3TONE refers to the 3 tones of color we use which are green, blue and yellow. They’re derived and inspired by the natural elements, green representing the plants and greenery, blue representing the sky and ocean, and yellow representing the sun. Nature is the best inspiration for color palettes. But we also use black and natural white to highlight the colors.
What is the vision of your brand?
The vision for 3TONE is to become a staple in the Middle Eastern fashion industry. The most important thing that’s associated with 3TONE is quality. The materials we use are always the best and have a satisfying texture that’s comfortable and durable, the designs are also simple but unique which makes for a diverse piece that can be worn in any environment or activity. You can wear a 3TONE Shirt or Hoodie out to dinner or a night out, its also comfy enough to wear at home, or you can wear it to a work out. Practical use is important and we’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback from people loving the sweatpants, hoodies and shirts with some wearing them regularly. That’s the ultimate goal, which is to make a product thats universally appealing, comfortable but also made well with good quality and design.
We learnt that you are also into music. Tell us about your musical journey?
I used to freestyle with my friends for fun way before I actually started recording anything. When I first saw Juice Wrld freestyling for an hour straight, I thought to myself I can probably make a 2 or 3 minute song. I started out only doing rap, then slowly explored and found out that I could also sing. Once I learned what I’m capable of, I pushed myself into showing the best side of me musically and controlling my voice and flow and also using my voice as an instrument. It didn’t happen overnight, just like any art form I put in the time and research and crafted my sound from different styles from R&B and Hip-Hop to Rock and Pop. If you practice enough and you’re genuinely passionate about something you can progress easily the more time you clock in.
What are you plans for your music? What are you currently working on?
My plan is showcase my music and visuals in a different way than what’s currently seen in our music scene. Visuals are very important for artists to I’m currently working on the finishing touches on my first project, the self-titled EP “SAMO KILLA”, which will be released June 18th. I’m also working on my first studio album which will be released later this year with new fully original production. I’m taking my time creating because I enjoy the process and I want to make sure the music I release ages well and has a timeless feel. I’m also working on a mixtape called “The Clear Vision Tape” with my friend ësmaelow, under our collective Clear Vision, which will be released this summer as well.
I think in our day and age, what’s missing most is genuineness and authenticity. Especially with social media, we tend to build a character that displays only a certain part of us and we get caught up in trying to keep up with being that character and comparing ourselves to others lifestyles that we might forget who we really are and what we really want out of life. The world needs more genuine interaction and realness, so I urge everyone to take a break from social media once in a while for a few days at least. It also helps with maintaining good mental health which is very important.
What message do you want to convey through your music?
When it comes down to it, my main objective in doing music is to bring joy to people and also have a tool to self-express that’s different than anything else in my life. It’s helped me heal in situations that I had no one to talk to about, and it could also help someone who’s maybe going through the same situation and feel like they’re alone in going through it. What I want to show through pursuing music is that we all share similar struggles, I’ve even had a few people contact me saying that they went through the same things I’ve expressed in my music, and that it helped them feel better about it. I also want to encourage the Kuwaiti youth to pursue music, and not in a way where we’re mimicking foreign artists and rappers but to do it in our own original way. We have so much creative talent in Kuwait that’s suppressed because we don’t encourage music and art as a legitimate pursuit. My hope is that Kuwait will one day nurture creative talent in music and arts, and that’s one reason I do what I do; to become part of the change I want to see happen.
How would you describe your style of music?
It’s difficult to for me to define what I do in music because it’s versatile and constantly evolving, but if I had to put words to it, I would describe it as wavy.
Where do you take the inspiration for your music?
I always had an instinctual musical inclination, but making music is actually a relatively new thing to me, I’ve only been doing music for about a year and a half now. The way I approached songwriting when I started out is very different than the way I do now. I used to think I had to be this character to seem interesting enough to write about, but after practicing music almost every day for about 6 months when the pandemic hit, I learned how to use all the happy and sad moments and events in my life and write them in a way that’s sonically appealing. I think the best music is the most authentically written and performed.
Who is your greatest influence?
I listen to a broad range of types of music. I don’t believe in genres anymore. I think that music nowadays is so fluid and interchanging styles that it’s not fair to label it under one “genre”. My music style is derived from artists that I’ve studied throughout the years. Kanye was the first I connected with. I listened to all his albums and the first live show i’ve ever seen was him performing in Abu Dhabi in 2013. It blew my mind what one artist can do. I also loved listening to Arctic Monkeys, Travis Scott, The Weeknd, SZA, the 1975, and Frank Ocean. Recently i’ve been looking to artists in the Middle East and how they express themselves without western influence. Shabjdeed and AlNather come to mind. They’re artists from Ramallah in Palestine and they speak their truth so authentically in their own way it’s inspiring to me.
Do you play any instruments?
I do not play any instruments, but i’m interested in learning how to play Guitar and Oud. There’s something about the vulnerability in playing these instruments that brings something special out of me.
Now let us talk about your photography and videography talent. How did this happen?
I first started photography as a hobby, my father bought me my first digital camera when I was 13, I used to take pictures of my family at home and in vacations. Then I started taking an interest in Landscape Photography when I was about 16; I travelled a lot during that time so I used to take photos of as many different types of landscapes as I could. Then when I went to university, I starting getting interested in Portrait Photography, facial and hand expressions were some things that intrigued me and that’s when I started taking photography seriously. I took some photography courses in university that helped sharpen my skill, we used to do assignments in abstract, still life and action photography that helped me culminate my style and be able to know how to express myself through photography. One of my biggest inspirations in photography is Irving Penn, who worked for Vogue magazine in the 1940’s and 50’s. I first saw his work in an exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in DC, from then on I was obsessed with his variety of work and even got inspired to get into Fashion Photography myself. Another inspiration of mine is Andy Warhol. His polaroids specifically photographing his friends and celebrities in a casual environment was not a mainstream style back then, and the results were beautiful portraits that are still iconic to this day. It even prompted me to get the same polaroid camera he used in the 1970’s.
You are a big fan of film cameras. How do you see photography different with film cameras?
For me, it’s about nostalgia. My family was big on photography, especially family photos, capturing moments of everyday life as well as events and trips. Getting that fresh stack of photos out of the print studio and seeing them for the first time, almost like opening a present. Visually, the grain in film gives a nice effect that you can’t authentically achieve in digital photography. I think film photos also have a timeless feel to them, a moment captured in time that exists in physical form, like a memory that you can physically touch.
How would you best describe your style of photography?
I would describe my style as candid, simple but raw. I don’t do as much posed photos as I do impromptu photos. I like genuine expression, when someone sees a camera pointed at them they act differently than when they don’t. To avoid that, I have a conversation with the person I’m shooting while we’re shooting. I like to have fun when I’m shooting, I enjoy the creative process and try my best to have the person or people i’m shooting enjoy it too. I tend to find that when people get genuinely comfortable around you, they don’t worry about whether or not you have a camera pointed at them, they will show genuine expression and that’s what I try to capture in my photography.
How important is Instagram for the modern day photographer?
Social Media has become an essential tool for any creative in the modern era. Instagram is like the new way to display your work instead of a gallery or physical space but with the type of easy access that’s similar to displaying your work in the street for the public to see. It’s a way to get exposure but also connect with fellow artists, photographers and models. My tips for getting more attention to your page is to post material that either has shock value or be aesthetically pleasing or both; that’s what usually attracts most people.
Where do you feel most in your creative element?
I love natural lighting. I feel comfortable with anywhere that has natural lighting, I even built my studio with skylights and big windows to maximize the natural lighting in the space. In terms of environment, my studio is a place that I have full control of and can change the lighting and build sets. That helps in creating an environment that allows me to tap in to my flow state when I’m doing a shoot. I also love nature and urban settings with a lot of light, I love blending the subject into the environment and landscape of the place we’re in.
What attracts you to a subject?
As a photographer or director or artist, I try to show people how I see something that might be different that what they see. That’s the creative challenge, is to show the beauty of something that others might not notice at first. When it comes to people and expressions, I like to use the same approach. There’s beauty hidden in a lot of us that we don’t appreciate as often as we should. I like to show that side of people, usually through certain moments that I shoot candidly, and it translates well in photos. In terms of aesthetics, color is something that immediately catches my eye. I also love people with a good sense of style. If I’m picking a model for a shoot, that’s usually the first thing that I look to, and I try to incorporate that style in my shoots.
What are some of your greatest challenges, and what is your greatest attribute when it comes to your work ethic?
Organization was big challenge to take on and one that I’m still working on. Because I’m working on many things at once, I tend work in cycles to give each medium the time and attention it needs. I don’t usually work on more than two projects at once. I’ll work on designs and sourcing materials for 3TONE for a week and the next week I work on music, then the next week I’ll do some shoots and so on. My greatest attribute when it comes to my work ethic is that I always give 100% when I’m working on something. I’ve reached a point in my life where when I do something, I do it because I want to and not because I have to. That allows me to give it everything I got because I’m doing it with my own conviction and I’m very thankful and blessed for that.
How can fans find you?
On Instagram, my main artist page is @yousefist, my brand 3TONE’s page is @3tonekw and my music page is @samokilla.
I’d recommend people who are interested in music to follow @samokilla, I do live music shows and post covers and announcements and clips of the process of making music on it frequently. I’d also recommend following @3tonekw to see my latest designs and shoots.
Is there anything special that you do to get into a creative mindset?
Before photoshoots or shows, I usually play some good music to get my creative juices flowing. Some of my favorite albums to listen to are Yeezus by Kanye, Barter 6 by Young Thug, Apricot Princess by Rex Orange County and Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder. I also like to drink a Redbull which gives me a good boost of energy, shout out to the Redbull Team in Kuwait they showed me love and hopefully we’ll be working on something together soon for my music.
Describe an incident that has left a lasting impact on you.
Not an incident per se but something that’s definitely had a lasting impact on me was taking an art course on how to read and appreciate art properly in my first semester in university. It was with my professor and mentor Paul Manlove, who I went on to take 3 other courses with, including Graphic Design, Painting and Oil Painting. Before I took that class, I wasn’t really into art at all. I knew I had a skill in drawing, but in school and in general our society, art for the most part is not taken seriously, and so I didn’t have any reason to explore outside of my scope. Taking this class and learning about all these artists and pieces and artistic movements that affected culture opened my eyes on the art world and seeing how artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol and Picasso expressed their perspectives and truths through art. This opened a huge door for me that I never knew existed; I didn’t just want to see and appreciate art, I was inspired to be an artist in my own right and express myself in a way that I didn’t before. I first started with exploring Photoshop and creating digital pieces through photo transformation and manipulation, then went on into exploring different art forms like painting, graffiti, Arabic typography, silkscreen printing and more. That led to me finding Film & Filmmaking, which is what I aspire to pursue as a career. I’m going to study Filmmaking at NYFA in Los Angeles hopefully this year, and I’m very excited to see what I’m able to do in that field as a Kuwaiti filmmaker.
Photography: Dana AlMutawa (@dowmut)
Styling: Yousef AlMeer (@yousefist)
Art Direction/Set Design: Dana AlMutawa & Yousef AlMeer