Interview with Mohammed Aqra (@mohammed.aqra)
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
“When I was young, in my teenage years specifically, I was overweight I could never wear what all the cool kids were wearing especially my older siblings would shop from the best brands at the time. My mom would shop for me from the “big and tall section” especially from JC Penny because it was very difficult for her to find my size. The clothes were tight at times and not by choice.
When I turned 17 I told myself enough was enough, I started on my “get fit” journey and once the weight was off, I felt like a new person, new wardrobe, I started getting noticed and it kind of got me interested in myself and taking care of me. Shopping the most “it” brands I also went into modelling and from there I fell in love. It was not butterflies and rainbows for me, while getting modelling gigs my parents were so supremely against it. So, I started working with casting directors and models scouts to fill a gap that I had before by giving people of diversity a chance that I once wanted for me, to support inclusivity from the early times.
Being of Jordanian roots, born and raised in the US always got me interested and determined to build something in the region which we have in the US but not in our region. I was impressed by what the Arab Fashion Council had started to build and there were so many synergies with what I envision and what the Council is building. I got invited by the Arab Fashion Council board for a short trip consulting project and then I was requested to join the board full time. I really felt home away from home, and the workspace with people who are now my colleagues and friends that are like-minded got me rooted in Dubai.
In 2018 I joined the Arab Fashion Council as Head of Strategic Partnerships, where I demonstrated excellent skills to be appointed the Chief Strategy Officer in 2019 at 25, making me one of the youngest to occupy such an important role for an international authority. My role at the Arab Fashion Council includes drawing with the board the short-term and long-term strategies to meet the execution of the Council’s mission. My department also supports fostering the growth of the regional designers by setting up international collaborations with global companies such as Microsoft and Mattel.”
Can you share the most interest in exciting happened to you since you started doing this?
“I oversee the strategy of the Council, building the road map between initiatives, making sure I build the right story that does not coincide with everything else that we are doing. A big part of my role is building the strategy with international and regional partners to be structured in a way that would support the Council’s mission in fostering the growth of the designers. This involves brand to brand collaboration and linking together the stakeholders of the fashion industry.
I worked on amazing multi-national collaborations, where I oversees all the partnerships of the Arab Fashion Week, which has become one of the world’s five most important fashion weeks. Among the most exciting one is the collaboration with Paris Fashion Week based on mutual vision to feature French designers on the official calendar of Arab Fashion Week and Arab designers on the official calendar of Paris Fashion Week.
In 2020, I launched “”A Thread 4 Cause,”” an emergency network of fashion designers, in partnership with the Dubai Health Authority to support the healthcare sector during the surge of the Covid19 pandemic, by supplying locally produced PPE, to later be honored with a certificate of appreciation for my efforts and contribution from the Dubai Health Authority.
In January 2021, I co-founded with the board the Arab Fashion Week Men’s, which made a significant hit globally as soon as it was launched for the first time in the history of the Arab World.”.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them thrive and not “burn out”?
The most important tip is to be ready for the challenge, whatever it is to be committed and determined to the final dream you aim for. Surely there will be some challenges along the way, just consider them as checkpoints that you to pass through. Keep going and continue. Remember that whever you are near to acheive your dreams it might get harder, just remember this and keep going, you will eventually make it and thrive through remembering the journey.
None of us can succeed without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am very grateful to the founder of the Arab Fashion Council who gave me all the support, mentorship and for greatly believing in me. Assigning to me the role of Chief Strategy Officer at an age of 25 is a big responsibility on me but it takes a strong leader to believe in youth. He told me, I am looking for someone like me, who can think alike and strategize 50 years ahead, who can think out of the box and don’t be afraid of being the first.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I always use my strength, network and power to create a bridge and connect people and business together. Global collaborations is what I really enjoy doing. Connect multinational business with talent to give birth to somethng uniue is really special. It is a pround message that we always all need to keep norturing each other and we only grow by sharing and working hand in hand.
Do you have a favourite “written Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding”. This life lesson quote by Leonardo da Vinco is akways on point for me as this is how I always feel when I get to understand the identity and mindset of designers, brands and companies. It gives me this pleasure that is enough for me to keep thinking.
.How can our readers follow you on social media?
My readers can follow me on instagram, username mohammed.aqra and am happy to be connect, inspire and get inspired.
Anything specific you’d like to have mentioned in the article?
Saying thanks to people who supported me & Always try to help others. As Chief Strategy Officer of the @arabfashioncouncil is to be the Curator – Creator – Connector & Coach, to mentor and grow the creative talent in the fashion industry.